China celebrates 10 years of being connected to the Internet

A brief history of the Internet in China

China's first direct connection to the Internet was established 10 years ago this week but the history of computer networking in the country goes back even further.

As in many countries, the first computer networks were machine-to-machine links which later evolved into groups of machines interconnected via the X.25 protocol on public data networks. As elsewhere, the academic and scientific sector were early leaders in networking, with machines facilitating the sharing of data and exchange of e-mail among distant researchers working on similar subjects.

In 1986, the first of what would become one of a number of major Chinese public data networks got its start when researchers at the Beijing Institute of Computing Applications, working with the Universität Karlsruhe in Germany, formed the China Academic Network. A year later, the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing began internetworking by connecting to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. IHEP would later become home to China's first full Internet connection, although not before a number of other institutions established X.25 links to universities and networks overseas.

The following is a brief timeline of some of the major events leading up to and after China's first direct Internet connection:

1986 - The China Academic Network (CANET) is launched by Beijing Institute of Computing Applications (ICA) with help from the Universität Karlsruhe in Germany.

1987 - The Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) establishes its first international connection. The link is to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva.

1987 - CANET establishes its first international link when a Siemens 7,760/ BS2000 computer at the ICA in Beijing is connected to the Universität Karlsruhe via a 300-bps (bits per second) packet-switched data network. Later in the month, Qian Tianbai sends China's first international e-mail. Accounts differ on the day and message title. One said it was sent on Sept. 14 and titled "Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world" while another said it was sent on Sept. 20 and titled "Crossing the Great Wall to Join the World."

October 1990- The .cn international top level domain for China is registered at the DDN-NIC (Defense Data Network Network Information Center) by Qian on behalf of China. As China did not yet have direct Internet connectivity, the .cn name server was housed at Universität Karlsruhe.

March 1991 - IHEP connects to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) at Stanford University via a direct dial-up link over DECnet.

December 1992 - China's first TCP/IP college network, Tsinghua University's TUNET, goes into operation.

March 2, 1993 - After problems getting a reliable link between IHEP and the satellite earth station at Beijing airport, the 64K-bps connection is completed and officially handed over to IHEP at 7:19 a.m. local time.

January 1994 - Agreement is reached with the U.S. Department of Energy's ESnet (the Energy Sciences Network) that will allow Chinese IP (Internet protocol) traffic to be carried on the Internet as long as some conditions, such as a notification to all ESnet sites, are met.

February 1994 - In preparation for the start of IP traffic, IHEP installs China's first Cisco router and the U.S. side of the link is handed from SLAC to ESnet.

April 18, 1994 - An e-mail is transmitted to ESnet sites alerting them that Chinese IP traffic will begin crossing the network soon. The alert was one of the conditions that needed to be satisfied before China could get a direct IP link.

May 15, 1994 - IHEP establishes China's first Web server. The server hosted IHEP's home page which included information on the institution, technology in China and cultural and tourism information.

May 17, 1994 - The IHEP link is opened to full Internet connectivity when a link was established from SLAC to FIX-West, which was a major West coast interconnection point.

May 21, 1994 - The root server responsible for the .cn international top level domain is relocated from Germany to China.

May 24, 1994 - National Computing and Networking Facility of China (NCFC), a collaborative network of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing and Tsinghua Universities, opens a 64k-bps direct Internet link to the U.S. via Sprint. It was tested by sending a message via Telnet from Tsinghua University to SRI in Menlo Park. The round trip time was measured at three minutes. Then a message was sent to Vint Cerf, president of the Internet Society, informing him that the Beijing Internet link was open.

June 28, 1994 - Beijing University of Chemical Technology begins testing a leased line connection to the Internet with help from the Tokyo University of Sciences.

July 18, 1994 - IHEP gets its second international DECnet connection when it links to the National Laboratory for High Energy Physics in Tsukuba, Japan, via a 64k-bps link.

September 20, 1994 - Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) gains a direct Internet connection via Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Martyn Williams

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