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The Prince of Pain
The Prize

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Fall 1997
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Now Kleinrock focused on the issue of hardware. He knew that UCLA would soon be receiving an Interface Message Processor (IMP), which was critical to making the ARPANET functional. The IMP would handle the "packet-switching" of data, allowing UCLA to link with other sites. But the IMP was not a stand-alone device. It was simply a high-speed interface that required a host computer to back it up on an array of tasks.

And therein lay Kleinrock and Company's biggest problem. The UCLA computer science department owned a computer made by Scientific Data Systems called the Sigma-7. It was unreliable and difficult to program and no one much liked it. In fact, everyone agreed: The Sigma-7 was a dog. But, Kleinrock says, "It was our dog." The Sigma-7 would have to play host to the IMP. It was Kleinrock's hope that with a little bit of luck, the network would open doors to more wieldy machines elsewhere.

In the summer of 1968, news of the ARPANET project rippled through academia. Kleinrock contacted fellow principal investigators at ARPA-supported research universities to discuss critical details of the first phase of the experimental network and to lobby them on the importance of taking part in the project. "I met with reluctance," he admits. "No one was eager to share their computer resources with others on the Net. I did some serious arm-twisting." About the same time, a small group of graduate students met in Santa Barbara. The meeting was attended by representatives from UCLA, Stanford Research Institute and UC Santa Barbara.

The meeting was seminal, if only because of the enthusiasm it generated. "We had lots of questions -- how IMPs and hosts would be connected, what hosts would ‘say' to each other and what applications would be supported," Crocker recalls. "No one had any answers, but the prospects seemed exciting. We found ourselves imagining all kinds of possibilities -- interactive graphics, cooperating processes, automatic database query, electronic mail -- but no one knew where to begin." Still, from this summit emerged a corps of young researchers devoted to figuring out how each node on the network would "talk" to the other.

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