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Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet

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Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense ...

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Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet

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Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.

This is the fascinating, never-before-told story of the young geniuses who created the first electronic network, predecessor of the Internet, the technological marvel that has transformed communications in our time. of photos. Online forums.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
David Plotnikoff San Jose Mercury News The book, almost certainly destined to be the definitive work on the birth and early years of the Internet, is sweeping in scope....Whoever chooses to write the next chapter in the saga...has a tough act to follow.

Daniel Akst Los Angeles Times Important...meticulous...admirably straightforward.

Lars Eighner The Texas Observer In all the dreck and dross of Internet books, here is a brilliant gem...remarkably well written.

Mark Baechtel The Washington Post Excellent...makes for crackling entertainment...reawakens a sense of wonder in readers jaded by too much Internet hype.

Richard Bernstein The New York Times Book Review If you always wanted to know who put the 'at' sign in your E-mail address, then Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the book for you.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hafner, coauthor of Cyberpunk, and Lyon, assistant to the president of the University of Texas, here unveil the Sputnik-era beginnings of the Internet, the groundbreaking scientific work that created it and the often eccentric, brilliant scientists and engineers responsible. Originally funded during the Eisenhower administration by IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) within the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), ARPANET, the Internet's predecessor, was devised as a way to share far-flung U.S. computer resources at a time when computers were wildly expensive, room-sized bohemoths unable to communicate with any other. The husband-and-wife writing team profile the computer engineering firm of Bolt Baranek and Newman, which produced the original prototypes for ARPANET, and they profile the men (there were virtually no women) and an alphabet soup of agencies, universities and software that made the Internet possible. And while the book attempts to debunk the conventional notion that ARPANET was devised primarily as a communications link that could survive nuclear war (essentially it was not), pioneer developers like Paul Baran (who, along, with British Scientist Donald Davies devised the Internet's innovative packet-switching message technology) recognized the importance of an indestructible message medium in an age edgy over the prospects of global nuclear destruction. The book is excellent at enshrining little known but crucial scientist/administrators like Bob Taylor, Larry Roberts and Joseph Licklider, many of whom laid the groundwork for the computer science industry. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Hafner (coauthor of Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, LJ 6/1/91) and Lyon tell the fascinating story of some extraordinary computer scientists who, with the Department of Defense in the late 1960s, developed the ARPANET. It is based mostly on interviews with those scientists and engineers who designed and built a revolutionary computer network that spawned the global Internet. The authors dispel a widely held belief, propagated for years by the mainstream press, that the ARPANET and the Internet were developed to either support or to survive nuclear war. Rather, the project aimed to link computer resources at laboratories across the country and enable scientists to share research and computing resources over a network. An important historical work for most library collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/96.] Joe J. Accardi, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Kirkus Reviews
Now that high school students are spending their spare time cruising the Internet, it's probably time the rest of us found out how the whole thing started.

Newsweek contributing editor Hafner (coauthor of Cyberpunk, 1991) and husband Lyon, who is assistant to the president of the University of Texas, begin their story back in the '50s, when President Eisenhower decided that basic scientific research was the quickest way to improve the nation's defense. The key instrument was the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), nominally part of the Pentagon. ARPA quickly acquired several advanced computers; when several scientists (notably J.C.R. Licklider and Robert G. Taylor) began to wonder why none of the computers could "talk" to the others, the seeds of the Internet were sown.

Believing that advanced computing capacity was vital to the national defense, ARPA proposed connecting a number of computers through the phone system. A small Massachusetts company, Bolt Beranek and Newman, managed to win the bid; within a year, inventing almost everything from the ground up, they had managed to connect several college campuses on the West coast. Gradually, the ARPANET became the focus of an intensive development effort among computer scientists; but their goals were far different from the defense projects its creators had envisioned. Far-reaching decisions were made by the first person who happened to tackle the problem at hand. E-mail quickly took center stage, followed by newsgroups in which scientists with a common interest could exchange information and views. By the time the Defense Department decided to try to regain control, it was obvious that they had inadvertentlycreated an entity no single authority could control. Within 25 years, the Internet had grown from an impossible dream to an indispensable scientific tool.

A clear and comprehensive, though often flat, account of an important bit of scientific history.

From Barnes & Noble
Was ARPAnet, the Internet's precursor, built in the 1960s as a means of surviving a nuclear attack? The reality of the Internet's history is weirder than the myth! (This copy refers to a book club edition.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684832678
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 376,067
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.43 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Katie Hafner is a technology correspondent at Newsweek and coauthor of Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. Matthew Lyon and Katie Hafner are married and live in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One February, 1966

Bob Taylor usually drove to work, thirty minutes through the rolling countryside northeast of Washington, over the Potomac River to the Pentagon. There, in the morning, he'd pull into one of the vast parking lots and try to put his most-prized possession, a BMW 503, someplace he could remember. There were few if any security checkpoints at the entrances to the Pentagon in 1966. Taylor breezed in wearing his usual attire: sport coat, tie, button-down short-sleeve shirt, and slacks. Thirty thousand other people swarmed through the concourse level daily, in uniform and mufti alike, past the shops and up into the warrens of the enormous building.

