Milestone-Proposal talk:ALOHANET (aka ALOHA System)

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Advocate's Assessment -- Dmichelson (talk) 08:37, 21 February 2020 (UTC)

There is absolutely no doubt that ALOHANET should be recognized.

The first demonstration that wireless channels could be effectively and efficiently shared using relatively simple random access protocols, ALOHANET contradicted many commonly held assumptions about random access channels. Its significance was immense and immediately recognized. Advanced random access protocols such as CSMA/CD and technologies such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, etc. were a direct result.

The title and citation needed significant work. I have edited the proposal to reflect this.

It is noteworthy that Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, has stepped forward to endorse this proposal.


Statement of Support from Dr. Metcalfe for IEEE Milestone ALOHAnet (aka ALOHA System).

Yes, I support ALOHAnet as an IEEE Milestone.

Professor Norm Abramson’s inventions and analysis of Aloha channels at Hawaii were a fountain of ideas for other network researchers and queuing theorists. At Xerox Parc in 1973 we adopted ALOHAnet’s randomized retransmissions for the first Ethernet’s packet access method, which we called CSMA/CD – carrier sense multiple access with collision detection.

Robert M. Metcalfe, PhD, UTAustin Professor of Innovation, Recipient of the IEEE Medal of Honor, Eminent Member of IEEE HKN


In future, we should make clear to proposers that they are not competing for an award. Instead, we are trying to capture a moment in time when something important happened that had important downstream effects.

ALOHANET citation -- Amy Bix (talk) 18:00, 23 February 2020 (UTC)

Great project! But again, I wonder about ways to make the citation more meaningful to the general public (also, the part about "contradicted many then commonly held assumptions about random access channels" seems vague and doesn't mean much out of context). I think we're also missing a date. How about something like the following:

ALOHAnet, the world's first packet radio network, created affordable computer connections across Hawaii's islands in 1971. ALOHAnet employed innovative random access protocols, proving their efficiency for large-scale sharing of communications channels. ALOHA techniques opened the field of packet broadcasting and pioneered network engineering. ALOHAnet attracted military and civilian interest, advancing development of modern mobile, wireless, satellite, and Internet systems. (59 words)

As always, please check for accuracy..... Amy

Re: ALOHANET citation -- Ebruton (talk) 13:41, 26 February 2020 (UTC)

I think Amy's version of the text is a good one. Yes, the date is in the headline but I think it is worth repeating in the text. I also think elaborating on what is meant by personal wireless communications *plus* the civilian and military use make the text more accessible to the general public.

Ebruton (talk) 13:41, 26 February 2020 (UTC)

-- Dmichelson (talk) 19:21, 23 February 2020 (UTC)

Many thanks for your comments!

1. The date is in the title. In the past, that has been considered sufficient.

2. This is an IEEE Milestone so the citation wording needs to be ring true on both the expert and general levels. I’ve edited the last sentence of the citation to read

The ALOHA packet radio data network provided the first demonstration that communications channels could be effectively and efficiently shared on a large scale using relatively simple random access protocols. ALOHA showed that random access techniques could be far more efficient than had been previously assumed and led directly to the development of Ethernet and many of the personal wireless communications technologies in common use today.

Re: -- Jason.k.hui (talk) 17:13, 27 February 2020 (UTC)

Since ALOHA is an acronym and is used more than once in the citation, it needs to be defined. The beginning of the second sentence sounds a bit redundant with the second half of the first sentence.

Re: Re: -- Dmichelson (talk) 04:23, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

ALOHA is not an acronym. I vaguely recall that someone tried to turn it into one, but it didn’t catch on.

Re: -- John Vardalas (talk) 16:15, 28 February 2020 (UTC)

Aloha does indeed deserve a Milestone. The proposal is well written and referenced. I am divided between Dave's and Amy's versions. I also believe that, whenever possible, the citation should confer a sense of place to the reader. The plaque's location should set up a strong connection between the achievement and the place were he or she is standing and reading the plaque. Geography is important. The citation makes not reference that it all took place at to the University of Hawaii. Geography should always be important in the Milestones, but in this case it is vital. Innovation arose to solve a geographic problem: creating cheaper data communications linkages between campuses dispersed over several islands. This solution proved scalable to the world's geography.I would like to see the citation include some mention that this achievement took place at the University of Hawaii.

