The internet came to Australia 20 year ago today, with a fragile link from Hawaii pinging across the seas to Robert Elz - now a fellow of the Melbourne School of Engineering in the Department of Computer Sciences and Software Engineering.
The subject line of what was probably the first message into Australia was straight to the point - ‘Link Up’, it said. The message was sent by Torben Nielsen, who had been funded by NASA to set up internet links with countries throughout the pacific. Director of e-Research at the University, Professor Leon Sterling, says Melbourne University was chosen as the site for the nation’s first connection because they were leading Australia with UNIX technologies.
It was quite a rollicking journey for Australia’s first ping because there wasn’t a cable laid, the message traveled over a cable from Melbourne to Sydney, then via satellite to the west coast of the US and then back through another cable to Hawaii.
According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures there are 7.1 million internet subscribers in Australia and Professor Sterling says the internet has had a huge impact on the world as it’s grown.
“It has changed the way we find things, through Google. It has changed the way we think about knowledge, through Wikipedia. It has changed the way we access and share music. It has changed the way we communicate, with email and Skype and it has changed the way we socialise, with Facebook,” he says.
“As witnessed during the past week, the internet has also changed the way revolutions can happen as witnessed in Iran.”