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Guide to the SRI ARC/NIC records 102706170
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Collection Details
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  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Repository
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Contents of the Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Separated Material
  • Related Collections at CHM
  • Related Collections at Other Repositories

  • Title: SRI ARC/NIC records
    Identifier/Call Number: 102706170
    Contributing Institution: Computer History Museum
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 281.0 Linear feet 281 record cartons
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1968-1990
    Date (inclusive): circa 1959-2006
    Abstract: The SRI ARC/NIC records contain material from Stanford Research Institute’s Augmentation Research Center (ARC) and Stanford Research Institute’s Network Information Center (NIC) project. The bulk of the collection is from 1968 through 1991. The collection documents the development of Dr. Douglas Engelbart’s NLS/Augment system, which pioneered hypertext concepts and first embodied many features that later became central to personal computing as well as the World Wide Web. Materials of note include the work of Engelbart and various members of his lab, the original patent for the computer “mouse,” NLS source code, the ARC journal, and materials related to the pioneering work done by Dr. Jonathan Postel and other ARC members on developing networking protocols for the Arpanaet. The bulk of the collection covers the role and work of the Arpanet/DDN NIC (Network Information Center), which was the information hub of the early Arpanet and later Internet. Included are a wide variety of documents pertaining to their development, including design, administration, information flow, research projects, programs, protocol development including the pivotal work of Dr. Jonathan Postel and other ARC members, working groups, naming and addressing development, and lists of early participants. Types of material include technical notes, proposals, reports, reprints, correspondence, videos, dump tapes, photographs, seminar presentations, protocols, working group papers, and bibliographies.
    creator: SRI International. Network Information Center.
    creator: Stanford Research Institute. Augmentation Research Center.
    creator: Stanford Research Institute. Network Information Center.

    Access Restrictions

    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The Computer History Museum (CHM) can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claims of the copyright holder. Permission to copy or publish any portion of the Computer History Museum’s collection must be given by the Computer History Museum.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], [Date], SRI ARC/NIC records, Lot X3578-2006, Box [#], Folder [#], Computer History Museum


    CHM obtained the ARC and NIC records from Elizabeth Feinler in 2001. Feinler was a member of ARC, director of SRI’s Network Information Systems Center (NISC), and principal investigator for the NIC project from 1974 to 1989.


    Computer History Museum 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. Mountain View, CA 94043 USA 650-810-1010 www.computerhistory.org 

