Piet Beertema's web site

|  internet is not internet  |

In todays common speak 'internet' has become synonymous to 'www'. It's however as wrong as calling a road-system a 'car', for no other reason than that cars are the main 'applications' on the road-system. In reality however, and so in my story below, 'internet' stands for the network connecting computers worldwide, speaking the same "language": IP (Internet Protocol). And 'www' is no more than one of the key applications running on this internet, with e-mail even today still rivaling it. So if you talk to me about 'internet', be sure to refer to the Right Thing, or you'll find yourself in Deep Trouble. :-)

|  web browser  |

Contrary to popular habit - in particular on lots of commercial sites - this website has not been, eh... "optimized" for one specific browser (read: made inaccessible for - or non-functional with - other browsers). Therefore it can be viewed with just any browser, including text-only ones. The use of Internet Explorer however is strongly discouraged.

|  whoami  |

Most important: I was born! In Amsterdam (52°22'37.60"N, 4°51'26.30E), on 22 October 1943, around 04:05 GMT +0100, to be reasonably precise. ;-)
My father and mother were both teachers, which may well explain some of my character traits. ;-) After elementary school (Pieter Oosterleeschool) and finishing Gymnasium-β (Hervormd Lyceum Zuid) - school names given here for those searching for former class/school mates (klas/schoolgenoten) - I spent a short and boring period studying electrical engineering at the Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven (Eindhoven University of Technology), only to find that Eindhoven was a very boring place and that merely studying wasn't my way of "getting something done in life" and heavily collided with my leaning towards experimenting and my do-it-yourself attitude. Which is why I broke off my study and started looking for a job, which by sheer coincidence I found shortly thereafter. At that time I obviously had no idea whatsoever what this eventually would lead to...
In 1965 I took my first job at the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory, where I first met with the thing called "computer". By modern standards that machine (an Elliott 803-B) was a truly exceptional contraption: 39-bits, 8 Kw memory (8 K 39-bit words, that is, so roughly 40 KByte), a separate floating-point processor (!), 500 chars per second (!) paper tape readers, tape units using sprocketed 35 mm magnetic "film" (right, exactly the same format as used in 'analog' 35 mm photo cameras; click on the picture to see a presentation movie, and note the magnetic "film" reel on top of the tape unit), but a speed that was, well... low: the currently newest AMD Ryzen is roughly 10,000,000 times faster... In fact the speed was so low (576 μs for an integer addition) that, when reading numbers from paper tape, we had to use a then undocumented FPU instruction ("65 3", left shift 3 places, 576 μs) to keep up with the speed of the tape reader... Despite being so slow, the Elliott was successfully used in the design of airplanes.
After one year at the Aerospace Lab, I started working on 1 September 1966 at the Mathematical Centre, later - when informatics had become a science of its own next to and with strong connections to mathematics - renamed to CWI (for Dutch people: CWI is the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, which has nothing to do with the former Arbeidsbureau that later grabbed the same abbreviation). The first computer I worked with there was about 20 times faster than the Elliott. And what was especially interesting about that computer, the Electrologica X1, was that it was developed and built by the Mathematical Centre, which since 1950 had been developing and building experimental computers (see also the article "Computers ontwerpen, toen" by Carel Scholten, in Dutch), starting with the ARRA (a machine working with electro-mechanical relays) and ending with the X1; Electrologica was the Mathematical Center's spin-off company that took over the building and marketing of the X1. Together they developed a complete range of computers, culminating in the Electrologica X8 mainframe computer, a machine designed specifically to run Algol 60. It was roughly 12 times faster than the X1 (X1 32µs, X8 2.5µs cycle time) and featured a microprogrammed I/O processor named CHARON after the mythological ferryman, and in Dutch an acronym standing for "Centraal Hulporgaan Automome Overdracht Nevenapparatuur".
In the 1960's "computer" was in fact synonymous to "mainframe", and they were hellishly expensive. The time of personal computers, GIGAbytes of memory and TERAbytes disk space, and that all fitting into a desktop sized box (compare that to the hard disk shown here: a 80 MEGAbyte disk unit from about 1980!), 'Unix' and 'Windows, N(o)T(echnology)' was still lightyears away.
Until my retirement in 2004 I've been working at CWI, as systems programmer, systems manager, network manager, and several other disguises, with strong emphasis on networking, as will become clear from the following:
In the networking area I've been deeply involved in the setup of European networking, as the central technical manager of what later became EUnet, and networking in the Netherlands, through my involvement in the Dutch EUnet branch which later became NLnet (in April 1998 renamed to UUnet Nederland).
The central machine in this European network initially was a Digital VAX 11/780 (serial number 38!), called 'mcvax' (Mathematical Centre VAX). For establishing the first (inter)national links we used autodialers (see picture), which in those days were illegal and therefore had to be smuggled to other countries, an activity also known as "working ahead of the law"... ;-) (The autodialers then had a price tag of about 1200 euro's, and the functionality provided by them nowadays is built into every 10-euro modem). In those days, making computers communicate over long distances was a far from trivial exercise, witness this Usenet article that I posted on July 31, 1982. The cause of the problem described in that posting later turned out to be a quirk in our autodialers: they were found to produce a "notification tone" that happened to fall within - and thus spoil - one of the modem's signal carrier bands. Cutting out one resistor solved the problem...
