Fits and starts in the drive to contruct an information age interstate highway system

WASHINGTON—White House science policy analyst, Paul Huray wanted to send the latest draft of an upcoming report on advances in computer technology to members of his intergovernmental Committee on Computer Research and Applications. So he sought an electronic solution.

But Huray found that the jumble of networks that now exist couldn’t do the job. Networks balked when ordered to talk to each other. Delays stretched into the next day.

“I was using BITNET, and my fellow committee members were using NSFNET or ARPANET,” he explains. “Plus, since our document was longer than a couple of pages, it tended to get shoved aside and processed at night. Some networks broke it up into subfiles, which sometimes got scrambled by the time they arrived.”

To his disgust—and wry amusement—Huray had just proved the central thesis of his panel’s...

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