Week 2, Fall 2021

Fall 2021

Week 2: 1961–1983

The Culture of and around ARPANET, or How No Technology Is Neutral

The first designs for the internet emerged in military research in the 1960s to create a survivable command and control structure capable of withstanding nuclear attack. But the means of solving the problem of durable communication, using distributed networks and packet-switched data transmission, quickly moved beyond this narrow aim. Both at the Advanced Research Projects Agency, where network research began, and in commercial services, such as Tymnet and Telenet, the technology came to foster wider cooperative tools. Looking back at the era’s counterculture, Stewart Brand would later say of the internet, “We owe it all to the hippies.” This week we’ll consider what cultural values were embedded into early internet technology, why no technology is value neutral, and how researchers of the early internet see its values changing today.



Stewart Brand, “We Owe It All to the Hippies,” Time, March 1, 1995. [PDF]
Fred Turner, “The Rise of the Internet and a New Age of Authoritarianism,” Harpers, January 2019. [PDF]
Janet Abbate, “How the Internet Lost Its Soul,” Washington Post, November 1, 2019.
Matthew Lasar, “ARPANET’s coming out party: when the Internet first took center stage
Forty years ago the founders of the Internet had a revelation,” Ars Technica, October 18, 2011.

Technical Papers

Lawrence Roberts, “Multiple Computer Networks and Intercomputer Communication,” Proceedings of the First ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, 1967. (First paper on the ARPANET)
Lawrence Roberts, “The Evolution of Packet Switching,” Proceedings of the IEEE 66, no. 11, November 1978. (Early reflection on the central technology of packet switching)


Further Reading

Janet Abbate. Inventing the Internet. MIT Press, 1999.
Fred Turner. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. University of Chicago Press, 2006.


“Did Errol Morris’ Brother Invent Email?” Reply All, January 23, 2015.
“Networking for a Nuclear War, the Americans,” Advent of Computing, August 11, 2019.
“Fred Turner on Cyberculture and The Democratic Surround,Entitled Opinions, June 7, 2018.
“Professor Leonard Kleinrock, Internet Pioneer,” Frank Buckley Interviews, KTLA 5, Mar 6, 2019.


“40th Anniversary of the Net, October 29, 1969,” Computer History Museum, October 28, 2009.
“Len Kleinrock: The First Two Packets on the Internet,” IEEE Computer Society, January 13, 2009.
“The First Internet Connection, with UCLA’s Leonard Kleinrock,” UCLA, January 13, 2009.