As the network expanded and the traffic grew, the name 'mcvax' was transferred to new machines taking over the core role, until eventually a SUN got that role and the name was changed into 'mcsun', although in its function as gateway between EUnet and EARN/BITNET it kept the by then already famous name 'MCVAX'.
Initially (inter)national networking was based on the UUCP communication protocol built into every flavor of Unix (which is why my first e-mail address was mcvax!piet). Later, when we moved to the TCP/IP (Internet) protocols, networking started to cover a wild variety of systems.
The first national, international and intercontinental UUCP connections were established around 1982. The first open transatlantic Internet connectivity ("open" as opposed to "private" links, mainly for military and military-related purposes, like SATNET) for Europe started here at CWI, on 17 November 1988. The confirmation came in a (forwarded) ultra-short and ultra-cryptic e-mail message from the NSFnet boss. The US counterpart was 'seismo', which in turn connected to NSFnet, which in those days stood for "the Internet". Physically the line terminated only a few meters from my office. Later the US end was moved to UUnet. It was only a few days later that this CWI/EUnet-US internet connection was followed by a NORDUnet-US connection. And both networks were very happy that their connections weren't established just a few weeks earlier, since it was on November 2, 1988, that the dreaded Morris worm, the first of its kind, hit the Internet. By sheer "luck" our networks narrowly escaped this worm and the damage caused by it... A few months later, in early 1989, an internet connection was established between NORDUnet and CWI/EUnet, one purpose of it being that their respective US connections would act as backup for each other.
Very soon these developments sparked a lot of activity amongst parties actively involved in the IP "scene". One of the first joint actions undertaken was the initiative in May 1989 to form a common European organisation for the coordination of IP activities in Europe, called "RIPE": 11 organisations were represented at the first meeting. Needless to say that all of them were anti-OSI and that their common goal was to spread Internet connectivity throughout Europe.
In the period that I've been involved in this all, transatlantic speed went up from 300 bit/s (!) to 256 kbit/s, and it's still ever increasing... In that time, even for academic/research sites like CWI getting access to the "Internet" (in fact we're talking here about ARPAnet, and later NSFnet) was far from trivial, requiring a lot of lobbying and "patrons".
Rick Adams, Steve Wolff, Steve Goldstein In particular Rick Adams of the Center for Seismic Studies (later of UUnet), and Steve Wolff and Steve Goldstein of the US National Science Foundation have been of great help in this. None of us could foresee though how dramatically the situation with the Internet would change later, in only a few years time, and how "commercially spoiled" it would become...
Also some companies should be mentioned here, which contributed hardware to the early European and Dutch part of the UUCP network and Internet, and in doing so to its success: Digital Equipment, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard and Cisco Systems (the router contributed by Cisco was one of the first - if not the first - in Europe; and for Cisco this contribution became a key, if not the key, to their success in Europe). Apart from these contributions, EUnet has been self-supporting right from the start. For a 'look behind the curtain' you may want to read the Stockholm paper, a document written for a conference in Stockholm in 1987.
It was a crazy time, those early days. Can you imagine being invited to fly from CWI in Amsterdam to Olivetty Headquarters in Italy and being picked up by limousine from the airport, and that all for installing UUCP on their machines?!? Still that is what happened to me. Nowadays any luser can install UUCP in half a minute... There were less funny things too, though, and we had to fight many a battle for our case. Some of them were lost (e.g. the founder and owner of ARPAnet, DARPA, refused us access to their, for that time phenomenally fast 56 kbit/s (military) SATNET link), some won (like the one with AT&T, that refused to send us their bills via air mail, so we got them 6 weeks after they were sent, and within 4 weeks AT&T claimed that we didn't pay the bills and threatened to cut our transatlantic line...).
It was in a later stage the European Commission refused to have anything to do with "non-standard" (read: not cooked up by "official" telecom standards bodies like the ITU) protocols like TCP/IP and instead wasted millions of European taxpayers' money in "promoting" (read: enforcing) "OSI networking" (X.25 and X.400), a battle eventually won by the end users who insisted on real connectivity and thus on TCP/IP. For your amusement here are 2 links to OSI-related fun, a poem on OSI and alternatives to OSI. The sad side of this story was that this "protocol war", carried out vehemently by the European Commission and 'RARE', an "umbrella organization" of a couple of national R&D networks in Europe, effectively put those networks arrear, since they were forced to take the futureless OSI track and were actively blocked from Internet access, even when that was already available through EUnet and CWI. (As Rob Blokzijl (†) of Nikhef/HEPnet put it: "Rare isn't well-done"). It took more than a year before universities in Holland could use Internet, and that happened only after SURFnet management had decided to take a practical approach and use both OSI and TCP/IP. In other countries it took much longer, and in particular in Germany it took years before their R&D network (DFN) finally realized that they were on dead track with their OSI addiction. And eventually even the EC gave up on it... Of course we had also active partners in "practical TCP/IP crime", like NORDUnet, the R&D network in the Nordic countries, and HEPnet/CERN, through the excellent cooperation with our neighbor institute Nikhef.
