Linux and growth of Internet

From: Frank McConnell <>
Date: Sat Jan 15 22:01:15 2005

Steven M Jones wrote:
> I think that the growth of email and the Internet in everyday life
> rode two big trends. One is the rise of CompuServe and AOL, which
> I'll leave for another discussion. The second was the rise of small
> scale ISPs in the 1993-1994 timeframe, at least in the Northeastern
> US, and that they were offering raw dialup IP connections. They'd
> give you a POP account, maybe shell access, and that set the stage
> to a great degree for non-corporate, non-academic participation in
> the Web when it came on-stage.

There's another thing that I think everyone has missed: a standard API
for network applications on each personal computer operating system

Remember the joys of TCP/IP on MS-DOS in the late 1980s? Each
vendor's TCP/IP stack had its own interface to network drivers, and
its own interface for applications. So you had to choose your network
cards based on what your TCP/IP stack vendor had drivers for, and you
had to choose your TCP/IP stack vendor based on what applications you
wanted to run. And your application vendor wasn't liking life much
either, because the MS-DOS TCP/IP stack vendors didn't always maintain
API compatibility across versions of the TCP/IP stacks.

The earliest things I remember were monolithic applications that
included a network card driver, TCP/IP stack, and application(s). For
example, there was the MIT PC/IP stuff, which comprised a driver for
the 3Com 3C500 card, a TCP/IP stack that supported a whopping one TCP
connection, a Telnet client with H19 terminal emulator, and a TFTP
server. The idea was that you would telnet to your Unix box and use
its TFTP client to control file transfers. (The initial entry of The
Wollongong Group into this market was a repackaging of the MIT PC/IP
as WIN/PC with a manual and a box, and there's a story that some folks
at MIT saw the advertisement and said "hey, we could do that", found a
good deal on some green three-ring binders, and thus was born FTP

Eventually this split up into TSR-based network card drivers and
TCP/IP stacks.

Some of the MS-DOS TCP/IP stack vendors grew BSD-like sockets-flavored
APIs, but they were often implemented as libraries that had to be
linked with the application, and they weren't all completely
compatible with each other nor with BSD sockets. (The Wollongong
Group's WIN/TCP for DOS and PathWay Runtime for DOS worked this way,
at least.)

This continued into the 1990s. First there were interfaces defined so
that protocol stacks could talk to network cards: FTP Software pushed
the packet driver specification, Novell pushed ODI, and MICROS~1
pushed NDIS. This was basically the protocol stack vendors pushing
the responsibility for the network card drivers to the network card
vendors, because developing and maintaining network card drivers was
starting to cost serious money as more hardware vendors got into the
network card business.

Then in 1990 this Windows thing took off, and the MS-DOS TCP/IP stack
vendors noticed. I know TWG had a "SOCKDOS.DLL" that provided a
DLL-based sockets-flavor API for Windows applications. There was some
other company, JSB or something like that, that had a sort of "API
harmonizer" that provided a consistent API across various DOS/Windows
TCP/IP stacks. Eventually someone got the idea that the TCP/IP stack
stack vendors could be providing a common DLL-based API and that is how
the Windows Sockets specification came about.

That's where you got to the point that someone could write a
Windows-based TCP/IP application and reasonably expect it to work
on any vendor's TCP/IP stack that had a WINSOCK.DLL implementation,
and people did! Without that, I don't think there would have been,
say, Netscape or Eudora for Windows; there certainly wouldn't have
been just one of each.

Of course the next step was for MICROS~1 to provide a TCP/IP stack
with a WINSOCK.DLL implementation in Windows 95. There was no longer
any need for third-party TCP/IP stack vendors for Windows. I think
the only company in that business that has survived to date is
Netmanage (who bought FTP Software).

I saw a lot of this, working at The Wollongong Group starting in
December 1989. I didn't get involved in it 'til very late, late 1993
or so; the market for WIN/TCP for MPE/V was winding down and I got
pushed (not entirely unwillingly) into working on the TCP/IP stack for
MS-DOS and then for Windows. Those of you who used PathWay Runtime
4.0 on Windows can blame me, the TCP/IP and Winsock were my primary
responsibilities for that release.

-Frank McConnell
Received on Sat Jan 15 2005 - 22:01:15 GMT

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