The Beginnings of The Internet From A German Perspective

There are lots of good books out there about the beginnings of the Internet in the 1960s and how people started using it in the decades to come. I specifically recommend ‘Dealers of Lightning‘ if you are interested in the early history. But how was the development of ‘networking’ in general and the ‘Internet’ in particular viewed from the outside starting in the 1970s?

My own story ‘only’ starts in the mid-1980s, dial-up modems, mailboxes and the Fidonet and my first contact with the ‘real’ Internet at university. By the mid-1980s, however, interconnecting computers was already in full swing for a decade or so and I’m missing this part of the story. If you speak German, a good resource that also captures this part is the 100th episode of Tim Pritlove’s CRE in which he interviews Hans Hübner alias ‘Pengo’ who was part of the (in Germany) famous ‘KGB hack‘ between 1985 and 1989. In the 2.5h interview from back in 2008, only the last few minutes focus on this particular topic while in the main part Tim and Hans give interesting insights into how computers started to become connected in the 1970s on a global scale on how this was perceived from a German teenager’s point of view.

While having played no role in the US, the X.25 packet switched network that was popular in Europe in the 1980s ties in nicely into the overall story and helped me better understand its use and relation to dial-up modem connections and the TCP/IP ‘Internet’ at the time. A highly recommend source for those of you speaking German and interested in computing history!

P.S.: Coming to think of it, Harald Welte’s (LaForge) talk in December 2017 at 34c3 on ‘BBSs and early Internet access in the 1990ies‘ has interesting insights on the same topic as well!

If you have other good resources on the topic, please let me know!

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