Our country joined the Internet 25 years ago

Prague, 7 February 2017. Our country, then still part of Czechoslovakia, first officially joined the Internet 25 years ago, on Thursday 13 February 1992. It happened at an event organised by a handful of experts from the Czech Technical University Faculty of Electrical Engineering in CTU lecturing room no. 256 in Prague-Dejvice. A ceremonial session will be held in the same room on the occasion of the anniversary a quarter of a century later to the day. In cooperation with the CTU, it is organised by CESNET, an association of public universities and the Czech Academy of Sciences, providing development of the national electronic infrastructure for science, research and education of the same name.

Jan Gruntorád, present Director of CESNET, was the principal initiator of the first connection 25 years ago. The connection was made using a hired telephone land line circuit running from the Dejvice CTU campus to the computing centre of Johannes Kepler University Linz. The connected device was an IBM 4341 mainframe computer. Czechoslovakia became the 39th country to connect to the Internet. The computer was connected at a speed of 9.6 kilobits per second, which is a thousandth of the speed used at home or work by most of us today, and a millionth of what the fastest scientific research infrastructures offer at present.

Few people could have anticipated the massive boom of the Internet in the years to come. “When we calculated everything considering the Czech reality, we found that sending one e-mail message would cost about a thousand crowns. So our first thoughts on the utilisation of the Internet were more in the spirit of supporting scientific and research collaboration,” Jan Gruntorád remembers.

Back then, the Internet was not the open environment it is today. Connection required the consent of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which ran and fully financed the only backbone Internet network at the time. The requisite for connection was its exclusively academic use; commercial operation was not permissible. Steven Goldstein, a representative of the NSF, then participated in the first official connection event.

“We also invited other experts from abroad who had helped us with the connection: two representatives of the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Wilfried Machtera and Günther Schmittener, as well as Rob Blokzijl, chairman of RIPE – an open forum supporting the technical evolution of the Internet. Last but not least, there were also several dozen colleagues from Czech universities and institutes of the Academy of Sciences, for whom we introduced the Internet and made a first practical demonstration,” says Jan Gruntorád.

Steven Goldstein himself will make a speech at the session to be held on 13 February this year. The event, to run from 9 am to 2 pm, will host leading figures of both Czech and international Internet and academia. Moreover, CESNET will allow visitors to view the most interesting demonstrations of its own research into the Internet in the lecturing room lobby. The CTU Faculty of Electrical Engineering will launch a thematic exhibition of unique computers from the 1970s – 1990s.

You can attend the event in person after registering on the web site 25let.online, or you can watch it live at the same address.

For details about the session, including its agenda, go to: https://25let.online

The CESNET Association was founded by Czech universities and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in 1996. It is engaged in research and development in information and communication technologies and builds and develops the CESNET national e-infrastructure for research and education. Thanks to its research activities and accomplishments, it represents the Czech Republic in important international projects, particularly in building the pan-European GÉANT network project or grid projects (EGI.eu), and actively participates in their implementation.

The Czech Technical University of Prague is among the largest and oldest technical universities in Europe. At present, the CTU has eight faculties (civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, nuclear sciences and physical engineering, architecture, transportation sciences, biomedical engineering, and information technology) and more than 23,000 students. The CTU educates contemporary experts, scientists and managers with a grasp of foreign languages who are dynamic, flexible and able to quickly adapt to market requirements. More details are available at www.cvut.cz.

Last change: 14.11.2017