Cloud History Software Engineering

The Byte – 1956 AD

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The Byte

Werner Buchholz (b. 1922), Louis G. Dooley (dates unavailable)

“Designers of the early binary computers faced a fundamental question: how should the computers’ storage be organized? The computers stored information in bits, but computer users didn’t want to write programs that manipulated bits; they wanted to solve math problems, crack codes, and generally work with larger units of information. The memory of decimal computers such as ENIAC and the UNIVAC I was organized in groups of 10 alphanumeric digits, called words. The binary computers also organized their memory into words, but these groups of bits were called bytes.”

Unit systemunits derived from bit
Unit ofdigital information, data size
SymbolB or (when referring to exactly 8 bits) o

“It appears that the word byte was coined simultaneously in 1956 by Werner Buchholz at IBM, working on the IBM STRETCH (the world’s first supercomputer), and by Louis G. Dooley and others at MIT Lincoln Lab working on the SAGE air-defense system. In both cases, they used the word byte to describe the inputs and outputs of machine instructions that could operate on less than a full word. The STRETCH had 60-bit words and used 8-bit bytes to represent characters for its input/output system; the SAGE had instructions that could operate on 4-bit bytes.”

“The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer[1][2] and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures. To disambiguate arbitrarily sized bytes from the common 8-bit definition, network protocol documents such as The Internet Protocol (RFC 791)(1981) refer to an 8-bit byte as an octet.[3]

“Over the next 20 years, the definition of a byte was somewhat fluid. IBM used 8-bit bytes with its System/360 architecture, and 8-bit groups were the standard for AT&T’s long-distance digital telephone lines. DEC, on the other hand, successfully marketed a series of computers with 18-bit and 36-bit words, including the PDP-7 and the PDP-10, which both utilized 9-bit bytes.”

“This lack of consistency resulted in the early Internet standards avoiding the word byte entirely. Instead, the word octet is used to describe a group of 8 bits sent over a computer network, a usage that survives to this day in Internet standards.”

“Nevertheless, by the 1980s, the acceptance of 8-bit bytes was almost universal—largely a result of the microcomputer revolution, because micros used 8-bit bytes almost exclusively. In part, that’s because 8 bits is an even power of 2, which makes it somewhat easier to design computer hardware with 8-bit bytes than with 9-bit bytes.”

“Today the era of 9-bit bytes is all but forgotten. And what about collections of 4 bits? Today these are called a nibble (sometimes spelled nybble).”

Multiples of bytes:

Multiples of bytes

Prefixes for multiples of bits (bit) or bytes (B)


“Today’s computers most frequently use bytes consisting of 8 bits, represented by 1s and 0s.”

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History Networking

First Cell Phone Call – 1973 AD

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First Cell Phone Call

Martin Cooper (b. 1928)

On April 3, 1973, Motorola employee Martin Cooper did something no one else had ever done before: he made a phone call while he walked down the street. It was the first time a call had been made on a handheld cellular telephone, and its key developer decided not to call his mom but — whom else? — his chief rival at Bell Labs to rub it in. With a journalist and photographer in tow to publicize the event, and pedestrians watching slack-jawed, those first words were: “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real, handheld, portable cell phone.”

The call was made on Sixth Avenue in New York City between Fifty-Third and Fifty-Fourth Streets. Cooper’s only concern was whether the phone would work when he turned it on.

It took Cooper’s team just five months to build the prototype using existing technology from their research labs. Without the advent of large-scale integrated circuits, Motorola engineers had to jam thousands of inductors, resistors, capacitors, and ceramic filters in a device that would be lightweight enough to carry. The prototype weighed 2.5 pounds, stood 11 inches tall, and cost $1 million in today’s dollars to produce.

Up until then, the industry (with AT&T in the lead) had focused on placing mobile technology in the car, not in people’s hands. Cooper and his team believed that AT&T’s vision was too limited. As Cooper explained to the BBC years later in a retrospective interview, he wanted to create “something that would represent an individual, so you could assign a number not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person.”

It would take 10 years for the prototype to be released as a commercial product, due in large part to the lack of existing towers and infrastructure that had to be built. Called the DynaTAC 8000x, it took 10 hours to charge for 30 minutes of talk time. This is the same phone Michael Douglas famously used in the movie Wall Street to talk to his desk-bound protégé while he watched the sunrise from the beach. It cost $3,995, which, adjusted for inflation, would be around $9,000 today.”

SEE ALSO: Star Trek Premieres (1966), iPhone (2007)

Martin Cooper with the first portable handset. Cooper made the world’s first mobile phone call on April 3, 1973, to his rival Joel Engel at Bell Labs.

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History Networking

The Carterfone Decision – 1968 AD

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Carterfone Decision

Thomas Carter (1924–1991)

“When a Texas oil worker wanted to communicate from a remote location such as an oil field, he used a long-distance radio to talk to other people because there were no telephone lines in such isolated places. Meanwhile, family, friends, and colleagues had phones, but they didn’t have radios.

