The 35th Anniversary of the CSNET connection between Asia and USA – Online Symposium

This year is the 35th anniversary of the CSNET first internet connections between Asian networks and the (at the time) U.S-centric Internet. David Farber and Larry Landweber, two leaders of the CSNET project at that time, host an online symposium to celebrate this remarkable history and look forward to the future. This event is supported by Keio University Cyber Civilization Research Center and WIDE Project.

Date and Time:
October 23, 2020, 7:00-10:00 PM EDT
October 24, 2020, 8:00-11:00 AM JST/KST


Tentative Agenda:

7:00-7:20 PM 8:00-8:20 AM Vint Cerf – The Role of CSNET
7:20-8:00 PM 8:20-9:00 AM David Farber, Larry Landweber – CSNET International Impact
8:00-8:40 PM 9:00-9:40 AM Kilnam Chon, Okhwa Lee, Jun Murai, Hideyuki Tokuda – Asian Retrospective of the impact
8:40-9:15 PM 9:40-10:15 AM Rick Adrion, Laura Breeden – The NSF and CIC perspectives during the 1980s
9:15-10:00 PM 10:15-11:00 AM Jun Murai – Future Activities in Pacific Asia
10:00-10:15 PM 11:00-11:15 AM Q&A*

*The event will be hosted in Zoom webinar format, we will collect questions and comments from the audiences throughout the event via the Q&A chatbox.

Suggested readings

The story started 35 years ago…

In October 1985, Dave Farber of the University of Delaware (now at Keio University)  and Larry Landweber of the University of Wisconsin, two leaders of the recently funded CSNET project, traveled to Japan and Korea to attend a series of networking meetings. They carried with them CSNET-developed software from Delaware that would allow universities in these countries to, for the first time, connect to the Internet (via CSNET). At the time the Arpanet, which formed the core of the Internet and which was fully funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), primarily limited connections to those institutions with significant funding related to its national defense mission and, by special agreement, U.S. members of CSNET.

CSNET, which received $5million (13.5 million in 2020 $s) from NSF in 1982, had as its mission to build a network that would serve all U.S. computer research groups, academic, industry and government. In 1984, CSNET negotiated an agreement with DoD to enable connection of its international affiliates to the Arpanet. Japan and Korea were to be among the first group and the first in Asia. This was a major event in the history of the Internet, the first time that non-US universities and other institutions that were not associated with a DoD research project could join the Internet. It began the process whereby the Internet became truly global in its reach.

In Japan, Professor Haruhisa Ishida, Director of the University of Tokyo Computer Center sponsored the Japanese CSNET gateway at his university. Ishida was an Internet visionary who later published a book which has been credited with bringing an understanding of the Internet to the Japanese citizenry. Jun Murai, who was a researcher at the university and who played a key role in the implementation of the Japan Unix network (JUNET) would be the technical lead. Soon after installing the gateway, Murai became a Professor at Keio University. Because of the central role he has played over the past 35 years he is widely regarded as the “father of the Internet in Japan.” Also, critical to bringing the CSNET gateway to Japan was Hide Tokuda who, in 1985 was a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and who was responsible for the initial contact with CSNET. Throughout the process, Professor Hideo Aiso, the thesis advisor for both Murai and Tokuda at Keio, was a key supporter of the project.

The central figure with respect to the connection to South Korea was Professor Kilnam Chon of KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology). Soon after CSNET was officially announced, he wrote to Landweber proposing a connection to Korea and soon after visited UW Madison to discuss details. Chon built one of the first Internet-based networks in Asia, SDN (Software Development Network).  Over the past 35 years, his contributions have led to his being known as the “Father of the Internet in Korea.” In addition, both he and Murai have played a leading role in developing Internet-related Pan Asian organizations and in the formulation of Asian Internet policy.

Rick Adrion, currently a Professor at the University of Massachusetts, in the 1980s was a Program Director at the U.S. NSF. During much of this time, he was the agency’s representative to CSNET. In the early days, when funding for networking was controversial, he helped guide the project proposal, through the approval process and during its later years supported its eventual transition to the NSFNET.

During the 1980s, when the Coordination and Information Center at BBN was responsible for supporting CSNET users and connections, Laura Breeden was responsible for outreach to the community and the acquisition and support of new members, domestic and international. In this role, she was key to the financial success of CSNET, thereby demonstrating users would value network services and be willing to divert resources to pay for them.

Suggested readings