Thirty-five years after the first Italian ‘ping’, the Internet is celebrated

It was April 30, 1986 when the CNR working group led by Stefano Trumpy launched the first ping, effectively marking Italy's entry into the Internet. On that day, albeit with the concerns raised by the serious events in Chernobyl, history was being made in Pisa . A job, at the time, almost avant-garde given that our country was one of the first to actively connect to the network. Thanks to the tireless work of Luciano Lenzini, architect of the project, among others, that first connection arrived in Pennsylvania, at the Roaring Creek station.

A step in history

It was supposed to be a network to connect US military bases to foster collaboration and broaden research the original Internet, now ARPANET. In 1969, researchers in America had successfully connected the first two computers via a traditional telephone network and the use of Telnet. From that moment the development of ARPANET was uncontrollable and in a short time we realized the enormous potential not only in the military field.

So in the space of less than a decade from a few large connected computers in the 1970s, there was about a thousand connected and functioning computers. Those years were of vital importance for the birth and development of information transmission protocols. Some, such as the well-known TCP / IP, established themselves over time and are now the basis of all our technologies. Others such as UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol) only lasted a few years before merging into the worldwide network of the Internet.

The ARPANET network in 1984 (Source: Il Sole 24 Ore)

The great work of Italian researchers

In the engine room of the Institute of Informatics and Telematics there was only Blasco Bonito, the CNR technician who launched the connection command to the United States. In reality, with those two "pings", "ok" we had marked the entry into the Internet thanks to the work of whole years and of research groups all over the world. In fact, Italy had always pursued the development of telecommunication networks at the same time also in the national territory . The two networks RPCNET and STELLA were also born in the 70s, at the same time as ARPANET to favor the interconnection of the computers of the research centers.

To carry out that first exchange of commands, there was a huge effort, as the technology was still embryonic and constantly changing. In fact, to be able to connect to ARPANET it was necessary to use the SATNET network (SATellite NETwork) via the Intelsat 4 geostationary satellite over the Atlantic Ocean. To reach it there was only a parabolic antenna in the Fucino station to which the CNR researchers had to connect via a particular type of hardware. In addition, the software was also written for American machines and therefore required careful reprogramming to adapt it to Italian needs.

The Fucino satellite station was the access point to put Italy in communication with ARPANET.

The news, despite being futuristic, was not received with fanfare, probably unable to grasp the future implications. Only the students of a Pisan high school managed to touch the power of the new network that had recently been created. In fact, thanks to the foresight of a physics professor, they were the first students to witness an exchange of mails with the United States live, with great amazement.

From CERN to the Internet of tomorrow

The years to come were filled with new experimentation, but the real change of pace was dictated by Tim Barners-Lee by bringing together a series of ideas in his innovative hypertext information system. Thus, in August 1961, the CERN website made its first appearance, where you could begin to find some information organized by pages and accessible via hyperlinks.

A recourse to the WWW began in the 1990s and continues today without equal. Many of the processes that used to be managed locally have migrated to the Internet and nowadays almost every object in our life has a connection to the network. The Internet dominates the global communications landscape and has made our lives different, bringing improvements and changes that were unthinkable until a few decades ago.

Today is the time for the Internet of Things and the future will see us committed to globally interconnect even the most common objects, so that they become intelligent and can help us every day. The Internet is also a great ethics laboratory, where you can experiment every day with the ideals of freedom and understand how far you can go while respecting the freedom of others. We will certainly expect great revolutions dictated by the WWW that will push us to a new, hopefully better future.

The article Thirty-five years from the first Italian 'ping', the entry into the Internet is celebrated comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .