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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Red Ken's 20/20 foresight

In an interview with BBC London, Ken Livingstone said “When I was leader of the GLC I said to Mrs Thatcher we needed broadband linking every home and City in the country”.

Here is a timeline for those whose memories are measured in nanoseconds:

1969: The first node is connected to the internet's military ancestor, ARPANET using 56 kbit/s circuits.
1973: University College of London is one of the first international connections to ARPANET.
1974: The TCP/IP protocol suite is adopted for use on ARPANET.
1984: Joint Academic Network (JANET) built to connect UK universities over the internet.
1986: The GLC is abolished.
1988: The backbone (now known as NSFNET) is upgraded to T1 (1.544 Mbit/s) links.
1988: First Interop trade show for vendors to demonstrate systems supporting TCP/IP.
1989: Tim Berners-Lee and his team at CERN fuse markup languages and internet protocols to create the World Wide Web.
1991: The NSF decided to move the backbone to a private company and start charging academic institutions for connections.
1990: Mrs Thatcher resigns as PM.
1992: Dial-up access is introduced in the UK by Pipex.
1992: Demon Internet is established as the second UK ISP.
1993: ANS builds a new internet backbone using T3 links (45 Mbit/s).
1995: The NSF awards MCI the contract to build the very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) to replace ANSNET, operating at 622 Mbit/s.
2000: ADSL launched as a commercial product by BT.

So whenever the conversation between Livingstone and Thatcher took place, it was at least 14 years before the commercialisation of broadband.

Let us not forget that 25 years ago, the typical IBM PC was based on either a 4.77MHz 8088 or a 6 MHz 80286 processor.  There probably wasn't a communications port and either way it would have cost about £2,000 (other makes are available) at a time when average salaries were less than £10,000 a year. If you wanted a modem to connect to your serial cable, you would probably have to pay another £200 and it would give you 4800 bps; 9600 bps modems didn't really become standard until the late 1980's, and 64k ISDN wasn't standardised until 1988 and the modems initially cost £1,000, but higher speeds didn't come along until the mid 1990's with cable connections and then ADSL.

How prescient, Mr Livingstone.

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