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U celebrates ARPANET's 50th anniversary with a look at our past, future 

Todd Green of the U's School of Computing created this light-up display featuring the four nodes of ARPANET for the 50th anniversary celebration.

Todd Green of the U's School of Computing created this light-up display featuring the four nodes of ARPANET for the 50th anniversary celebration. Click on the image to see the lights in action.

By Larrisa Beth Turner

As the world celebrates so many milestones this year — the 50th anniversaries of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, Woodstock, and debut of “Sesame Street,” to name a few — one could argue one historic event holds more global significance over the others, although it’s perhaps less known.

In 1969, four universities — including the University of Utah — worked with the U.S. government to develop the first long-distance computer network. Called ARPANET, the project was a precursor to the internet, which is used by billions of people each day.

To celebrate the ARPANET project, the School of Computing on October 7 held a 50th anniversary celebration at the Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Building. Guest speakers included Banjo founder and CEO Damien Patton, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and School of Computing associate professor and POWDER Wireless project leader Dr. Kobus Van der Merwe.

U President Ruth Watkins, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dan Reed, College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown, and School of Computing Chair Ross Whitaker gave welcoming remarks.

Reed, whose research and scholarship has been focused in computing, called the people who drove the early technology behind ARPANET visionaries, adding that they took a leap of faith about what could be possible with the resources they had.

“One thing I want you to walk away from here thinking about ..." Reed said, "is the thing that always drives change are culture and people of vision. There is no substitute for those."

To read more about the event and the history of ARPANET, please see this College of Engineering article.

Last Updated: 10/30/19