Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two birthdays

Today's Google banner in France celebrates the 50th birthday of the comic-strip characters Astérix and Obélix, who appeared for the first time in an issue of the Pilote magazine dated 29 October 1959.

René Goscinny [1926-1977] created the humorous scenarios while Albert Uderzo [born in 1927] did the drawings.

We also celebrate today the 40th anniversary of the first message sent from one computer to another through a primitive network, which finally blossomed into the Internet. At the University of California in Los Angeles, on 29 October 1969, professor Leonard Kleinrock and a student programmer, Charley Kline, attempted to login to a remote computer located at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park. For this to happen, the second computer needed to receive the five letters LOGIN from the first computer, but the system crashed after the reception of only the first two letters. So, the world's first net message turned out to be LO. Here's the story, told by Kleinrock himself:

I'm often surprised to think that, when I visited the USA in the early '70s to shoot documentaries about so-called artificial intelligence for French TV, I imagined that we were already living in a fascinating computer world. In fact, the big surprises—personal computers and the Internet—were still quite far away in the future. I realize now that the computing context I discovered and filmed—characterized by PDP hardware, LISP software and often overblown evaluations of accomplishments and promises—was relatively primitive compared with today's world.

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