I humbly suggest the following hybrid citation for the proposers' consideration

"The ALOHA packet radio data network provided the first demonstration that communications channels could be effectively and efficiently shared on a large scale using relatively simple random access protocols. These techniques, which proved to be far more efficient than had previously been assumed, gave rise to Ethernet and the internet. ALOHA, developed first to link the campuses of the University of Hawaii, opened the door to the planet being connected." (70 words)

Re: Re: -- Dmichelson (talk) 04:31, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

I agree with John’s intent and believe it’s on the right track. But we need to be careful. ALOHA had little to do with the Internet. ALOHA lives at the Medium Access Control or MAC layer. The Internet lives at the Network layer and is based upon the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, neither of which have anything to do with ALOHA.
Re: Re: Re: -- Dmichelson (talk) 09:45, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

How about this? 58 words.

In June 1971, the ALOHA packet radio data network began providing inter-island access to computing facilities at the University of Hawaii. The first demonstration that communications channels could be effectively and efficiently shared on a large scale using relatively simple random access protocols, it led directly to the development of Ethernet and many important personal wireless communications technologies.

Re: Re: Re: Re: -- John Vardalas (talk) 17:30, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

I like this version. It meets my concern for a sense of geography. I also believe, like Juan Carlos below, that ALOHA should NOT be seen as a meaningful acronym. Aloha is a quintessential Hawaiian greeting. As for my error in trying to make ALOHA a progenitor TCP/IP, I stand corrected and leave it to more knowledgeable people to fill in the precise technical merits. It would still be desirable, but not essential, if, in the citation, we could take the reader from Ethernet to some broader benefit with a concrete name that is easily recognizable to the general public.

I will support any variant of Dave's latest version.

=Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 16:35, 4 March 2020 (UTC)=

Credit for TCP/IP really belongs to ARPANET, not ALOHANET. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switching network with distributed control and the first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical foundation of the Internet.

As discussed in my proposal submission, ARPANET focus was packet switching (of which TCP/IP is part of its foundation) as opposed to ALOHAnet (focus was packet radio broadcasting). I believe my closing last sentence in the Historical Significance by Robert Kahn, , “The ALOHA system was to packet radio like the original timesharing computer was to Arpanet” makes this clear.

2nd expert review -- Dmichelson (talk) 02:45, 25 February 2020 (UTC)

Hi Dave,

I support the recognition of the ALOHA project as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing.

Since its introduction as a means for efficiently sharing a communication link, the ALOHA protocol and its many variants have inspired researchers and practitioners alike. Fifty years on, the prevalence of the ALOHA concept in current generation communication networks is truly remarkable.

Best regards,

Prof. Cyril Leung

University of British Columbia

Dept of Electrical & Computer Engineering

cleung@ece.ubc.ca

ALOHAnet citation -- Savini (talk) 19:00, 1 March 2020 (UTC)

I have no doubt about the importance of the proposal. As concerns the citation, I am in favour of Amy's version. Additionally I would prefer that the technical meaning of te acronym ALOHA is explained.

Antonio S.

=Re: ALOHAnet citation -- Dmichelson (talk) 04:21, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

ALOHA is not an acronym. I vaguely recall that someone tried to turn it into one, but it didn’t catch on.

Re: =Re: ALOHAnet citation -- Jason.k.hui (talk) 11:45, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

In the proposal text, it states that "ALOHA acronym was derived from Additive Links On-line Hawaii Area."

Re: =Re: ALOHAnet citation -- Dmichelson (talk) 07:03, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

I talked to the proposer. This contrived definition, which makes no real technical sense, was briefly put forward in a few internal reports during the first year or two of the project but abandoned before the system was actually deployed. One of these internal reports also mentions that user terminals were called keiki, but this term was also abandoned. Only the term menehune (Hawaiian for imp) for the packet network controller survived, mostly because it was a clever play on the acronym IMP (Interface Message processor), the equivalent device on the early ARPANET.

Abramson’s original paper refers to “THE ALOHA SYSTEM” (the use of the term ALOHANET came later) but doesn’t make any mention of that ALOHA stands for anything. Certainly none of the major reports written by Abramson and others since then have mentioned it. For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that ALOHA is not an acronym.

A few years ago, some people seem to have noticed that this contrived definition was mentioned in some early internal reports, and a handful of papers have since mentioned this as if it is some sort of revelation and the definition is being restored to its rightful place. It’s worth a footnote in the proposal that such a definition was briefly considered then abandoned by the team. But certainly not in the citation. The proposer agrees with this and has modified the proposal.

Another minor issue that we need to sort out is the start date. The milestone proposal says 1966, but the project itself started in September 1968. See Abramson’s 1985 review in IEEE Trans IT, among other sources. The proposer agrees with this and has modified the proposal.

ALOHA Citation -- Juan Carlos (talk) 12:05, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

ALOHA is a text-book name and its invention deserves a milestone.

Regarding the citation, I can see there are four issues:

1 - The mention to the University of Hawaii ties the Milestone to the geography which was a prerequisite for the invention.

2 - Careful about the efficiency; it is theoretically less than 18% and I wouldn’t use the word.

