The NS technician who helped build the Internet celebrates his 40th birthday

In a time very different from our own, before the Internet was ubiquitous in Nova Scotia, Dan MacKay worked hard to connect people.

This week he and other “internet veterans” celebrated a major milestone – 40 years of the internet as we know it.

“I was on a technical team building the internet in Nova Scotia, and that put you on a technical team building the internet all over Canada, and it was really exciting,” MacKay told CBC Radio. Info Morning Halifax on Wednesday.

MacKay spoke with host Portia Clark about what it was like to be an internet technician in Nova Scotia 30 years ago, when the technology was first introduced in this province.

Their conversation has been shortened and edited for clarity and length.

You can listen to the full text of the interview here:

Information Morning – NS10:58The technology that helped bring the Internet to Canada is celebrating its 40th birthday

Earlier this week, a group of self-proclaimed daredevils gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Internet. Dan MacKay helped organize the party in the Dalhousie Computer Science Atrium. He was one of the technologists hired to help build the internet in Canada. Dan reflects on the past 40 years online.

But why 40 years ago is considered the birth date of the Internet?

Forty years ago, we changed protocols. Many people know that in the 1960s, a network like the Internet was born. It was a military network and it was called ARPANET. In the 1960s, they imagined how many computers could be on the internet… and they said several hundred. Thus, we will build a network that can connect several hundred computers. They were all military computers from bases in North America.

But by the mid-70s, it was clear that there would be more than a few hundred computers on this network, and they started creating a new protocol called TCP, and the two protocols were incompatible. So one day they had to shut down the ARPANET. They had to turn it off and turn on TCP, which is the protocol we use today to do our e-mail and our web browsing and everything that rests on it—YouTube—it’s all powered by that protocol. It is called TCP.

What was it like to create the Internet in Nova Scotia? What is a concrete example of how you make this happen?

We had two teams. I was on the technical team connecting and working with wiring and routers [telecommunications companies] to run communication lines and modems. Because remember in the bad old days people used dial-up and when you wanted to connect to the Internet, you ran the Internet program and it dialed the phone… and it connected to a modem somewhere… That’s all it took. be installed.

Dan MacKay was one of the technologists who built the Internet in Nova Scotia and Canada. She spoke to Information Morning Halifax host Portia Clark on Wednesday. (Erin MacInnis/CBC)

Well, that was the technical part. And the business part, people had to be trained. We held classes where people learned how to use their software. It was often difficult to install software on people’s computers. So we had a great team helping with the routine part of it as well. And we worked together every day.

Did you participate in some of the initial stages of gathering people who you graduated from high school?

Well, there happened to be an Indigenous researcher, Lorri Neilsen Glenn of Mount Saint Vincent University, who had a dream of connecting students at a non-urban high school in Nova Scotia with a non-urban high school in BC. geography and all about each other…. The project was called Learning Connections and the high school was Parkview Education Center in Bridgewater.

It was extremely exciting. Student enthusiasts used to use bulletin board systems, but generally these were not connected outside of the local area. And here they were emailing back and forth with the BC students every day

How do you see the changes that have taken place since the birth of the Internet?

I think the most notable change is the incredible amount of data and information available to us. This idea … 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day, 24 hours a day. The amount of data it represents is simply mind-boggling, and perhaps not many people think about it. But 20 years ago, everyone would have said it was impossible. We’ll never have enough disk space for that much data, and we made a mistake.

Wikipedia is my favorite. You know, this is the modern library of Alexandria, the sum of human knowledge in one place.

Students and teachers gather around old computers in a classroom in 1993.
Parkview Education Center’s computer lab on the official opening day of Learning Connections. (Lorrie Neilsen Glenn)

Where do you see the Internet going in the next 40 years?

Well, it’s hard to say for sure. We have already given up a large amount of privacy. The privacy we are now giving up would have horrified most people 50 years ago. I can see it continuing to erode. This is the deal we made. We give up our privacy to get free stuff, right? You pay Facebook with your privacy, not money.

The privacy we are now giving up would have horrified most people 50 years ago.– Dan MacKay

It is possible that we will see terrorism and war based on attacks on our infrastructure. Because most of our infrastructure today is based on the internet. Last year, we saw massive failures of Internet services that were not caused by malicious agents. They are caused by human errors. When Rogers went down and interacted all [bank] the terminals crashed, it wasn’t terrorism, but it could have been. So we can see that someone who wants to take down the internet probably can.

Perhaps you could not have foreseen some of these vulnerabilities at an early stage?

We would never have guessed. Since the Internet was so unreliable and ubiquitous then compared to today, we could never have foreseen that we would become so dependent on it. On the bright side, we’ll see better voice assistance. We will see all kinds of wonderful things with sound. We might actually get universal internet connectivity in Nova Scotia, which we were working on in 1995… Maybe we’ll get there in 30 years.

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