Teus Hagen: Okay, I was on the very early state of what we nowadays call Internet. At that time it was called ARPANET or something like that. And what I was, I was chair of the Unix user group in Europe, which we had in about twenty-six countries, all national groups. And I was located in Amsterdam. So I started as a student at the University of Amsterdam and at the free university, because computer science was not invented at that moment at universities. So, I was one of the first students who did a study in computer science. I was located at Mathematical Center, which is a math research center for universities. So we did only research.
So I encountered a problem with having Unix systems all over Europe spread around and to communicate with them. And the communication was [indistinct] with the Unix system, Unix-to-Unix Copy program, UUCP. And we initiated to call everybody up by the phone, or every computer up by the phone. And an anecdote at that time, it was not expected that computers will ring up each other. So for instance in France, you had to announce yourself with your name. So we invented some programs to spell their name. Which was [indistinct] at that moment. And we drew email mainly, and some Usenet news systems all over the world, or all over Europe, towards some systems in the US. So that was the first step. So that was building the infrastructure for basically Unix systems at that time.
We announced the EUNet, European Unix Network in April 1982. So you must think of the time that computers were huge. Cooling systems were huge. To give you a picture, the RMO5 disc was 67 megabytes of disk space, was the size of the table refrigerator, and cost about €40,000. The about $70,000. Running on 380 volts. So, if you compare that with a USB stick, you can imagine what a difference and what evolution has been. Even so, for Internet, our problem was basically that the TCP/IP protocol was not allowed to be researched and to be studied because the formal science decided that it should be only the OSI standard. Which was a very complex standard, very complex. And we didn’t want that. We wanted a very easy-to-do and to disseminate all over Europe protocol, and that was TCP/IP.
So we tried to connect to the ARPANET. And that was the Ministry of Defense, and at that timeframe we were in let’s say a “cold war” with Russia. And we were not allowed to attest to that. So we silently set up from phone lines SLIP protocol, TCP over serial lines. And started to do Internet. Originally we started with about ten sites spread over Europe. And within two years—that’s about 1984 [indistinct], we had about 300 sites connected.
From there, we started to have a foundation in Holland. That’s the NLnet Foundation. And we started to do Internet service provision. And that was at first only for academics and institutes. Because we wanted to keep the costs very low. And later we entered the commercial world, trying to hook up everybody who wanted to be hooked up and to dial in. We started to do the service provision. So that’s in short how it came from let’s say an academic environment, to a commercial environment.
We had also our normal work somewhere else, in research mainly. And we did the Internet service provision as a commercial institute as a side-effect. And the side-effect was competition. And we ended up with about 180 people as employees. And that in your free time is not possible. So we said okay, is this our world? Is this what we wanted to do? No, we don’t want that. And we ended up selling NLnet, which is the backbone provider in Holland, to UUNET, WorldCom, and ended up with a lot of money. And no service provision anymore. So we could do whatever we wanted and the main factor was to bring back our achievements, our technology achievements, back to the community who did that, the technology people, and said hey, we want to stimulate new products on the Internet. And did that with a budget of about $1.5 million per year. Open source projects should be stimulated, and that was the second lifetime of our work in Holland.
I’m speaking about “we” because the Internet was not possible without a lot of people who did whatever they did and I was just in charge as the chairman. That’s all.
Intertitle: Describe one of the breakthrough moments or movements of the Internet in which you have been a key participant.
Hagen: The breakpoints were that academics went over and left their thing that it should have always been OSI. So the academic networks went to TCP/IP. That was the first break. Second break, that everybody could dial in for very low cost. So everybody could interact and communicate via Internet with each other. And other breakpoints were HTTP, mainly from CERN. And AltaVista, who were making the search engine, and later Google earned a lot of money, but AltaVista did the breakthrough.
Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weather analogy and explain why.
Hagen: I think that the weather is still to come. Many people will think different. The thunder weather which is coming up is our privacy, privacy concerns. To keep our privacy. To keep your identity. And to keep it secure. And that awareness is not by the user. It’s even not by the technicians there. And a lot has to be done there. And governments will have their own opinion about that, as they usually have. And some of the signs for thunder weather are the current thing with NSA, for instance. And also yeah, there’s a lot of commerce going on, web shops. And they’re not secured.
Intertitle: Is there action that should be taken to ensure the best possible future?
Hagen: The main action is awareness. And real awareness, not fear but awareness. And what can we do? Help. Some entities do that. Some institutes do that. ISOC is a big example. RIPE is another example. But also other groups like the EFF are doing a lot of work and making awareness. “Hey, this is what you can do. Do it. And try to evolve from that.”
Other things are new technologies like DNSSEC and IP version 6. We’re talking so many years about it, and it’s not there. DNSSEC is—in Holland at least—is 25% of the domains are on DNSSEC. And that’s not a lot.
Intertitle: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Hagen: I do a lot in [ethical?] hacking to make awareness of, “Hey, you can improve that.” I make presentations on that. For instance I did a survey on the SSL configurations… If you know what SSL is. SSL—HTTPS—that’s one part of it. On the SSL configurations of all the sites in Holland. And I categorized them in government, semi-government, in education, academics, in healthcare, in web shops, and in security companies. And in banks.
And the banks…I did two of the banks in Holland, I did that two years ago, the presentation. Two of the banks were furious and were sending out lawyers to my— Lawyers don’t help to improve it.
But they’re okay now. They’re better. So they improved. Banks are improving. Still there are a lot of problems with the mixture of HTTP and HTTPS. But it’s improving a lot. Healthcare is a shame. Education—and I tested computer science education departments, it’s a shame.
So there’s a lot to be learned there. The technology is there. The configuration and the know-how should be there. So it’s education. And there’s a lot to be done there. So the way to do that, to help that improvement, is doing presentations, doing shock affects, and that helps. Then you get to the paper. They make nonsense out of it, but okay. The thing is set there.
https://www.internethalloffame.org/inductees/teus-hagenTeus Hagen profile, Internet Hall of Fame 2013