This all happened long before "Internet" became a buzzword and "internet" became a supermarket item. And now we have reached the in fact crazy situation where phone companies offer phone services over the Internet, eh... over internet: 'VoIP' (Voice over IP. For the technically oriented it should be obvious that not VoIP, but TCP should have been used for this; after all it's an acronym for Telephone Conversation Protocol. :-)
Long before this all, April 25, 1986, still in the "UUCP period" (in that time UUCP was the standard protocol for communication between Unix systems), CWI, in the person of undersigned, registered the NL top level domain, in the framework of its international and national networking activities. I managed .NL all on my own until 31 January 1996, when Boudewijn Nederkoorn of SURFnet, Ted Lindgreen of NLnet, and myself on behalf of CWI, set up a separate foundation, (Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland or SIDN), to take over the management of .NL. This had become a sheer necessity due to the explosive growth of the number of domains (see graph) - and thus my workload - and the rapid commercialisation of the Internet. But it would still last until January 1997 before SIDN took over the actual registration work, which I'd been doing all on my own ever since the registration of the NL domain. From the start I was one of the board members of SIDN, but in May 2002 I handed over this function to "younger stuff". But until this very day I have some sort of special relationship with SIDN, bearing the - purely honorary - title of "Bijzonder Raadgever" (Special Counsellor). SIDN has grown to over 40 employees and a turnover of € 11 million (figures 2007).
After 10 years, in 1993, my involvement in both EUnet and NLnet came to an end, but my alias godfather@EU.net still lives on! And the real old networkers (and the Pentagon...) will still remember my 1 April 1984 kremvax!chernenko alias.... (And here's a link to a collection of April Fools on the Net throughout the years).
In the course of time I've been involved in various working groups, committees, etc. on networking topics, both on national and international scale, amongst others of SURFnet (the Dutch national research network) and RIPE (the European regional IP registry). I even managed to produce a real RFC (1537, now obsolete, like so many standards). :-)
Last, but certainly not least, on 9 June 1999 I was completely taken by surprise when I received a Royal Decoration (in Dutch: "Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw") for doing apparently useful things; but even that couldn't make me loose my humour. :-)
Since "casting the net" has always been a collective effort, I'd like to share this honor with my former colleagues Teus Hagen, Jaap Akkerhuis, Jim McKie, and Daniel Karrenberg (later one of the founders of RIPE); with Ted Lindgreen, founder of NLnet (with 'more than a little bit' of pressure from CWI ;-)); and with people in many other countries in Europe and abroad. In the latter category I'd like to specifically mention Armando Stettner (USA/'decvax'), Dan Lorenzini (USA/'philabs'), Rick Adams (USA/'seismo'), Tohru Asami (Japan/'kddlabs'), and Robert Elz (Australia/'munnari'). And special thanks go to Keld Simonsen (Denmark/'diku') for providing us all with the necessary vital energy through his constant supply of 'Daim' candy bars at the EUnet backbone meetings. :-)
BTW, it's interesting to note that such a small seed - just a few people interested in, and having a need for, "networking" - eventually led to Amsterdam becoming a focal point on the information superhighway: the Amsterdam Internet Exchange or AMS-IX started on the WCW campus, next to CWI. Its largest branch is still located there and is still growing; so much so that the sidewalks there may soon be half a meter above road level, because of the massive bundles of data cables underneath them. ;-) The AMS-IX has become one of the largest internet switching points in the world, and their 10-year traffic statistics overview give a good impression of the explosive growth of internet traffic. Interestingly, AMS-IX's policy is the same as that of the early starters of networking: neutral, independent and not-for-profit.
At CWI I've also been involved in more recent networking developments:
Started with experiments in 1993 in cooperation with other research institutes, a 155 Mbit/s ATM network was installed at CWI comprising some 100+ workstations and servers, over an all-fibre-optic network,with some servers having multiple 155 Mbps links. However, due to the rapid development and deployment of Fast Ethernet and, more recently, Gigabit Ethernet, and the high cost of ATM equipment, ATM has quickly become obsolete in the last year or so. In these years the speed of our main Internet connnection (to/via SURFnet) rose to 155 Mbit/s too, initially via ATM, later via POS (Packet Over Sonet). But that wasn't the end of our Need for Speed: in July 2000 CWI entered a new "speed era", when a new core switch/router with Gigabit-speed ports was installed, with our core servers having single or multiple 1 Gbit/s links to it. At the same time our SURFnet connection was upgraded to 1 Gbit/s. Wow! ;-) And in 2005, the year after my retirement, 10 Gbit/s had already become sort of a commodity...
