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Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet
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Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet

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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,084 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.

In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere gia
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 21st 1998 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1996)
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Tommy /|\
The story of the various interlocking aspects of the internet isn't readily understood by the average user of its technologies. In fact, it would probably be safe to assume that most users believe that the origins of the internet came about in the late 1990s. Even with the often misrepresented quote from then-Presidential candidate Al Gore, the underlying technologies that comprise the internet remain a solid mystery to the typical internet denizen. "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" provides a wide-a ...more
Dale
If you dislike publications such as People Magazine, you will not like this book.

If you believe that a history book should be well organized along either thematic or chronological lines, you will not like this book.

If you think that a book about the history of technology should include details about the evolution of that technology, you will not like this book.

If you believe that every non-fiction book deserves a good copy editor who will eliminate pointless discursions, you will not like this b
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Willis
This is an older book published back in 1996 that explains how the internet came to be. The authors were able to interview all the principal characters in that process and no, Al Gore is not mentioned in this book. I found it to be fascinating on how these individuals worked together to make it happen. It was not a be grand Eureka moment, but rather it was a series of small steps, overcoming one technical challenge at a time that ultimately resulted in the technology behind the internet. You can ...more
Matt
An interesting book that carried my curiosity throughout and taught me a great deal about the early history of the Internet. Of the host of characters illuminated, some came alive and were inspired by real-life drama and intrigue. Most details, though, felt rather routine and lacked the sort of inspired energy imparted in other biographical works. The parts driven by character were a lot of fun; the rest (driven by historical comprehensiveness) was often dry - though never tedious or unfaithful ...more
Michael
I got turned onto this book because I read an article rebutting the central premise of a Wall Street Journal article about how private enterprise rather than government investment in basic research brought around the Internet. This book was cited as a definitive book about the beginnings of the Internet, so I gave it a spin.

The first thing to understand is that this book is about the very basics of the creation of the Internet, the connections across networks. It only describes the initial conne
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Chris
I enjoy a good history of technology/history of technical communication narrative, and this is one. The authors' work in the early chapters is especially good--the narrative and conflict and central figures are well-established and the 'story of the Internet' is very engaging. The last chapter tries to tie up a lot of loose ends as the ARPAnet shifts to the assorted networks that would lead to the Internet, and shows the wear of trying to do so much in so little time, and that's a limitation of ...more
The Joy of Booking
I picked this book up because I love reading about how things I take for granted come to be. Books like Tears of Mermaids or The Facebook Effect, or anything that tells the story behind the story. Where Wizards Stay Up Late did not disappoint. The book follows the lives and discoveries of the small group of men (sadly, no women were involved!) who created what we know now as the internet.

Of course, they didn’t realize that’s exactly what they were doing. In the 50s and 60s, government-funded com
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David Rush
Books like this and others such as The Soul of A New Machine, Accidental Empires and even Hackers are all all fine books. They show the excitement that comes from joining pure science with engineering at a time when knowledge and technical advances allow production of cool new products.

But the downside of these books for me is that they show that the thrill of discovery is real, but it is the nature of technological advances that they never end, so the story can rarely finish with a dynamic cre
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Byron
Its amazing how much the "Great man theory" of history still persists when it comes to the history of computing. The public library system in my city has 11 copies of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs but to get hold of this book I needed to visit the local university library (its not in the Polytechnic library either).

Part of the reason for this is that the Isaacson book is more recent, but it would appear we are more interested in computing history when we can credit (even if incorrect
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Doran Barton
I actually read Where Wizards Stay Up Late several years ago, shortly after it was published, but decided to re-read it as I remembered it being very good but had forgotten many details.

