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A history of Internet addresses

For something I’m writing, I wanted to show what an Internet address was like before the World Wide Web introduced the http:// and the www., but after the DNS — domain name service — had been introduced. So I asked my friend Scott Bradner who has been involved in Internet governance for a very long while. He recently retired after fifty years at Harvard University where he managed networks, was chief security officer, and did so much more.

Scott is a generous teacher, so he answered far more fully than I’d hoped. Here, with his permission, is his response:


 

not such an easy answer – some facts
the ARPANET moved from NCP to TCP/IP on 1 Jan 1983
before then the Network Control Protocol used network addresses that looked like: 9 (the address for the PDP-10 at Harvard)
after 1 jan 1983 the addresses looked like 128.103.1.1 (also the address for the PDP-10 at Harvard)
and that is what the addresses look like to this day (IPv6 addresses look different)
before the DNS was deployed people used a “hosts.txt” file to map a human friendly hame into a network address
so the hosts.txt file pre 1/1/83 had the following entry for harvard
Harv10 9
and the entries in hosts.txt file for harvard after 1/1/83 was
Harv10 128.103.1.1
Harvard 128.103.1.1
and later (still before DNS was deployed) another line was added:
harvard.harvard.edu      128.103.1.1
the user would type something like “ftp harv10” and the system would look up the name in hosts.txt to get the address
all DNS did was to turn the hosts.txt file (which was maintained centrally and was, by definition, out of
date by the time you finished downloading it) into a distributed set of servers/databases – each of which could
be kept up to date on its own and since that database was queried in real time, the response would be up to date
but even with the hosts.txt or DNS you could & still can use the underlying network address itself
e.g.: ftp 128.103.8.36 (my personal computer at the Harvard Psychology Department)

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