It's also interesting to make a comparison here between the ends of the networking speed spectrum over our "networking history":
In 1983 CWI installed its first ethernet: 10 Mbit/s shared, over a thick yellow coax-cable that old computer nerds will still remember as "thick ethernet" ('10BASE5'). Lots of people declared us insane, because "we would never ever be able to fully use this immense bandwidth". Within a couple of years however 10 Mbit/s shared just didn't suffice anymore to meet the ever increasing traffic and speed demands, so 10 Mbit/s switched "thin ethernet" ('10BASE2') was the next step, which in turn was soon followed by 100 Mbit/s (switched) ethernet. In the decades that passed since the early networking days, the speed of CWI's external connection went up from three hundred  to ten billion bits per second... It's interesting to note that in that period the speed at the high end of the range has gone up from 10 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s, or a 10000-fold increase, whereas in the same period the speed at the low (consumer) end has gone up from 300 bit/s to 40-50 Mbit/s, a 150000-fold increase! What's next? Here the story takes a turn. Whereas the Netherlands have long been leading in bringing internet to the masses, it was overtaken by Sweden: as early as 2012 home connections of 1 Gbit/s were already available there.
The last couple of years before my retirement I spent part of my time working in a completely new environment: CWI's Personnel Department (now P&O), managing their computers and creating a web site for it. Not only was this environment new and quite unrelated to what I was used too, it was interesting too, being an all-girls department. ;-) The picture shows most of the gang. You may be wondering why I'm looking so bloody serious in such cute company; well, so do I...
But it's all over and history. Well, in a sense. After a farewell symposium on September 16, 2004, where Rick Adams presented an interesting view on transatlantic networking history, I entered the state of enlightenment and rest called "retirement". Well... rest? Hm. I'd rather call it the next phase of restlessness. I've plenty of things to do, and staying away from computers would have an effect not unlike stopping to breathe.
That "plenty to do" already started before my retirement: in May 2003 I became volunteer at the Cruquius museum. Part of my work comprised of kicking the museum into the computer and internet era, but most of it consisted of maintaining, as member of a group of technicians, a magnificent piece of 19th-century state-of-the-art hardware: the world-famous Cruquius steam engine, the largest steam engine ever built. And in April 2010 the extreme makeover was complete, when I became curator of another steam museum: Stoomgemaal Halfweg (Halfweg steam pumping station), also from the 19th century, but - as opposed to the Cruquius - with a still operational steam engine and - manually operated! - coal-fired steam boiler. This steamy position lasted till end 2014, but until this very day I'm still working as volunteer at "Halfweg".
If, after reading all of the above, you might think that I'm utterly proud of myself, then that perception needs some serious correction.*) I've enjoyed most of my working life, I've had my share of fun, and I'm really glad that I've "seen it all happen" and that I've been actively involved in a development that has had such a profound impact on society, and that for millions of people has become an integral part of life. But I really wasn't the only one, far from that, and all players deserve credit. And for that matter: blame, for making spam possible. ;-)
Let's reflect a brief moment on what caused the internet to grow so explosively to its current state. Several factors, all having taken place within a relatively short timespan, have contributed to that:
•  A - this time positive - action from the European Commission to break the monopolies of the national PTT's, resulting in a steep decline of the costs of telephone calls and leased lines.
•  A judgment by the European Court (1985) that national PTT's could no longer forbid third party traffic over leased lines. Where such a prohibition was part of national legislation, that legislation had to be changed.
•  The advent of fiber optics, which tremendously increased the speed at which data could be carried over (long) cables.
•  The invention of the World Wide Web (1990) by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, who "married hypertext to the Internet", and the development of the NCSA Mosaic web browser (1992) by Mark Andreessen that popularized the Web. WWW has become application #2 right after e-mail.
•  The activities of (in Holland) groups like HCC, IAF, Knoware and XS4ALL ("the day we started, before 7:00 pm 500 customers had subscribed"), set up to provide the "common user" with e-mail, and later internet, access. BTW, it took the Dutch PTT years to also become interested in that strange new phenomenon "Internet", get actively involved in it ("money, money, money..."), and get used to it, witness how a famous Dutch cartoonist depicted it.
•  The advent of ADSL and cable-internet at very affordable prices, making broadband internet (the 'digital highway') a commodity.
Internet has had a profound effect on society and has deeply pervaded the life of zillions of people. So much so that the abbreviations "DNA" and "SMS" have got brandnew meanings: "Digital Network Addiction" resp. "Social Media Stress". Even so: enjoy it! But be aware that the internet has become a vehicle for the most serious threat to your privacy and personal life, and that criminal organizations - including in particular governments - are watching your traffic all the time.
*)  Perhaps the only thing in this context that I'm proud of, is that I haven't become a Google (read: anti-privacy) evangelist like Vint Cerf, the founder of the Internet Protocol.