For the time it was published (1996), Hafner and Lyon did a remarkable job of including great swaths of computing and networking history into a readable and manageable volume that chronicles an era from the 1960s until the mid-1990s during which time the ARPANET was created and later spawned other networks which
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Chad
This was a good book but, it was kind of a mess. Sometimes things were happening chronologically other times autobiographically. During the autobiographical portions they tend to throw a lot of names around as though you would already know who they were. A good example is when Douglas Engelbart is mentioned for the first time they reference him only casually as attending a meeting with some of the engineers and taking a one line quote from him. Considering all the important work he was doing at ...more
Xing
About the origins and development of the internet (or rather, its predecessors), the technology involved, and the people and personalities whose brilliance and inspiration drove the movement. Very exciting for a lay reader- I've always taken the net for granted, expecting it to perform without a hitch and deliver instantaneously.

This book has helped me appreciate the mechanisms and technology behind this massive organism better. A very light read, focused a lot on the individuals and their quir
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Peter
Fascinating history of ARPANET, and, by extension, the origins of the internet. Also contains good biographical sketches of key players, including Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Bob Metcalfe, etc. Begins with an overview of the packet switching approach that would come to define modern networking, covering the work done by Paul Baran at RAND and Donald Davies at Britain's National Physics Laboratory.

Explains how BBN (a company in Cambridge, MA) won the ARPA contract to set up connections between computer
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Christian
This well-told narrative is really a piece of long-form journalism, about the various nerds in the U.S. and U.K. who created the technology behind what we now call the internet. It's full of surprising anecdotes and likeable, interesting characters .. which as I've said before makes it harder to rate these kinds of books, writers who use real people as characters have a leg up. They also have a responsibility, and in this case we get a nicely balanced group of portraits, not without some warts, ...more
Deane
This book is good if you want a long, detailed history of the ARPANET, the direct predecessor to the Internet. For that, it's fascinating.

That said, it's not a casual reader. I'm neck-deep in the Internet every day and am a fan of Internet history, and even I got bored in places.

Still, if you ever wondered just where the Internet came from, this book will answer that question definitively.
Ed Terrell
I enjoyed the journey back in time to the world of bootstrap loaders and paper tape readers. In the mid seventies, I worked in a TIMS lab with a PDP-8 then eventually an -11. It was a land of stainless steel toggle switches, and brushed aluminum face plates, flashing low intensity red LEDs, all mounted in 19" racks. We didn't have to worry about mainframe time and paper cards (although, I did still sneak in a round or two of lunar lander on a hacked account). The start of the Internet is entwine ...more
Mike
A nice (if sometimes a little boring) run-through of the history and personalities that brought packet-switching and the Internet into being. So many inventions are created when people ignored those who said something couldn't be done and just decided to try it out. Perhaps that explains why so many graduate students (who have not yet grown a protective layer of cynicism) are able to create new things (and they certainly created them during this period!). Make no mistake, this is NOT "Hackers" o ...more
E
Feb 26, 2014 E marked it as didn-t-finish
we discussed this book in class tonight, and are moving on to other topics. I I think I'm going to need to come back to this book when I have a slower time to read it... I had to skim for the main points and didn't really get to dig in the way I might have wanted to. I do like that this was a character-driven portrayal of the start of the Internet. Which is easy to take for granted.
Ken
Quite an interesting history.
In the late 50's Ike arranged for a group of scientists to hang out and do science stuff. This group was was called, ARPA. Advance Research Projects Agency. They had a thing for computers and in the mid 60's set up a network to interconnect 4 universities. This was done from scratch. From that they created packet switching, gateways, routers, TCP/IP and Ethernet. All this was reached in the mid 70's. Freaks me out they did all this Forty plus years ago.
The book was v
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P. Aaron Potter
This is a pretty no-frills accounting of the origins of the internet, which is a little strange considering how frills-worthy the topic is. Maybe the authors were a wee touch too concerned about not swamping his lay readers with technical detail, and that made them self-conscious about adding in too many anecdotal nerd-moments, for fear that they might be perceived as dumbing-down the material. Frankly, I kind of wish they'd erred too far on both of those spectra: included more technical data *a ...more
Michael Picot
I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. Extremely interesting. Must read for anyone who's interested at all in the internet and computer science and the history of either one or both. This book puts things in perspective and makes you realize a lot of the "big names" of today are not the brilliant visionaries some would have you believe. These guys at ARPA and BBN, and the various related organizations truly were "wizards" and were ground-breaking geniuses who, as early as the l ...more
Michael
This book is recognized as one of the seminal histories of the early Internet, and deservedly so. Starting with the origins of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)in Eisenhower's Defense Department and walking through the Sixties and Seventies as the ARPANet is built, grows, and eventually dismantled. Interviews with many of the pioneers make this book as entertaining as it is informative.