Taylor's office was on the third floor, the most prestigious level in the Pentagon, near the offices of the secretary of defense and the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The offices of the highest-ranking officials in the Pentagon were in the outer, or E-ring. Their suites had views of the river and national monuments. Taylor's boss, Charles Herzfeld, the head of ARPA, was among those with a view, in room 3E160. The ARPA director rated the highest symbols of power meted out by the Department of Defense (DOD), right down to the official flags beside his desk. Taylor was director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), just a corridor away, an unusually independent section of ARPA charged with supporting the nation's most advanced computer research-and-development projects.

The IPTO director's suite, where Taylor hung his coat from 1965 to 1969, was located in the D-ring. What his office lacked in a view was compensated for by its comfort and size. It was a plushly carpeted and richly furnished room with a big desk, a heavy oak conference table, glass-fronted bookcases, comfortable leather chairs, and all the other trappings of rank, which the Pentagon carefully measured out even down to the quality of the ashtrays. (Traveling on military business, Taylor carried the rank of one-star general.) On one wall of his office was a large map of the world; a framed temple rubbing from Thailand hung prominently on another.

Inside the suite, beside Taylor's office, was another door leading to a small space referred to as the terminal room. There, side by side, sat three computer terminals, each a different make, each connected to a separate mainframe computer running at three separate sites. There was a modified IBM Selectric typewriter terminal connected to a computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. A Model 33 Teletype terminal, resembling a metal desk with a large noisy typewriter embedded in it, was linked to a computer at the University of California in Berkeley. And another Teletype terminal, a Model 35, was dedicated to a computer in Santa Monica, California, called, cryptically enough, the AN/FSQ 32XD1A, nicknamed the Q-32, a hulking machine built by IBM for the Strategic Air Command. Each of the terminals in Taylor's suite was an extension of a different computing environment—different programming languages, operating systems, and the like within each of the distant mainframes. Each had a different log-in procedure; Taylor knew them all. But he found it irksome to have to remember which log-in procedure to use for which computer. And it was still more irksome, after he logged in, to be forced to remember which commands belonged to which computing environment. This was a particularly frustrating routine when he was in a hurry, which was most of the time.

The presence of three different computer terminals in Taylor's Pentagon office reflected IPTO's strong connection to the leading edge of the computer research community, resident in a few of the nation's top universities and technical centers. In all, there were some twenty principal investigators, supporting dozens of graduate students, working on numerous projects, all of them funded by Taylor's small office, which consisted of just Taylor and a secretary. Most of IPTO's $19 million budget was being sent to campus laboratories in Boston and Cambridge, or out to California, to support work that held the promise of making revolutionary advances in computing. Under ARPA's umbrella, a growing sense of community was emerging in computer research in the mid-1960s. Despite the wide variety of projects and computer systems, tight bonds were beginning to form among members of the computer community. Researchers saw each other at technical conferences and talked by phone; as early as 1964 some had even begun using a form of electronic mail to trade comments, within the very limited proximity of their mainframe computers.

Communicating with that community from the terminal room next to Taylor's office was a tedious process. The equipment was state of the art, but having a room cluttered with assorted computer terminals was like having a den cluttered with several television sets, each dedicated to a different channel. "It became obvious," Taylor said many years later, "that we ought to find a way to connect all these different machines."

Copyright © 1996 by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon

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Table of Contents

Prologue ..... 9
1. That Fastest Million Dollars ..... 11
2. A Block Here, Some Stones There ..... 43
3. The Third University ..... 82
4. Head Down in the Bits ..... 103
5. Do It to It Truett ..... 137
6. Hacking Away and Hollering ..... 160
7. E-Mail ..... 187
8. A Rocket on Our Hands ..... 219
Epilogue ..... 257
Chapter Notes ..... 267
Bibliography ..... 271
Acknowledgments ..... 287
Index ..... 291
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2002

    GOOD read, NICE history.

