BITNET was a non TCP/IP network that connected colleges, universities and labs around the world and ran at the same time as ARPANet (US Military project) and NSFNet (National Science Foundation) (who did run TCP/IP)
My entry into BITNET (and internet) was 09/1990. I found a list of the 3173 BITNET nodes connected at that time. I used Google Fusion Tables to geocode (based solely on the original place descriptions in the text file) and made a video of the map.
What made BITNET so interesting is that there was a real sense of THIS IS LIVE AND YOU ARE CONNECTED to it. Several of their programs were INSTANT. When you used PHONE, you saw the other person typing and they saw you typing _as you were typing_. It sounds like nothing now but I remember *feeling* that connection, going through down the wires to someone else’s dumb terminal and theirs back to yours.
It was a feeling of being a part of very lucky group of people, being allowed to not only catch a glimpse of “what’s possible” but to participate directly in it. It was reaching the end of being “an experiment” and was ready to be unleashed onto the world… but “not yet”.
If you ever have had that sensation in your life, it’s amazing. I’ve had it several times with several new technologies or concepts enacted even to this day, and it’s a great feeling.
Today’s experiment was to imagine what it would’ve been like to have been able to take those 3000 nodes and plot them on an interactive map so I could really *see* where I was typing to on the planet and watch the data travel.
So, this is for you, 1990 Ken.
[here’s the map I made if anyone wants to poke around and see who was on BITNET at the time]