Where Wizards Stay Up Late is focused on the engineers, academics and government bureaucrats that bu
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Warren Watts
What a fascinating read. I couldn't put the book down. I ended up reading the entire book in one sitting.

From early meetings discussing the need to link distant computers together, all the way through the development of HTML and Mosaic (the first browser) this book details not only the technologies that were developed, but also the people and organizations that made it all happen.

It is written so even a person with no background in the underlying hardware, software, and protocols can read it an
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Amar Pai
A bit dull... kinda skimmed it towards the end. Could have used more dramatic embellishment. Creation of the first interoperable long distance packet-switching network was a remarkable achievement, but The Story of RFC on Standard 1234 isn't exactly brimming with human interest.

I read this other book about the creation of telegraph networks, The Victorian Internet. It was much more entertaining. In that book, I learned about these old school 'telegraph hackers' who could put their tongues to a
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Stompro
This book tells the story of the very beginning of the internet, when the first few dozen computers were hooked together with the Arpanet. ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Administration) commissioned the work be done by BBN (Bolt, Beranek and Newman) in Cambridge MA. I thought the story was very interesting but I wish it would have gone into more technical detail, it was more focused on the people that did the work than the network itself. I thought it was interesting that AT&T was such a h ...more
Roberto Rigolin Ferreira Lopes
So that is how internet was created! How many genius took to build the first prototype? A bunch! And with a wide range of skills. Was quite entertaining read about all these people and the historical context around ARPANET.
Rikki Prince
This is just such a fantastic book. It benefits from being fuelled by an incredibly interesting true-life story! The story of how a key component of the eventual Internet was created is fascinating, and essential reading for any computer or web scientist.

It is written well enough that the technical parts are understandable to a layman, but also trigger ideas and inspiration in an expert techie. Some sections are written a little sloppily, so it takes a bit of concentration and back tracking (noo
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Karol
As some kind of a geek in regards to computers and the Internet I really enjoyed this reading. However for my understanding it is much too short, especially with regard to the end. Once the first network is established, it is quite superficial. Personally I would appreciate much more technical details, but probably you can't expect these details from a book targeted for the mainstream. Nevertheless I've learned a thing or two and it helped me putting all these ideas and inventions in a historica ...more
Kyryl
Nice book describing the origins of the Internet in the true sense - what initially started as a scientific experiment, turned into the wave that changed all the modern society. For such a small book it covers many points in that story (and provides a lot of references for further reading). My favorite snippet was about the first RFC document.
Carey
A good retelling of the history of the Internet. The book focuses on the networking revolution that made it all possible, and because of this, it doesn't have time to cover some of the changes made that led to the real surge in the popularity of the net, e.g. the Mosaic web browser. There are other books for that era though, and this book provides a very detailed and concise description of the main problems that had to be overcome in order to get a bunch of different types of computers to be abl ...more
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Katie Hafner was on staff at The New York Times for ten years, where she remains a frequent contributor, writing on healthcare and technology. She has also worked at Newsweek and BusinessWeek, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire,Wired, The New Republic, The Huffington Post, and O The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of five previous works of nonfiction covering a diverse rang ...more
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“It’s one thing when you plug into a socket in the wall and electrons flow,” said Bob Kahn. “It’s another thing when you have to figure out, for every electron, which direction it takes.” 0 likes
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