The Production and Interpretation of ARPANET Maps

Morgan Currie, Bradley Fidler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores a 20-year series of ARPANET maps produced by the firm Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). These BBN maps signify the earliest efforts to represent an early and central piece of the modern Internet, and they wind up as illustrations in contemporary discussions of ARPANET history and the early Internet. Once a functional tool for engineers, they now serve as an aesthetic backdrop used without explicit recognition of their intended purpose. The authors propose an excavation of their production, design conventions, and symbolic functions. They find that the maps represent a specific technological focus--the subnet--that worked well with the maps' network graph form and also aligned with the map creators' purposes during the network's early years. As a result, the continuities and systematic nature in the maps' form, one so central to the subnet, encourage us to read them from a certain technological perspective based in particular on the network's early, a view that may affect how retrospective histories depict the ARPANET's entire lifetime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-55
JournalIEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2015

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