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| 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
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
on 22 October 1943, around 04:05 GMT
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
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
(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
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 -
(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
(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
and in Dutch an acronym standing for "Centraal Hulporgaan Automome Overdracht
In the 1960's "computer" was in fact synonymous to "mainframe", and they
were hellishly expensive. The time of personal
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
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, 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
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...
It was also in those early days that we ran into an "expensive zero-cost
problem". When checking the system one morning, the outgoing phone line
was hanging, with a call to the USA in progress since late the previous
afternoon, a duration of 18 hours or more. With the telco prices of
those days that call could cost upto 5000 guilders (2300 euro)!
I immediately ran off to the campus' PBX to check its logfile. And indeed
that call showed 9999 on the 4-digit ticks counter. So we were left with
the unpleasant mission of informing CWI's director of a "financial issue".
But the real - and pleasant - surprise came the next month, when
the telco's bill showed nothing exceptional. We could only guess that the
modem at the US side had properly terminated the call, with our modem or
software failing to notice it.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Contrary to urban legend, ".NL" wasn't something we invented ourselves:
the Internet standard RFC 920 (1984) already required country Top
Level Domains to be the 2-letter codes of the ISO standard ISO-3166
(and thus in many cases different from the country codes on cars).
For obvious reasons the first domain I registered under .NL was cwi.nl,
on May 1, 1986.¹)
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
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). Since its foundation, SIDN has become
an overwhelming success. As of 2018, SIDN has grown to 100 employees
and an annual turnover of € 20 million. For a large part
this success can be credited to its most inspiring director Roelof Meijer,
who joined SIDN in 2005.
SIDN's whois gives April 30, 1986 as registration date of cwi.nl, but
that's wrong. Almost by definition, because April 30 was Queen's
Day, and even for me that was a holiday. The false date is the result
of an artefact in the date/time in the earliest registrations and a
change in 2012 in the treatment of the date/time by SIDN's software.
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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.
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, and later fiber-to-the home at
very high speeds and very affordable prices, making broadband internet
(the 'digital highway') a commodity.
The rise of the smartphone and high-speed mobile data networks, along
with addictive privacy disasters like Facebook, Whatsapp, and so on.
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.
| special interest |
History, historical research, Dutch linguistics, water management, the
steam era and old steam pumping stations (in particular
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
tree¹) 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.
Sadly the Beertema and related family trees, built up as a hobby
project in over 20 years, have been taken offline due to EU
privacy regulations (GDPR) that are completely out of proportion.
On special request they are available though, but only for private
use, not for publication.
| privacy |
I never publish any of my e-mail addresses. I only give them to
others for direct communication
with me. Therefore it is
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
This also implies that I'll never ever have an account on any of
the sociomercial media (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram,
Twitter, Google+, etc.), and that, if ever an account with my
name would appear on any of them, it's guaranteed to be a
falsification and very likely would be a defacing or defamation
| literature |
|Peter van Dijk /
|Christiaan Alberdingh Thijm
||Het nieuwe informatierecht
||Alles moest nog worden uitgevonden
||25 jaar internet in Nederland
||April Fool's Day