My Internet Resolution for 2001 is to learn the Web all over again. I have been so engulfed in preaching from the mountaintops of the Internet's unyielding powers, that I have strayed from the most important thing, "knowing the Internet." What it's about, where it came from, what it does. Feel free to join me for a quick jaunt down memory lane.

Modest Beginnings

The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of M.I.T. in August 1962 discussing his "Galactic Network" concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today. Licklider was the first head of the computer research program at DARPA, starting in October 1962. While there, he convinced his successors (including Lawrence G. Roberts) of the importance of this networking concept.

In late 1966, Roberts went to DARPA to develop the computer network concept and quickly put together his plan for the "ARPANET," publishing it in 1967. At the conference where he presented the paper, there was also a paper on a packet network concept from the United Kingdom by Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury of NPL. Scantlebury told Roberts about the NPL work as well as that of Paul Baran and others at RAND. It happened that the work at M.I.T. (1961-1967), at RAND (1962-1965), and at NPL (1964-1967) had all proceeded in parallel without any of the researchers knowing about the others' work.

The original ARPANET grew into the Internet, which embodies a key underlying technical idea, namely that of open architecture networking. In this approach, the choice of any individual network technology was not dictated by a particular network architecture but rather could be selected freely by a provider and made to interwork with the other networks through a meta-level "Internetworking Architecture," the basis of the Net.

The Internet has changed much in the two decades since it came into existence.

It was conceived in the era of time-sharing, but has survived into the era of personal computers, client-server and peer-to-peer computing, and the network computer. It was designed before LANs existed, but has accommodated that new network technology, as well as the more recent ATM and frame-switched services.

It was envisioned as supporting a range of functions from file sharing and remote login to resource sharing and collaboration, and has spawned electronic mail and more recently the World Wide Web. But most importantly, it started as the creation of a small band of dedicated researchers, and has grown to be a commercial success with billions of dollars of annual investment.



Around The Web

There's a new kid on the block, and he's primed and ready to take on the world of hvac. PlantHVAC.com is the latest entry into the Web world, and what an entry; smooth transitions from page to shining page and a slew of product to look at. This site is what I like to call "rich" - the kind of site you can really sink your teeth into. As I mentioned in my December article, the hvac industry is filled with lots of small- to medium-sized firms and storefronts that would benefit greatly from central sites that cater to actively promoting their sites. PlanetHVAC.com does this through a process of setting up mini-homepages internally based within the Planet HVAC.com network. It's very cool. The site was recently labeled by Forbes.com as a "Best of the Web." I don't know if I'd go that far, but the site certainly has a very sweet offering.

Recommendation for improvement: Provide some sort of an engineering portal (an e-mail suggestion I received from an ES reader) to cater to the specifier portion of the industry and allow users to set up storefronts directly from the Web.

eFiltration.com is one of those sites I am worried about. Specialized sites that cater to a product or a group of products are finding it hard to stay alive these days. Consolidation is happening all around us, and many B2B sites are now expanding across channel lines offering many of the same amenities that single-product B2B sites offer. efiltration.com is one of those single product sites.

As poor as my outlook is, eFiltration.com does offer some pretty diverse tools such as product comparison and the ability to build a product right on the site and then buy it (more like a search, but it's neat nonetheless). eFiltration.com is a good "business" site and will certainly improve your knowledge on filtration and aid in the ability to buy your next set of HEPA filters. But the way the industry is moving, I see them getting in cahoots with someone, being gobbled up by a much bigger player, or dropping off the face of the earth altogether. ES