Twenty-five years of Internet at University of Bristol

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[08 March 2016]

Twenty-five years ago today, the University of Bristol joined the Internet. On the 8th March 1991, the University of Bristol received its allocation of a block of public IPv4 address space, which we’re still using today.

By 1991, the University had been connected to other universities around the UK for a while. Janet had been established in 1984 and by 1991 had gateways to ARPANET so by the “small i” definition of internet we were already on the internet.

However, these days, when we talk about “the Internet” we’re mostly talking about the global TCP/IP network and that happened 25 years ago today.

We now take access to the Internet to be an essential function both at work and at home. For the majority of our students access to the Internet and the World Wide Web is something they have always known. The inability to get online wherever they are, and whatever the time, is a cause of frustration and annoyance. Even those of an older generation would now find the thought of being 'offline' a considerable inconvenience.

The University now provides services and information online and the 'digital first' approach is the norm. IT Services works to provide those services as well as the infrastructure to enable access. The growth of wireless, mobile use, powerful cloud based services and communications (not just email but voice and video), access to online media and entertainment mean these services are at the heart of how we live and work.  In many cases the technology is changing how we live and work, and indeed learn, conduct research and teach, allowing us to do things in new ways.

We were the first UK university to provide ResNet Internet access to study bedrooms in all our halls of residence and at the forefront in deploying wireless access for students. The work of the Advanced Computer Research Centre and the use High Performance Computing and Research Data Storage are now key to many of the most cutting edge research projects involving Big Data.  We are also at the forefront in areas such as 5G wireless technology and high performance networks. Work by the Department of Computer Science and the innovative undergraduate projects demonstrate the potential available in this era of the Internet of Things. The University is also engaged in exciting projects such as Bristol Is Open, developing the concept of the smart city.

Even developments such as implementing key online tools for daily office use, such as Google apps and Microsoft Office 365 are now the norm and offer exciting ways to create, collaborate and manage information.  The recent introduction of Mediasite for online lectures is another example of these changes. To underpin these changes new infrastructure is needed such as the development of an Offsite Data Centre for the University to ensure our core service remain available. 

Twenty-five years ago it must have seemed a small but exciting step; in hindsight it was a revolution in the way we live.