AARNet reaches 20-year milestone
The Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, has launched a book at Admiralty House, commissioned by AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the internet in Australia.
AARNet - 20 years of the Internet in Australia documents the history of how the internet network was established in Australia through AARNet. The book explores how Australia’s commercial internet network, as we know it today, was originally developed by AARNet. It also documents key individuals, events and milestones that led to the growth and development of a high-speed internet network dedicated to Australia’s research and education institutions.
Chris Hancock, CEO of AARNet said, “Twenty years ago, the idea of the internet only existed in the technical realms of Australia’s universities and research institutions. The concept of how the internet could change the way we work, play, learn and communicate was unknown to the general population in Australia. The internet has become so much a part of our lives now that it is hard to believe it is only 20 years old in Australia.”
AARNet made history with Australia’s very first international internet connection through a 56 kilobits per second (Kbps) satellite link that connected the University of Melbourne and the University of Hawaii in June 1989. This was the first known direct live overseas link with Australia. Today, the same connection to the United States is 200,000 times faster operating at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).
The need for a dedicated, high-speed internet network to serve the research and education community was developed out of the special demands for a network that had the speed and capacity to manage innovative projects and collaboration between Australian and international researchers. AARNet’s unique governance and funding arrangements meant its network was always more technically advanced and affordable. AARNet has showcased how innovation and collaboration is possible and is futureproofing potential applications for the National Broadband Network into the future.
AARNet has been shortlisted for the biggest scientific project ever, the SKA, which will be awarded in 2012 or 2013. Meanwhile, it has embarked on a pre-project, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Project (ASKAP) which is the biggest astronomy project ever. Over 600 astronomers from around the world are lined up to take time on the ASKAP. Hancock said, "We could not do this project without a high-speed network."
So where to next for AARNet? Hancock said, "AARNet will always stay ahead of the curve, so we are planning our work for three years ahead right now."
Some of the references in AARNet - 20 years of the Internet in Australia include:
- One of the earliest computing networks was CSIRONET, established by Dr Trevor Pearcey in 1963. The first local network in Australia, CSIRONET connected more than 50 computers and more than 250 terminals around Australia in 1976.
- Geoff Huston, who is currently the Chief Scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), was AARNet’s first employee in March 1989. As its Network Technical Manager, Huston was responsible for building the internet network that connected Australian universities - Australian National University, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Adelaide, University of Western Australia, University of Tasmania and Northern Territory University - between April and May 1990.
- The first Australian website was established and launched by Australian National University in November 1992 as an experimental server.
- AARNet opens its network up to value-added resellers in May 1994 to what are widely recognised as Australia’s first retail internet service providers. This includes Internode, OzEmail and iiNet.
- In June 1995, AARNet’s main capital city backbone link was 2 Mbps. It connected at 256 Kbps in Northern Territory, 512 Kbps in Tasmania and to the international network at 4.5 Mbps.
- CSIRO became the first major organisation in Australia to implement a national VoIP service on AARNet’s backbone in November 1999.
Geoff Huston, Chief Scientist of APNIC, who was AARNet’s Network Technical Manager from its inception until 1995, said, “Being centrally involved in building the internet in Australia was a unique and highly challenging opportunity. AARNet today continues to demonstrate its relevance and importance to Australia’s researchers and educators.”
The author of the book, Glenda Korporaal, said, “For more than half a decade, AARNet’s history was also the history of how the internet was established in Australia. The individuals we have documented in the book were amongst the pioneers of the internet in Australia. As Australians debate about the merits of the National Broadband Network, they should look at the history of AARNet to gather deeper insights into what may happen in the future.”
Hancock said, “In the last 20 years, AARNet has enabled many innovations and breakthroughs for Australians via the internet. We have linked Australian doctors with their peers across Asia to conduct live surgery demonstrations in high-definition video. AARNet has been involved in Australia’s bid for the world’s largest ever astronomy project, the Square Kilometre Array. We introduced Optiportal technology to Australia, giving researchers access to high-definition video collaboration to advance medical science and research.”
Today, AARNet serves over one million users in Australia’s research, tertiary education and scientific sectors. AARNet continues to demonstrate its relevance and importance in promoting collaboration and innovation in Australia through its high-speed network, which will complement the advent of the National Broadband Network.
Hancock said, “A National Research and Education Network like AARNet will always be at the forefront of Australia’s internet industry because the demands of our researchers and educators greatly exceed that which can be delivered over the commercial networks.”
“AARNet’s job is to continually challenge the boundaries of networking and to develop cutting-edge applications and services to help futureproof our digital economy.”
Copies of AARNet - 20 years of the Internet in Australia will be made available in Australian libraries under the catalogue number ISBN: 978-0-646-52111-4 and is also available for purchase through www.aarnet.edu.au.
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