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CNET News Video: 'Internet van' turns 30
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CNET News Video: 'Internet van' turns 30

2:20 /

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., celebrates a nondescript converted bread truck for its instrumental role in developing the first mobile and wireless Internet connection. News.com's Kara Tsuboi introduces the engineers behind a feat that happened three decades ago this month.

[ music ] ^M00:00:04 >> Hey there, I'm Kara Suboy [assumed spelling] with CNETnews.com, just checking my email here. Yeah, wireless mobile technology, it's pretty brilliant. A lot of us take it for granted. But did you know that its origins began in this van? >> Don't be fooled, this is no ordinary bread truck. In the 1970s a group of engineers from SRI International tricked it out to function as a mobile radio unit. >> These happen to be the only two packet radios left in the world, but these are the digital radios that now would fit inside of a cigarette lighter probably, or a postage, I mean a - >> Here it's the size of a big mailbox. >> Uh huh. >> Thirty years ago this November, the SRI van generated the first wireless mobile internet connection. >> It allowed us to go from this van to the University of Southern California, three hundred and fifty miles away, by way of London, England. [ laughter ] >> It worked by connecting the radios with satellites and hard-wired Arpanet lines. >> The question was could we make these all work together in a transparent way so that you as a user here, and you as a host computer here wouldn't know these even existed. >> How long did the connection take though, to go from this van in northern California all the way around the world back down to southern California? >> Milliseconds. >> Really? >> We were exploring territory that no one had ever been in before, which is what made it so exciting and interesting. >> Vin Serf [assumed spelling], then with the Department of Defense, was working with the teams at SRI to develop this mobile technology for the military. >> You have to do it with radios cause you can't run over wires. >> While the connection was a success, it would be decades until it would be in the hands of the people, literally. >> I would like them to understand that the technology that they're using today had some of its early origins over thirty years ago, and that some people who think this just happened, you know, five years ago or even ten years ago, or it just sort of naturally happened and somehow didn't take any effort. The actual fact is this was hard work, to make these things function the way they do. >> The Wi-Fi world we know today is not directly traceable, but, but it's close. So if that's a legacy I'll take it. >> Kara Suboy, CNETnews.com.

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