|  special interest  |

History, historical research, Dutch linguistics, water management, the steam era and old steam pumping stations (in particular "Stoomgemaal Halfweg" and "Cruquius"), photography, genealogy (see below), and - last but not least - (classical) music and ballet all have my special interest.

|  genealogy  |

Members of the Beertema family, relatives, and others interested in genealogy, in particular genealogy of the province of Groningen, The Netherlands, may want to have a look at the Beertema family tree and its related family trees. By definition these are permanently under construction. Genealogical research has unequivocally shown that the name "Beertema" is unique worldwide and that all people bearing this name are members of one and the same family and stem from one ancestor: Leendert Eppes Beertema, who gave the family its name in 1811.

|  privacy  |

This site doesn't use cookies, nor does it collect personal information.
I never publish any of my e-mail addresses. I only give them to others for direct communication with me. Therefore it is strictly forbidden to give them to others without my permission. That includes using them on the so-called 'social' networks to send me invitations. Besides, there's no point in that, because I'm not interested anyway, since I do care about privacy. This also implies that I'll never ever register with any of the sociomercial media (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc.), and that, if ever a registration under my name would pop up on any of them, please report it to me, because it's guaranteed to be a falsification and very likely would be a defacing or defamation attempt.

|  literature  |

Bas Kist domeinnamen.nl ISBN 9789057593932
Peter van Dijk /
   Erik-Jan Gelink
Gekte.com  ISBN 9789025415488
Monique Doppert Internet Pioniers ISBN 9789075727869
Christiaan Alberdingh Thijm  Het nieuwe informatierecht ISBN 9789039522493
Cordula Rooijendijk Alles moest nog worden uitgevonden  ISBN 9789045013671
Peter Olsthoorn 25 jaar internet in Nederland  ISBN 9789492280008
Martin Wainwright April Fool's Day ISBN 9781845133443

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