The April 30, 1986 for the first time an Internet connection was established through the Atlantic satellite network Satnet with a 28 kbs line. The signal departed from the National University Center for Electronic Computing of the CNR of Pisa – Cnuce – and arrived at the Roaring Creek station, in Pennsylvania. It was one of the few positive news in the month: 4 days earlier there had been the disaster in Chernobyl, on April 5 in Berlin Libya was guilty of a terrorist attack in Berlin. In reality, there was also the visit of Pope John Paul II to the synagogue in Rome, a beautiful gesture of religious brotherhood which was also unprecedented. On the enterprise of the Cnuce there was little relevance: after all, it seemed like a really brainy stuff.
After the University College of London and the Norwegian research center NTE, Cnuce – Cnr also entered the Arpanet network project. Italy in 1986 was the fourth European node together with Great Britain, Norway and Germany. Twenty years later our country would have been fourth last in Europe, due to that harsh law of the pioneers that often sees us first in science and then last to exploit it. It was really the beginning of a new story, a long way from using Internet by the population in a capillary way.
One year after the first connection, on 23 December 1987, the domain “.it“For Italy it became available: the management was entrusted to Cnuce – which today is called Cnit. To reach the “nodes” of the Net there were only numerical codes. A table with a hundred IP addresses from around the world was consulted as if it were an Internet telephone directory.
“We did not imagine that a process that would start the information society would start from there“, He declared some time later Stefano Trumpy, at that time director of Cnuce. Together with him were Luciano Lenzini, passionate scientist and architect of the project; Antonio Blasco Bonito and Marco Sommani, the technical heart of that adventure. The project was also carried out in synergy with Italcable and Telespazio. The Atlantic satellite network Satnet was used for the connection. Behind that result there was a long preparatory work started in the seventies in conjunction with the development of the Arpanet. The close collaboration with some Internet fathers such as Robert Khan and Vinton Cerf gave bottom to the foresight of Italian researchers: they had intuited that large computing machines would have an influence in the transmission of information and content.
“But it didn’t always go smoothly, there were also moments of cosmic pessimism a la Leopardi. After the green light from the CNR for the 510 million project from the United States, they let us know that it was necessary to change hardware. They asked to enter the Butterfly gateway, which had over 200 processors on board. It was 1984 and I decided to throw in the towel“, He confided Linen. “But something happened that no one expected. Robert Khan spoke to Vinton Cerf and they decided to give us the Butterfly gateway. We jumped for joy. Internet did not rain at Cnuce by chance, in Pisa there was one of the most advanced research groups in Europe. This was not a technological operation but a major cultural operation“.
“It was the culmination of a five-year job, there was emotion but also anxiety. Will it work? We were in suspense. Then I got an answer from the American router. Everything was ok. Everyone asks me what I felt that day, certainly emotion but it was not a romantic moment. The message we sent was a packet of data and I was the only human element, in front of me only a computer that answered“, remember Antonio Blasco Bonito with an IT attitude.
The synergy between government, individuals, the technical sector and civil society is the step to take to bring Italy back to play a role in IT and technological innovation. Adding a little bandwidth isn’t enough, and infrastructure isn’t enough either. On the basis for the next Internet also serves a school culture which allows you to push the rods higher and higher. Today the Internet is above all communication, continuous and incessant: also thanks to the connection between Pisa and Roaring Creek.