    Administrative History

    The Advanced Research Projects agency (ARPA), now known as DARPA, was established in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower as part of the Department of Defense (DoD). Initially DARPA dealt with the space race, but over time evolved into several basic research activities, one of which was command, control, and communications (CCC). In 1962, DARPA created the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), which became a major driving force in the evolution of information technology in the United States. IPTO, as part of the CCC effort at DARPA, was instrumental in establishing and funding innovations in computers and networking that led to the Arpanet and then the Internet. DARPA became very interested in funding research in “packet switching” technologies because packet switching seemed to have the potential to be faster and more reliable than existing network technologies. DARPA selected several universities and research establishments to use packet switching principles to build a packet-switched research network called the Arpanet, forerunner of the Internet. The first four sites on the Arpanet were the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, CA, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the University of Utah (Utah). Originally, each center was to share its particular resources with other members of the network, i.e., the Arpanet was to be a “resource sharing” network.
    Dr. Douglas Engelbart joined Stanford Research Institute (SRI) as a research engineer in 1957. In 1963, he began to receive funds for his own research laboratory at SRI which was called the Augmented Human Intellect Research Center (AHIRC), later shortened to Augmentation Research Center (ARC). SRI ARC built and demonstrated a unique computer system that Engelbart called NLS (for oN-Line System), which was the forerunner of today’s office automation and personal computing environments. Using NLS, the user sat in front of a video monitor and could interact directly with a computer to send e-mail, do text editing, programming, debugging, and hypertext journaling to name a few of its features. During Engelbart’s tenure at SRI, he and his group developed many of the programs, techniques, and devices that are still in use today, including the mouse, hypermedia, multiple windows, document version control, distributed client-server architecture, protocols for virtual terminals, shared-screen teleconferencing, formatting directives, uniform command syntax, and many others.
    In May of 1967, SRI ARC began organizing and cataloging documents from various future Arpanet sites and added them to their own extensive document collection in preparation for a proposal to DARPA about providing a network information center (NIC) for the Arpanet via NLS. In November a charter for a NIC was outlined by DARPA and Arpanet contractors, and in late 1969 the NIC concept was specified. The Arpanet Network Information Center, located at SRI in Menlo Park, CA, was the first NIC (1970) on the Arpanet, which later gave rise to the Internet. The NIC served as a search service and repository for early network information and provided a master catalog as a subsystem of NLS. Initially, the NIC was a part of Engelbart’s overall DARPA contract, and it focused on providing information services to Arpanet users; whereas the focus of most of SRI ARC was the design of the NLS/Augment system, and the development and implementation of Arpanet and later Internet protocols. In 1973, the NIC was spun off as a separate project with Elizabeth Feinler as Principal Investigator.
    Originally, the NIC project provided users with network access to NLS, and the NIC used NLS to provide its services to users. However, computers then had little capacity and users had to log in to the SRI-ARC computer to use NLS. In addition, users needed NLS training. As the network expanded, the ARC/NIC host computer was overwhelmed by users trying to access it; consequently, the NIC services evolved into services provided by network servers, wherein the user did not have to have much computer experience or an account on the NIC machine to use the services. Features like the file transfer protocol (FTP) and e-mail, made it easier to provide information services by other means – usually via dedicated information servers such as WHOIS.
    In 1973 operation of the Arpanet was turned over to the Defense Communications Agency (DCA). DARPA still maintained administrative control over the research projects being carried out on the Arpanet by its many contractors; however, it was no longer responsible for operational control. After 1974, funding for the SRI NIC came from Defense Communications Agency (DCA) contracts.
    SRI sold the NLS system to Tymshare Corp. in 1977. Engelbart and many of his staff working on the NLS system left SRI to join Tymshare. At that time the name of the system was changed from NLS to Augment. The NIC (by this time a separate project funded by DCA) stayed at SRI to continue offering information services to the Arpanet and later the DDN Internet.
    By the early 1970s there were a number of computer networks in existence including Arpanet, but they were mutually incompatible, had proprietary protocols, and were not connected to each other. Research on protocols to connect different networks together into networks of networks, a process called “internetting”, was being done in several places; England, France, Xerox PARC, and DARPA. The first DARPA internet protocol, known as the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), was designed to tie together its own, dissimilar networks, the Arpanet, the Packet Radio Network, and the Satellite Network along with others into a network of networks. For a number of reasons TCP was broken into a reliability part (TCP) and an internet routing part (IP). The combination, TCP/IP is the standard used today. In 1982 the DoD selected the TCP/IP protocols as military standards for its operational military networks, and at that time all of the operational military networks were bundled under one “umbrella” network called the Defense Data Network (DDN). The Arpanet was split into two unclassified segments – the Arpanet and the Milnet.
    The initial mandate of the NIC had been to service the users of the Arpanet. In 1983 when the experimental Arpanet became a segment of the operational DDN, the NIC serviced all segments of the DDN - Arpanet, Milnet, Minet, SACDIN, TSSCI - and their contractors, as well as other government users of the Internet. As such, the SRI NIC was a forerunner of the search engines and catalog sites that later rose to prominence on the World Wide Web. The NIC ran a 24/7 computer center and a 12 hr/day 1-800 telephone and e-mail Help Desk for the DDN. It assisted users by providing telephone, e-mail, and U.S. mail reference services. It edited, published, and distributed the network reference documents needed by users, including the resource handbooks, directories, user guides, protocol handbooks, and vendor guides, among others.
    When the Domain Naming System (DNS) was proposed for the Internet in 1983, the NIC created the generic, top level domain names (TLDs) still in use today of “.com,” “.mil,” “.gov,” “.org,” and “.edu.” The NIC administered Internet naming until 1991 as well as the TAC access service, and did the audit trail and billing data collection for the DDN. As the TCP/IP protocols continued to spread to other networks, the SRI NIC served as “the NIC of NICs” by sharing its resources and expertise with other NICs such as NSFnet, the NASA Science Internet, CSnet, and others to form a network of NICs around the Internet. It coordinated the official network contacts, and maintained the e-mail distribution lists for these groups. It distributed newsletters and official communiqués to users on behalf of its sponsors. It acted as a repository for the network technical notes, called Request for Comments (RFCs) and stored the archives of a number of network working groups, and itself conducted and/or participated in several network working groups. It developed online information servers, such as WHOIS, NAMSER, TACACS, and BIBLIO, and developed an early e-mail program, SAM, to allow users to download their e-mail from crowded host machines to their personal computers.
    The NIC project left SRI in 1992, when work was transferred to other contractors through a competitive bid process. The project went to a consortium composed of AT&T, Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Its former services were split among these three organizations. In the early 1990s, commercial traffic, controlled by gateways, was allowed onto the Internet just as the World Wide Web began to spread across the Internet. NIC type servers were largely replaced by a variety of information resources including search engines, directory services, and online encyclopedias.
    For a more complete history of SRI ARC and NIC see http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/500001010 