    Where Wizards Stay Up Late, by Hafner and Lyon, is an excellent source of history about the birth of the Internet. Many people have surfed the Net or sent email, but not all of those who use these technologies know the reasons for its existence. Hafner and Lyon provide the answers to questions of the Internet¿s existence and it does so in a very understandable way. It uses the actual accounts of the research scientists who were responsible for the research and design of interconnecting computers. The purpose of this interconnection was to make four different computers using telephone lines in four different places to communicate and transfer information. Thus forming the ARPANET. The people involved with this fascinating discovery were members of the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), which was a division of the Defense Department. The story begins in the 1950¿s as a result of an indirect request by President Eisenhower to use scientific research to help improve the nation¿s defense and continues through the 1960¿a with the first ever connection of distant computers. The authors also mention how well known corporations, such as the U.S. Postal Service, IBM, and AT&T, denied the potential capabilities of the ARPANET. Many people believe that the ARPANET was invented to stand as a communication tool for the military that could withstand a nuclear assault. Hafner and Lyon do a fine job to clear up this presumption and provide a sense of respect for those who were responsible for ARPANET. They mention the key individuals who were with ARPA and Bolt Beranek and Newman from the beginning. This review did its best to keep away from repeating the content covered in this wonderful journey through history. Although the content does get a little wordy and technical towards the end, overall, Where Wizard Stay Up Late is an enjoyable reading experience for those interested in the origins of the ever flowing and growing Internet. Yes, it is a history lesson, but it unveils the history in an interesting way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    This book to me was not very interesting. It had a lot of good i

    This book to me was not very interesting. It had a lot of good information in it, but I am not a technology person. The author is a very good writer, but it was not interesting to me. The characters were not the most exciting characters. I did learn a lot about how the computer came about, and how the ARPANET works. The internet is an extremely big achievement for these people. If you are a technology person, this is the book for you. Sami C

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    Where Wizards Stay up Late is the long and full history of the f

    Where Wizards Stay up Late is the long and full history of the formation of the modern web, or internet. The formation of the ARPANET with only an original 15 nodes was developed into the full scale modern internet we know and love today. The book's introduction is based on the background of the time period and what world events were taking place at the time. The cold war had brought about new technological developments with the pressure of the Space Race. The book covers the main contributors of the ARPANET and also tells of the reunion of the engineers 10 years later. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to see the origins of the modern internet or someone who is simply fascinated with the science behind it. (D.S.) 

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    The book “Where Wizards Stay up Late the Origins of the In

    The book “Where Wizards Stay up Late the Origins of the Internet” by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon is an excellent book about the beginnings of the internet and all of the hard work that people like Louise Licklider put into its creation. I give the book a five out of five because it has great detail on all of the events that led up to Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) creating the interface message processors (IMP’s) that were used to connect computers and created the first form of the internet. It also is easy to understand and explains the technical diction very well. Anyone from an internet guru to the not so tech savvy parent could pick this book up and understand what the employees of BBN had to go through. The authors brought their real life experiences into the book and gave the characters life. It seems like the book was written when all of this was actually happening. It is quite fascinating that BBN was a small company that use to be an acoustics company turned out to be the company that would revolutionize the way we use computers. If you have the chance to pick this book up and are interested in computers, I’d definitely give it a shot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Great book!

    Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet is an intriguing novel about the scientists responsible for creating the internet. Since the internet is such a big part of all of our lives, I thought this book would be a good choice for me. I expected it to be dull and boring but I was very surprised. It was much better than I could have ever imagined. The authors presented the information is such a tasteful way that I didn’t want to stop reading. I found it so inspiring how these scientists came together to create something so revolutionary. When they first created the internet, they had no idea it would be what it was today. Now it is one of the most powerful and important inventions ever made and most of the scientists who made it are barely even recognized. When one of these scientists names were said, the average person would have no idea who they are, but because I read this book I now know who they are and how important they are. By reading this book I feel more connected to the past and the computer science industry in general. I also learned a lot about computers and technology. Another reason I liked the book was because of the struggles the scientists had to encounter. The way they found breakthroughs within these mishaps showed me how to find positive messages in the mishaps of my life. This book was much more than I expected, and I highly recommend it!

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    Great Read! ARPANET 4 LIFE!!!

    This book was a great read. I loved it. It was extremely informative about how the Internet was first created and how it grew and expanded from the small, with only 15 nodes, ARPANET, to the world wide web that links millions of computers around the globe. Hafner and Lyon have created a great read that captures the history and the awesomeness of the origins of the Internet. These men will forever be remembered of the fathers of the web, they have changed technology forever and have greatly bettered the world by doing so. This book takes readers behind the scenes of all the hard work, long hours, genius, and the "happy accidents of the successful ordeal. Some of the characters are great too. Some of them are even college students when they first created the ARPANET. I think that is amazing, but it just goes to show you that anyone can do anything no matter how old. Everyone in the world ho cares about where the @ symbol comes from on email addresses, or the "www" in front of a website, should definitely go out to there local bookstore and purchase this book! It's no surprise it was "one of Library Journal's picks for best Sci-Tech book of the year."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2005

    Very Informative Book

    The book was very informative. I kept me on the edge when I read it. Each moment the story gave me the feeling of what were the characters going to do to get over the next 'hurdle' that came thier way. It leaves the reader asking for more up until the last page!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2001


    This book provides a very in depth look at how the Internet started, but it in a very boring way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2000

    perfect book

    the best book i ever read.........period...........

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