Enter Thomas Carter, Texas entrepreneur and inventor who created the Carterfone, a device that linked two-way radios to the telephone network, enabling those in far-flung places to stay in contact with others.

The Carterfone worked by acoustically (as opposed to electrically) connecting a radio to the public telephone network. Once a station operator was in contact with parties at both ends—the radio operator and the person on the other end of the telephone call—the operator would place the telephone handset into a cradle, which aligned a small speaker with the handset’s microphone and a microphone with the handset’s speaker. A voice-operated switch in the Carterfone would then automatically turn on the radio transmitter when the person on the telephone spoke. When the person stopped talking, the Carterfone would stop transmitting. The device’s microphone would then pick up any sound received by the radio receiver and send it down the phone line. This enabled both parties to hear each other and converse.

Even though the Carterfone did not electrically connect to the phone system, it violated the phone company’s rules. In 1968, AT&T controlled the US telecommunications system, with Western Electric as the manufacturer producing all the equipment. No one owned their phones: they were leased. AT&T’s rules prohibited users from attaching third-party gear to its network. So Carter filed suit against AT&T, and—to the surprise of many—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in Carter’s favor.

The FCC’s landmark decision is a reminder that regulation is sometimes needed to protect and enable the innovations that lead to technology advances. Without the FCC’s Carterfone ruling, innovations such as the fax machine, answering machine, and modem would not have had the regulatory space to enter the market and evolve, paving the way for what would become the internet and the dynamic communications ecosystem that exists today.”

SEE ALSO The Bell 101 Modem (1958), Telebit Modems Break 9600 bps (1984)

The original Carterfone, which connected mobile radios to the telephone network.

Fair Use Source: B07C2NQSPV

History Networking

Digital Long Distance Telephone Calls – 1962 AD

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Digital Long Distance

Picture this: It’s Mother’s Day around 1960. All over the country, sons and daughters who live far away from their mothers are calling to wish them a happy day and say thank you for all they do. Except many of them can’t, because they can’t get their calls to go through. All they hear when they dial is a busy signal or an automated voice saying to try again later. That was because there was a relatively small number of copper wire pairs crisscrossing the country as part of the telecommunications network, and each pair could carry just a single conversation.

With the introduction of AT&T’s digital T1 carrier service, the capacity of each pair of copper wires dramatically increased. Rather than one conversation per pair of twisted wires, two pairs could carry 24 conversations simultaneously. The T1 service did this by converting all the analog voice data to digital format and sequencing or organizing that data to travel together on a copy pair and then get accurately separated for delivery to the intended residence or phone line. In essence, there was suddenly more than 10 times the capacity on each copper pair. (For technical reasons, the T1 required a copper pair to carry data in each direction.) The first T1 was installed in Chicago, where the city had run out of space in places to add more buried cable under the city streets.

The digital long-distance service required three things: the T1 digital communication protocol, a technology called a multiplexer to combine the 24 conversations into a single data stream, and a converter that changed analog data to digital and digital back to analog.

The T1 created the possibility of connecting two computers with a high-speed digital network ordered from the phone company. The evolution and maturation of the specifications and standards surrounding the T1 carrier service, popularly referred to as a T1 line, was fundamental to a lot of other innovation occurring, including both the early internet and the eventual computerization of the local telephone network with the invention of the 5ESS switch.

SEE ALSO Computerization of the Local Telephone Network (1983)

Engineers at Bell Telephone replace the T1 interface deep within a telephone switch.

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History Networking

Bell 101 Modem – 1958 AD

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The Bell 101 Modem

“A modem (short for modulator/demodulator) converts digital information into an analog signal (a process known as modulation) so that the signal can be transmitted, and then, on the receiving side, converts the analog signal back into digital bits (the demodulation). From 1958 until the late 1990s, acoustic modems that interfaced with the analog telephone network were the primary way that computers communicated with remote users.

The first acoustic modem was probably SIGSALY, a voice-encryption system developed by the Allies during World War II to let Winston Churchill speak directly with Franklin Roosevelt. That modem might have been developed by the Air Force Cambridge Research Center (AFCRC), which developed a digital device for sending radar images over the telephone lines.

Then, in 1958, AT&T released the Bell 101 modem for use with SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), a US air defense system. The modem allowed communications over ordinary phone lines at 110 bits per second (bit/s). The following year, AT&T made the device available for commercial customers. The Bell 101 was superseded in 1962 with the Bell 103 modem that could send and receive data at 300 bit/s.

The Bell modems connected directly to ordinary telephone lines, but AT&T, which at the time provided both long-distance and local telephone service, prohibited its customers from attaching equipment manufactured by other companies. Then, in 1968, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that AT&T could not prohibit devices from connecting to telephone lines if they used an acoustic coupler. Within a few years, companies like Novation® and Hayes Microcomputer Products® were offering Bell-compatible 300-baud modems.