    Scope and Contents of the Collection

    The SRI ARC/NIC records contain material that arose from the activities of the SRI ARC group led by Dr. Douglas Engelbart and the SRI Arpanet/DDN NIC, led by Elizabeth J. Feinler. The collection spans circa 1959-2006, with the bulk of the material being from 1968-1991. ARC activities documented include the development of the NLS/Augment system, which pioneered hypertext concepts and first embodied many features that later became central to personal computing as well as the World Wide Web, and the design and development of Arpanet and later, Internet protocols. Also included are the ARC Journal (incomplete), NLS source code and system design, hardware details, the original patent for the computer “mouse,” and descriptions of the keyset and the NLS interactive workstation as well as the XDoc collection, which began as Engelbart’s personal document collection, but evolved into a substantial library for the NIC project. Of particular interest in the ARC series are materials related to the pioneering work done by Dr. Jonathan Postel and other ARC members on developing networking protocols for the Arpanet. SRI Arpanet/DDN NIC activities documented in the collection include the following: serving as a repository for documents from early Arpanet and DDN sites, acting as the distributor of official network documents and administering the Internet naming service from 1970 until 1991. The NIC records contain an extensive collection of material related to the early Arpanet and Internet including their design, administration, information flow, research projects, programs, protocol development, working groups, naming and addressing details, and lists of early participants.


    The collection is organized into 4 series: Series 1 SRI ARC Series 2 SRI NIC Series 3 Special NIC collections Series 4 Other networks and NICs

    Indexing Terms

    Engelbart, D. C. 1925-
    Feinler, Elizabeth J.
    Postel, Jonathan Bruce, 1943-1998
    Stanford Research Institute. Augmentation Research Center (SRI ARC)
    Stanford Research Institute. Network Information Center (SRI NIC)
    SRI International. Network Information Center
    ARPANET (Computer network)
    MILNET (Computer network)
    DDN (Computer network)
    United States. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
    United States. Defense Communications Agency
    Human-machine systems
    TCP/IP (Computer network protocol)

    Separated Material

    Physical objects, a set of 9-track magnetic dump tapes from the NIC DEC-20 mainframe computer, Alohanet documentation, books, and many computer manuals were separated from the main collection. The physical objects include an Engelbart mouse and keyset, among others. To view catalog records for the separated items please search CHM’s online catalog at http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/search .

    Related Collections at CHM

    Cerf, Vint (Vinton) oral history, Lot X4308.2008, accession number 102658186 Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center programmers oral history panel, Lot X5674.2010, accession number 102702010 Feinler, Elizabeth oral history, Lot X5378.2009, accession number 102702199 Kahn, Bob (Robert) oral history, Lot X3699.2007, accession number 102657973 Metcalfe, Bob (Robert M.) oral history, Lot X3819.2007, accession number 102657995 Taylor, Bob (Robert W.) oral History, Lot X5059.2009, accession number 102702015

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Engelbart, D. C., (Douglas Carl), 1925-
    Feinler, Elizabeth J.
    Postel, Jonathan Bruce, 1943-1998
    United States. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
    United States. Defense Communications Agency.
    ARPANET (Computer network)
    DDN (Computer network)
    Human-machine systems
    MILNET (Computer network)
    TCP/IP (Computer network protocol)