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Hinterland Book

It’s taking shape. I am excited about the book, and have finished the first draft of a whole chapter. I can now see what the book will be and I think I like it.

It’s neither a Computing History book nor a Teaching Computing primer, there are some good books in that space already. But I think the History books stray too far from typical GCSE course content to be entirely useful for a novice teacher of Computer Science, and the Teaching Computing primers are good at what they do, without covering the “hinterland” – the rich and gorgeous cultural capital behind our subject.

And whatever I write, I want it to be interesting, inspiring and accessible. Something enjoyable, not just a “set text” for PGCE courses that students struggle through and pull quotes from for their essays (although if you’re listening ITT providers, I’m happy to be included on a reading list 🙂 )

Here is the opening of Chapter 4, I hope you like it. Feedback welcome here or on Twitter

Thank you!

Chapter 4. Joined-Up Thinking.
LO the internet is born
Los Angeles, California, October 1969. Student programmer Charley Kline sits nervously at a computer terminal at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), supervised by his Professor, Leonard Kleinrock, and begins to type. Attached to his terminal is one of UCLA’s SDS Sigma 7 host computers, which Charley has been working on for a while now, but tonight is different. Network technicians both here in UCLA and at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), 350 miles north in the San Francisco bay area, have today finished installing the IMPs – Interface Message Processors – establishing UCLA and SRI as nodes #1 and #2 on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, known as the ARPANET. The IMPs were early routers, connecting Local Area Networks together, making the ARPANET the world’s first Wide Area Network. Charley’s job is to send the first message across the network.

It’s 10:30 in the evening, the IMPs are running at both ends, UCLA is ready to transmit, SRI is ready to receive, and Charley presses the first key. Just over 125 years earlier, when Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic message, the importance of the moment caused him to choose a Biblical phrase. The phrase Morse sent from Washington D.C. in the spring of 1844 that clacked out on paper tape in Baltimore, read “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?”

In 1969, however, Professor Kleinrock just wants to log on remotely to the machine at Stanford, so Charley is typing the rather more prosaic instruction: “LOGON”. But the universe has other ideas: the link fails after two letters are typed, and the first message transmitted across this new medium is once again suitably Biblical. The first message ever sent over a wide-area network is simply “LO”.

By mraharrisoncs

Head of Computing, Manchester.

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