A 300-baud modem can deliver text at 30 characters per second or 250 words per minute. In 1979, AT&T introduced the Bell 212 modem, which could send and receive information four times faster. Hayes released the Smartmodem 1200, which was compatible with the Bell 212 but cost much less, in 1982 for $699. Two years later, the International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) released v.22bis, a worldwide standard for 2400-baud modems. Those modems set the ground for the first dial-up time-sharing services.”

SEE ALSO SAGE Computer Operational (1958), Telebit Modems Break 9600 bps (1984)

The Bell 101 Dataset (1958) was the first commercial modem able to transmit digital data.

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Artificial Intelligence History

Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet – 1956 AD

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Robby the Robot

Robby the Robot in a scene from Forbidden Planet

“Robby the Robot made his world debut as a fictional character in the movie Forbidden Planet, the same year that nonstick frying pans went on the market and the hovercraft was invented. In the 1950s, the impact and potential application of technology—both good and bad—was showing up in varying forms in popular culture, as well as diffusing into the home as commodities in different forms. Known for his clever personality and unique visual presence, Robby was symbolic of deeper themes and anxieties the public had toward advancing technology. Believable as a real character and as a robot, Robby quickly became a lasting symbol of the friendly, helpful promise of robots—even though Robby was actually a person walking around inside a 6-foot, 11-inch vacuum-form plastic tube.”

Robby the Robot in a poster for the original release of Forbidden Planet. (The lurid presentation does not accurately reflect the character in the film.)

“In the movie Forbidden Planet, Robby was the creation of Dr. Morbius, who built him using the blueprints of an alien race called the Krell that lived a millennium before. The Krell once lived on the planet Altair IV, now home to Dr. Morbius and his daughter, the only survivors from an expedition of scientists sent to the planet two decades earlier. Despite the threatening undertones of the marketing poster for Forbidden Planet, showing Robby carrying an injured woman, Dr. Morbius programmed Robby to obey Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, which dictated that robots protect and obey human beings.”

Robby the Robot in a poster for the original release of The Invisible Boy.

“Following his motion picture debut, Robby appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including The Invisible Boy, Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, Mork & Mindy, and a 2006 AT&T commercial in which he appears alongside other well-known robots, including Rosie from The Jetsons and KITT from Knight Rider.”

“Robby was truly an advanced machine, with the ability to converse fluently in 187 languages and cook Dr. Morbius’s food by reproducing molecules in any shape and quantity. Robby—like R.U.R. in 1920 and Metropolis’s Maria in 1927, helped envision for computer scientists and the general public what a computer’s technical and practical potential could be and the role such machines could play in human society. Robby was as much an inspiration to computer scientists and budding inventors as he was an entertainer for the general public.”

SEE ALSO Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (1942), Unimate: First Mass-Produced Robot (1961)

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DevSecOps-Security-Privacy History

Vernam Cipher – 1917 A.D.

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Vernam Cipher

Gilbert Vernam (1890–1960), Joseph Mauborgne (1881–1971)

“Most encryption algorithms are computationally secure. This means that while it’s theoretically possible to crack the cipher by trying every possible encryption key, in practice this isn’t possible because trying all of the keys would require too much computational power.

More than a century ago, Gilbert Vernam and Joseph Mauborgne came up with a cryptographic system that is theoretically secure: even with an infinite amount of computer power, it is impossible to crack a message encrypted with the Vernam Cipher, no matter how fast computers ever become.

Vernam’s cipher, today called a one-time pad, is unbreakable because the encrypted message, decrypted with an incorrect key, can result in a plausible-looking message. Indeed, it can result in every possible message, since the key is the same length as the message. That is, for any given ciphertext, there is a key that makes it decrypt as a verse from the Bible, a few lines from Shakespeare, and the text on this page. Without a way to distinguish a correct from an incorrect decryption, the cipher is theoretically unbreakable.

Working at American Telephone and Telegraph Company (now AT&T®) in 1917, Vernam created a stream cipher that encrypted messages one character at a time by combining each character of the message with a character of a key. At first Vernam thought that key could be simply another message, but the following year, working with Joseph Mauborgne, a captain in the US Army Signal Corps, the two realized that the key must be random and nonrepeating. This improved security substantially: if the key were another message, it would be possible to distinguish a probable key from one that was improbable. But if the key was truly random, then any key was equally possible. Together, the two inventors created what we now call a one-time pad, one of only two known encryption systems that are provably unbreakable (the other being quantum cryptography).

As it turns out, a banker named Frank Miller had also invented the concept of the one-time pad in 1882, but his pen-and-paper system was not widely publicized or used.”

SEE ALSO Manchester SSEM (1948), RSA Encryption (1977), Advanced Encryption Standard (2001)

One-time pad device used with SIGTOT cipher system used aboard President Roosevelt’s Douglas C-54 airplane.

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