3 - we think of ALOHA as a word, it’s a greeting. To include the forced esoteric acronym [Additive Links On-line Hawaii Area] would take a lot of words and doesn’t give back much useful information. And ALOHA is kind of a “hello, are you there?” protocol ! So just the name is appropriate.

4 - Ethernet was invented based on ALOHA; it is a very important IEEE standard that must be mentioned.

Re: ALOHA Citation -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 16:43, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

The ALOHA protocol was the very first random access protocol and established a baseline (approximately 18%). From this, SLOTTED ALOHA and other progressive random access protocol efforts began. Prior to the ALOHA protocol, there was no random access protocol. Robert Metcalfe's statement of support (along with numerous scholarly, peer-reviewed journals also points this out): Professor Norm Abramson’s inventions and analysis of Aloha channels at Hawaii were a fountain of ideas for other network researchers and queuing theorists. At Xerox Parc in 1973 we adopted ALOHAnet’s randomized retransmissions for the first Ethernet’s packet access method, which we called CSMA/CD – carrier sense multiple access with collision detection.

Dave Kemp comments -- Administrator1 (talk) 14:40, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

I support this milestone proposal

Prior digital networks/narrative comments -- Administrator7 (talk) 21:57, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

I have no doubt that ALOHANET merits a Milestone, but its unique accomplishments and contributions need to be carefully defined. The documentation relies heavily on its founder's histories and recollections, along with primary documents related its development and intellectual legacy. In other words, in the narrative there is no reference to its historical context with regard to digital wired networks that others developed earlier, some of which involved packet switching, if not protocols, in the U.S., Great Britain, and France.

The assertions in the narrative that “Prior to the ALOHA protocol, there was no random access protocol and no computer systems engineering, much less software engineering” and “Network engineering simply did not exist: ARPAnet and ALOHAnet (aka ALOHA System) were the pioneers” do a disservice to the engineers and computer scientists who worked on the following digital networks that predate ALOHANET. Highlighting ALOHANET's pioneering random access protocol and wireless network does not have to diminish others' accomplishments and contributions to the internet:

1. the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computer communications network, including staff at the US Air Force, its Canadian counterparts, IBM, Lincoln Laboratories, RAND Corporation, Bell Telephone Laboratories, and Western Electrics. See the IEEE Milestone for this “forerunner of today’s digital computer networks,” https://ethw.org/Milestones:Semi-Automatic_Ground_Environment_(SAGE)_1951-1958, and the referenced Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-Automatic_Ground_Environment.

2. The Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. A candidate for a future Milestone.

3. Project MAC. A candidate for a future Milestone.

4. NPL Mark I network. Leader Donald Davies coined the term "packet switching": A candidate for a future Milestone.

5. The Societe lnternationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA). A candidate for a future Milestone. From Lawrence G. Roberts, "The Evolution of Packet Switching" (1978): "In 1969 SITA began updating its design by replacing the major nodes of its message switching network with High Level Network nodes interconnected with voice-grade lines-organized to act like a packet switching network. Incoming messages are subdivided into 240-byte packets and are stored and forwarded along predetermined routes to the destination. Prestored distributed tables provide for alternate routes in the event of line failures."

6. The ARPANET. See the IEEE Milestone for this “foundation for the development of the Internet": https://ethw.org/Milestones:Inception_of_the_ARPANET,_1969

Here are some other observations:

1. The narrative frequently refers to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's refusal to license commercial use of radio spectrum. This needs to be clarified as the FCC had done so for broadcasting since 1927 (as the Federal Radio Commission). The FCC apportions parts of the electromagnetic spectrum for government, military, and commercial purposes. Were the developers of ALOHAnet trying to develop a commercial system? Did they apply originally within the commercial broadcast spectrum allocations or within another part of the spectrum? for an experimental license or a commercial license?

2. The ITU, established originally in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, predates the CCITT, now ITU-T, by 91 years.

3. For the sake of readability, there is no need to repeat “(also known as ALOHA system).”

Alex Magoun, IEEE History Center

Re: Prior digital networks/narrative comments -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 17:36, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

1) I clearly identified that packet switching is attributed to ARPANET, not ALOHANET. ALOHANET contribution was packet radio broadcasting. 2) Every scholarly, peer-reviewed journal clearly identifies that there were NO random access protocols prior to ALOHANET. 3) ALOHANET was the first computer network (review the scholarly, peer-reviewed journals along with other historical documents). As clearly stated, until ALOHA the only computer communications were via dial-up leased lines. Further, it is clearly delineated in the material that PRNET followed ALOHA and that ALOHA was its inspiration. 4) It is true that FCC allowed broadcasting. But commercial applications and use as identified in Historical and Background clearly shows that Canada was the first to allow non-broadcasting commercial use for amateur packet radio. ISM as stated in the references for wireless commercial use came well after 1971. 5) Again, as identified in the references/citations the military clearly built upon ALOHA. 6) Robert Kahn as stated in the Historical Significance credited ALOHAnet for packet radio and ARPANENT for packet switching. He also states this in "History of Communciations" and ACM scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. 7) Robert Metcalfe Statement of Support along with citations/references clearly identifies ALOHA as the catalyst.

