By putting my blog’s title as “Harvard” today, this may, (possibly), increase the number of views I receive! Although this may seem funny at first sight, I learned in my seminar today that Bloomberg reporters get paid according to how many people click and view their article. Professor Waldo mentioned that a research showed that including the name “Harvard” in the lead, increased the number of clicks by 10% (would you believe that?!).

Today’s discussion was all about the various effects of the Internet on the economy. Its funny to think how the Internet was never intended to have any impact on the economy, but nowadays it is hard to find situations in which the Internet had no impact whatsoever. During the process of creating the Internet, it was not able to support sound or video. Nowadays, it is impossible to think about music without thinking of the Internet. Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, amongst many others, have taken control of the music industry. CD’s are rarely bought. Not to mention illegal downloading of songs, which is also extremely common today – artists end up not getting what they fully deserve. However, it was mentioned during today’s discussion that research showed that the increase in piracy led to a proportional increase for music revenue: the internet allows us to listen to a huge variety of songs, and those who listen a given song/album and like it, may want to buy it at a better quality (CD) to keep. Streaming leads to recommended songs and artists (which actually becomes a cycle), allowing us to discover whoever we want in the music market. If we think about it, in the past, musicians would make concerts to promote their albums, and nowadays they make money through concerts and festivals, and the songs put on the Internet are used to promote their concerts.

Overall, we notice that the Internet has caused industries to phase out. So much is available online that it shifts the stores we go to for entertainment. Newspapers, for example, used to make money on classified ads. Newspaper companies now save money by posting online in stead of printing, but there is more competition in the market (they are not only competing with other newspapers, but all other sources of information available on the Internet). As a result, less people will be viewing their ads and they profit less. As they profit less, they can hire less people, which makes it harder to find news, to conduct in depth research on news, and, as a result, the quality and quantity of news developed is affected. As we can see, it is a chain of cause and effect, with one problem leading to another one.

When reflecting on pricing, the Internet has also changed the way pricing goes. In stores, we clearly know the price of a given product and therefore what other people or paying for a good. The Internet, however, is way less transparent: you don’t know what other people may be paying. It was amazing, (but at the same time shocking), for me to hear a classmate talk about how buying a plane ticket online can become more expensive if you open the website various times. This will definitely make think further when buying things on the Internet (especially plane tickets!!!).

Overall, a lesson I extracted from the readings and today’s discussion is that the Internet causes each sector to have to reprove itself constantly. Technological advances and new discoveries are made frequently, and sectors have to continually become better, to prove they deserve a spot in the market. What will this lead to in the future, though? Not only will we have much less stability for work, but it will become harder and harder each time for companies to exist. This makes me wonder about the future – what will the market and work environment be like?

The time has come…

The time has finally arrived: the Internet was created!!! Not today, (obviously!), but in our seminar’s reading of Hafner and Lyon’s book! This week’s reading was by far the one that most interested me, as it involved the steps from the ARPANET to the real Internet.

The creation of the Ethernet, in my opinion, was one of the major advances in this whole process we have been studying. The ARPANET pioneers wanted to get rid of the AT&T Network (by the way, this is not the AT&T phone company we use today!) as their phone lines were extremely expensive. Many local networks were arising, and the thought now was to find a way to connect these local networks and allow communication between them. Networks such as the SATNET, CSNET and ALOHANET were being developed and this was an incentive for people to build different networks for the local. The question was: how would these networks communicate to each other? Taking the ALOHANET and the ARPANET as examples, both had different interfaces, transmission rates and packet sizes (the ALOHANET was for broadcasting with radios while the ARPANET was for routing and has IMPs and host computers). Their solution came down to a simple word: a gateway.

The gateway was a machine with a software that made it look like a host to the ARPANET IMPs and it would be connected to the radio waves at ALOHANET. This means another level of indirection was added: the gateway would be connected to an IMP on ARPA and radio waves on ALOHA. It did not focus on the content or the complexity of the content being transferred, it assumed things that came before were reliable and therefore its job was simply to transfer the information (end-to-end reliability). So, the Ethernet actually originated from the already-existing ALOHANET.

The protocol used began as TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and then it ended up splitting into TCP/IP (Internet Protocol). After this split, the TCP would be responsible for “breaking up messages into datagrams, reassembling them at the other end, detecting errors, resending anything that got lost, and putting packets back in the right order”, while the Internet Protocol would be responsible for routing individual diagrams. In this way, the huge function that the TCP had before was distributed and this shifted reliability onto the hosts.

So, this brings us to the distinction between what was the “internet” and the “Internet”: the first meant any network using TCP/OP while the second meant the public, federally subsidised network that was made up of many linked networks (all running TCP/IP protocols). And this, ladies and gentlemen, was how this Internet was finally created (!!!!).

Later on in the seminar, we moved our discussion to a topic that I personally had never thought about. Would you imagine that typing in a set of numbers into your browser could lead you to a webpage? Well, I didn’t, until Dean Smith and Professor Waldo explained the DNS – Domain Name System – in which each webpage has its set of characters corresponding to its type of protocol, name server and top level domain. It’s amazing to think about how many things we use nowadays on the Internet, without knowing the actual work behind them. The good part is, though, that the seminar will help me with this issue by teaching me new things as we go along!

