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ARPA: The Early Days of ARPA,
Forerunner of the Internet

by Cheryl Gribble

 

This is a brief historical account of the events leading up to the creation of ARPA, the forerunner of the ARPANET and Internet, and the early days at ARPA.

Before NASA

In October 1957 the Soviets launched their first satellite, Sputnik I. President Eisenhower was in office and Neil McElroy had just been confirmed by the Senate as Eisenhower's nominee for secretary of defense. 1957 was an International Geophysical Year (IGY) and some had already predicted that the Soviet Union would launch a satellite in observance of the IGY. Eisenhower surrounded himself with many of the nations scientists and was in fact the first President to host a White House dinner with the scientific and engineering communities as guests of honor. 1

Sputnik II was launched a month after Sputnik I. President Eisenhower met with his Science Advisory committee. On November 7, 1957 President Eisenhower then announced the appointment of James R. Killian Jr., president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as the National Science Advisor. Neil McElroy, J.R.Killian, and a few other industrialists and scientists discussed the idea of establishing an independent agency for research. The military (Army, Navy, AirForce) had been competing to get research and development monies. President Eisenhower asked Congress to startup funds for the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and received the funding. He iterated the need for single control to oversee advanced development projects and ordered the military to cooperate with the civilian authority of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPA was a civilian agency created by Congress in January 1958. 1 In 1958, Roy Johnson, a vice president of General Electric was appointed the first director of ARPA. Herbert York (Lawrence Livermore Labs) soon joined ARPA as the chief scientist. The earliest projects overseen by ARPA dealt with space research and missile research. This was prior to the creation of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). In late '58, NASA was enacted into law. Johnson resigned and the staff of ARPA redefined it's mission as a group that would take on "far-out" advanced projects and distanced itself from the military. 1


1.  where wizards stay up late - the origins of the internet by Hafner, Katie and Lyon, Matthew; A Touchstone Book Published by Simon and Shuster, 1996. ISBN 0-684-81201-0

ARPA: 1961-1962

The second director of ARPA, Brig. General Austin W. Betts resigned in early 1961. Jack P. Ruina, a scientist, became the director of ARPA. Under Ruina, ARPA's annual budget was raised to $250 million dollars. Research projects involved nuclear test detection and missile defense, both having to do with national security. There were also behavioral research projects being funded in 1961. The Air Force had installed a large mainframe computer in California but later had been forced to cut back monetarily, no longer funding projects with the Q-32 machine. ARPA more or less inherited the Q-32 from the Air Force. 1

Also visit: J.C.R. Licklider as the 4th Director of ARPA, and Internet Pioneers.



1. Ibid

 


 

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