Re: Prior digital networks/narrative comments -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 17:53, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

As discussed with Dave Michelson, Mike Marcus efforts at the FCC regarding license-free spectrum were instrumental to allowing the ISM bands we know today and led to IEEE 802.11. You are correct that licensed spectrum was allowed and still is. But even experimental use was not allowed. As clearly stated, it was IPTO/DARPA that allowed ALOHA to use an experimental military UHF frequency as ALOHA's initial request was rejected by the FCC. Obviously, I cannot cite/reference classified work that utilized ALOHA as the inspiration and foundation. PRNET clearly was meant for military applications building upon ALOHA to solve more difficult issues (e.g., mobile). Robert Kahn was part of this effort that involved SRI and BBN doing work for DARPA.

Re: Prior digital networks/narrative comments -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 17:59, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

I did not intend to disservice other efforts. But as part of ALOHA, Dr. Kuo has several scholarly, peer-reviewed journal editorials that addressed the lack of "something practical" between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering; in other words, Software Engineering. This is still an on-going discussion even today. FYI: Both ARPANET and ALOHANET preceded and were operational well before your reference to: The Societe lnternationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA). A candidate for a future Milestone. From Lawrence G. Roberts, "The Evolution of Packet Switching" (1978): "In 1969 SITA began updating its design by replacing the major nodes of its message switching network with High Level Network nodes interconnected with voice-grade lines-organized to act like a packet switching network. Incoming messages are subdivided into 240-byte packets and are stored and forwarded along predetermined routes to the destination. Prestored distributed tables provide for alternate routes in the event of line failures." "History of Communications" along with numerous scholarly, peer-reviewed journals are testament to ALOHANET and ARPANET for packet radio broadcasting and packet switching. TCP/IP (Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn) were directly attributable to ARPANET.

Re: Prior digital networks/narrative comments -- KnowledgeAcquirer (talk) 18:34, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

ALOHANET was not packet switching; I clearly stated that is was packet radio broadcasting. Much of your discussion focuses on packet switching, which is the domain of ARPANET. However, your discussion on packet switching leads me to wonder why ARPANET gets all of the well-known public credit, when Paul Baran's work that led to a series of 11 thorough, comprehensive papers titled "Distributed Communications" are not as well-known or publicly credited. SAGE was still a circuit-based, landline based system -- it was not a radio-based system. AUTOVON relied on a central node; SAGE allowed non-reliance on a central node. Baran also assumed that any link of the network could fail at any time, and so the network was designed with no central control or administration. Baran's groundbreaking work helped to convince the US Military that wide area digital computer networks were a promising technology. Baran also talked to Bob Taylor and J.C.R. Licklider at the IPTO about the concept since they were also working to build a wide area communications network. Baran's papers then influenced Roberts and Kleinrock to adopt the technology when they joined the the IPTO for development of the ARPANET, laying the groundwork that led to its incorporation into the TCP/IP network protocol used on the Internet today. Robert Kahn and Vint Cert are well-recognized as "Fathers of the Internet"; however, it seems to me that Paul Baran and Donald Davies preceded Robert Kahn and Vint Cert. [Just an observation]. Both Kahn and Cerf were awarded the Japan Prize along with numerous other awards that Baran and Davies never received.

Comments on dates, citation wording and "random access" -- Bberg (talk) 21:47, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

Title Text and Title Dates comments: The citation reads "In June 1971, ..." but that there is no mention of the development prior to June 1971. This is fine, but the words "Development and Demonstration of " and the "1968-" portion of the date should therefore be removed.

Citation Wording comments: The second sentence is an incomplete sentence, and "first demonstration" implies it had never been shown to be workable anyplace - but of course this would have been tested in a lab or similarly. This should be rephrased to show that it was the first such system put into operation for public (or perhaps just collegiate) use, and perhaps this would be best done by integrating a portion of this second sentence into the last part of the first sentence. Also, the term "random access protocols" begs for an explanation in the citation. Has anyone attempted a terse but at least somewhat documentary description of this term? It is foundational to the Milestone, but this leaves some people scratching their head about this term without a bit more info.

Michael Polis - Comments -- Polismpp (talk) 19:17, 7 March 2020 (UTC)

I approve this proposal as is.