Dad was it you who brought the internet to Denmark ?

I did not bring the internet to Denmark, but I was one of the first to interconnect our computers at Aalborg University using internet protocols, and I was involved in DKUUG/DKnet which were the front-runners for open systems and networks.

In 1984 when I started working at Aalborg University, it was not a given that the Internet would be the network which would connect us all.  The alternative could have been multiple walled gardens (remember AOL), but they were luckily overrun by open systems during the following decade, first the internet/tcpip and then the WEB. and thankfully Microsoft did not succeed with their vision for networks in early Windows 95 which was skipped in favor of using internet protocols after the WEB revolution in 1994.

By 1994 it was all settled and the world-wide-web and the internet was established much as we see it today and by 1996 DKnet was sold for 20.000.000 dkr to TeleDanmark. Our view of how the world network should work had succeeded, but it was out of our hands, The old monopoly had bought us out. The established businesses/telekoms had to give up their hold of the world with their closed systems, and adopt to a world based on open standards, but they were still in business.

Early on internet protocols (tcpip) were used on local-area networks to interconnect mini-computers, but there were competing closed networks that tried to do the same (SNA, DECnet, XNS, NCP, AppleTalk, X.25, JANET) while keeping the competitors out.  The local-area internets were not interconnected in the beginning, but we could send and receive email as we do today (although domain based addressing first arrived a few years later). The network technology used for out-of-the-house traffic at that time was UUCP, a store and forward protocol where computers use modems to call each other, and send/receive emails at regular intervals, so transfer of an E-mail could take hours or days.

First DIKU and later DKUUG/DKnet handled e-mail traffic in and in/out of Denmark, I was involved with DKUUG/DKnet from 1989-1992, my end position was vice-chairman of the board.

I have been looking through my old files for early E-mails:

The earliest E-mail I have found is from January 1985. The first mail between two systems a Motorola 68000 based UNIX micro-computer and a Vax-750 mini-computer on the university datacenter, is from November 1985. Just after I got everything configured, I send an introduction to my colleagues about how to make use of UUCP, hence at that time E-mail must have been a common thing in our group, but file transfer not. Have a look at the intro below, easy and a small revolution at that time – we were connected.

My earliest international emails is from January 1986, note that the mail to Ole Borch seems to be a reply, hence it was not the first.

In February 1986 I find the first E-mail regarding installation of Ethernet, so the networking described above were done over serial rs232 lines, I still remember the small modems we used to connect Badehusvej-23 with Strandvejen-19. From 1986 we got a new thick yellow Ethernet cable connecting us, and the speed increase was unbelievable 10 Mbit/sec.

In 1988  The Danish universities got interconnected via  DENet. Suddenly we were all on the same local-area network. I remember how DAIMI at Aarhus University called us and complained that we were printing on their Apple laser-printer, and our Mac-users finally got an explanation to what happened to their prints. Traffic out of the country was still based on UUCP and went through DKnet as before, but now we could use UUCP over the internet instantly.

in 1989 the Danish internet was connected to the Scandinavian NORDUnet which was connected to the world-internet, and soon there after E-mail was send immediately directly via SMTP to those who where online on the internet.

So I have had E-mail since 1985, and I have been online since 1988/1989, and I would be flattered if someone thought that I helped the internet conquer Denmark. But I was just one of many who helped carve the way for open systems and networks.

You can read or listen to more of the story in the links below, there might even be one or two who remember me “StorePeter” even though I was by no means a key figure.

Below are 3 Danish radio shows about the internet start in Denmark

PS: I probably had the ability to use E-mail already in 1983, but I don’t remember doing so.  In 1983 I was making my final Bachelor project at CERN in Geneva, I was typing my report on their IBM mainframe, which were connected to BITNET/EARN. The main reason I didn’t use e-mail was probably that I didn’t know anybody who had e-mail on BITNET.

I certainly do feel a little like being Forrest Gump, but it could have been worse I could have felt like being Al Gore who invented the internet 😉

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