[SIGCIS-Members] New Book & Article on Internetworking history: Pelkey, Russell, and Robbins

Andrew Russell arussell at arussell.org
Tue Apr 26 09:55:23 PDT 2022


Self-promotion alert :) 

I’m beyond thrilled to share the news that the book that I’ve been working on with James Pelkey and Loring Robbins is, at long last, published and on sale.  The book is called “Circuits, Packets, and Protocols: Entrepreneurs and Computer Communications, 1968-1988,” published by ACM Books/Morgan & Claypool.  Details here: https://www.morganclaypoolpublishers.com/catalog_Orig/product_info.php?products_id=1717. 

As many of you may know, the foundation for the book is Jim Pelkey’s interviews, conducted in the late 1980s, with over 80 protagonists in the data comm, networking, and internetworking industries.  These interviews now reside in the Pelkey collection at Computer History Museum <https://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102746648>; you can also access them through Pelkey’s website, https://historyofcomputercommunications.info/.  There he has some overviews and context for the interiews (check out the JCR Licklider <https://historyofcomputercommunications.info/interviews/j.c.r.-licklider/> intro, for example, and the intro to the Paul Baran <https://historyofcomputercommunications.info/interviews/paul-baran/> interview for insight into the backstory for the book).  

Circuits, Packets, and Protocols is 632 pages, with many color illustrations, including an appendix that has a timeline of events, technologies, and companies in 3 different market-structures that arose between 1968 and 1988: data communications (modems); networking (LANs); and internetworking (gateways and routers).  The book answers questions that no other book has taken on, namely: who made these devices that allowed computers to interconnect? How did they do it? How did they navigate the competing forces of government funding, standards committees, the towering presence of AT&T and IBM, and, of course, fickle (and then overwhelming) market demand? 

The book is available for purchase at https://www.morganclaypoolpublishers.com/catalog_Orig/product_info.php?products_id=1717, and at other places where books are sold. It’s also available via the ACM Digital Library, and I believe some ACM members will have free or discounted access as a perk of their membership. In addition, we have an article just published by Business History Review in a special issue on standards and international business, which summarizes some aspect of the book that relate to standards. That article appears to be open access (for the time being), available from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/business-history-review/article/abs/business-of-internetworking-standards-startups-and-network-effects/7C91F270A57FE6DD315803D908682014. The article might be especially appealing for those looking for a breezy 12,000 word version, before you dive into the full 632 pages of Circuits, Packets, and Protocols.

This has been a project long in the making, and I want to thank those who have supported Pelkey and us along the way, especially Tom Misa, our series editor at ACM Books.

I hope you enjoy it!  And please help us spread the word :) 

Many thanks,


— — — — — — — — — — —

Andrew L. Russell, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Donovan Hall - 2123B
100 Seymour Road
Utica, NY 13502

t. 315-792-7317
w. https://sunypoly.edu/
e. arussell at arussell.org

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