More of my reflections…

This evening, as an update on my laptop popped up asking me if I wished to update my software to the security upgrade 10.11.6 version, I thought back to the discussion we had today in my freshman seminar. From last week’s reading to this week’s reading of Hafner and Lyon’s book, we shifted our focus from how the ARPA network pioneers transformed hardware, to how they developed the software for their project to work. How would they program the software to make the host computers, IMPs and connections work? Nowadays, we update our computers once a week and it is amazing to think that, at the time the ARPA net was being developed, software updates in the system would happen several times a day as people were still trying to improve and fix the system – (imagine having to update your computer every day!!). Due to this, many of the host computers stopped working due to the updated in another given host computer.

Another topic discussed that sparked my curiosity was the RFC1 developed by the pioneers. The RFC1 (Request for Comments) was a sort of memorandum that described the methods for communicating between the host computer and the IMPs and it basically set out some rules on how to connect to your IMP. The interesting part for me was the way that the RFC1 was set out. People were “invited” to use the RFC1 to help them, as it would make it easier for them to write on how to communicate with their individual IMPs. They were not, however, obliged to endorse the rules on the RFC1, which had its “tentative agreements”. To interact with the network established, it was vital for a person to follow the rules in order to be able to communicate with this network and participate in this creation.

This brought me to think about the different approaches we can have to situations. Rather than making something an obligation, maybe a better approach would be to “invite” people to endorse your idea, by showing them how much they would benefit from it. This different approach could be used in various situations, from implementing rules to a network, to directing a high school or university.

The Finger command protocol was one that provided the status reports on a particular computer system and allowed one host computer to see who was online in another host computer. Our discussion about this command during the seminar made me really reflect about privacy on the Internet nowadays. To what extent would privacy on the Internet be beneficial? Would it limit how much information and knowledge we get from the Internet, not allowing us access to different opinions, mindsets and perspectives? Or would it be a tool to protect us from any harm that the Internet can bring? I believe this is an extremely debatable topic which many are discussing nowadays with current advances of the Internet.

To finish off today’s reflections, it is astonishing to realize how the Internet grew throughout the years. In November 1969, the first ARPANET link was established between the IMP at UCLA and the IMP at Stanford and the ARPANET pioneers eventually formed their network to sustain 32 computers. 32 computers to us seems an extremely small number, as less than 50 years after this first ARPANET link, we find ourselves in 2016 with millions of computers available, all functioning, interconnected and vital in our day-to-day life. It was startling to hear, during the seminar, the recent example that the Internet in Gabon was shut down as their election protests grew, and the United Nations had to intervene to solve the problem as there were massive consequences due to the lack of Internet.


Hello world!

When looking through the list of Freshman Seminars to apply to some weeks ago, the name “What is the Internet, and what will it become?” immediately struck my attention. As I paused to think after reading the title, I began to wonder: when I was born in 1997, the Internet was already a crucial part of human life, but the question that bothered me was, how was the Internet created and how did it get to this point?

My first reading assignment for the seminar was the first half of the book “Why wizards stay up late” by Hafner and Lyon. This reading really opened my eyes to the complexity behind the Internet and computers. When we open our computer devices nowadays, the interaction between the user and their device is very simple, illustrated and visual. Buttons, icons, keys, amongst many other features, color our screens and make it easy to navigate, communicate and find whatever we need. In the initial stages of constructing the Internet, however, things did not seem as simple as what we see (and use) today.

What intrigued me at first in the reading was the figure of Paul Baran. He was one of the first to have the desire to build a network of connectivity. The funny part for me was reading that his motive for creating this interconnected space was not to connect to one another, but because of fear that the soviets would attack – we would never even think about this nowadays, right?

Also due to defense reasons, came the creation of ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) by the US Department of Defense. This brought a dilemma between the military and the scientists, as the scientists did not want ARPA to be for military services – they ended up moving from the Pentagon to a much freer willing space, a space like today’s start ups are located in.

But the most interesting part for me was reading about the difficulty “Internet pioneers” had to communicate between their different machines. Thinking about our daily lives, once again, all our devices can be interconnected and speak the same language. This allows us to send a message to someone who’s physically at the other side of the world (and even video call them if we want!). The problem of building a network of connectivity was the main obstacle encountered at the time. Bob Taylor was one who looked at this situation and had the thought of connecting these several different machines, who all spoke different languages and had to be used individually. After some time, the solution they came up with was using IMPs – intermediate computers. These IMPs would all be the same and would be added to each station (at each university involved in the process). This meant that each station would just need to know how to communicate to the IMP, and each IMP would understand their station’s language. To me, this seemed like a very smart solution, but I can also imagine the amount work it took them to make it happen!!

Well, these were some of my thoughts and interests from the first seminar reading/discussion, and I’ll be back next week with more insights on what I learn next!