UCLA's Leonard Kleinrock displays Internet's first router

Internet pioneer and UCLA computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock displays the Internet's first router, or "switch" -- known as an Interface Message Processor -- and describes the process of connecting it with UCLA's host computer, leading to the first-ever Internet message sent on October 29, 1969.
1969. Charles Manson started a killing rampage, the Mets won, a man walked on the Moon, Woodstock left a generation stoned for years. Also, the internet was born.

It’s hard to appreciate that this mess of pipes that’s turned all of us into nerds that salivate over videos about the birth of the internet and allowed us to look at the menu before we get to the restaurant all began with a modest, military-sanctioned hook-up between two computers, one in UCLA, the other at Stanford University.

The first of those computers, the Internet’s first router, or “switch” — or, really, Interface Message Processor — was built in Cambridge by military contractor BB&N and shipped to UCLA. The big box was packed with an SDS Sigma-7 host computer, power supply, storage and lots of wires, linked to its cousin at Stanford by a collection of data lines.

Here, professor Leonard Kleinrock shows off this “so ugly it’s beautiful” refrigerator-sized router. Crazily, the thing is still hiding inside a small office next to Kleinrock’s at UCLA, safe from legions of prostrating nerd pilgrims, luddite terrorists, and spies for the Chinese government, which may likely want to backwards engineer the thing, bury it in a field, have a farmer find it, and claim that China invented the Internet sometime in the 1850s.

The Smithsonian Museum, which didn’t want it when he offered it in 1989, has changed its mind. The Computer History Museum wants it too. Radiohead is probably itching to turn it into some kind of synth. But Kleinrock wants it to stay at UCLA.

It was here, after all, where the computer sent the world’s first-ever IM, on October 29, 1969. Ready for it?


It looked like some kind of primative nerd-acronym. After all, they were busy creating the Internet, it’s not like they were gonna have a freakin office gossip convo. But the whizzes at UCLA were trying to type “LOG,” to which the computer at Stanford would respond with “IN.” (How funny would it have been if the other computer had written “(xy) = LOG + LOG?” Or maybe just a request for a wire transfer to an account in Nigeria.)

But they didn’t get anywhere near there. The damn thing up at Stanford crashed after just two letters.

Lo — and freaking behold all of this.
- video encodings still in process -