Timeline: The 1970s1970
- In early January, requests for hardware bids had been sent to 13 manufacturers. By the April meeting, Herzog reported
that none of the vendors' responses to MERIT's solicitation ideally suited MERIT's needs, nor did they capitalize sufficiently
on the technical skills already available at the three MERIT universities. Herzog then announced a major new plan, to purchase
three minicomputers and negotiate a contract with a commercial hardware vendor to build special interfaces to the universities'
mainframes. The vendor would be given a choice between a DEC PDP-11 or an Interdata computer. Cost for hardware, installation,
and testing was expected to be $300,000.
- In June, Applied Dynamics Division of Reliance Electric in Saline, Michigan, is contracted to build the communications
computer systems. Each would consist of a DEC PDP-11 computer, dataphone interfaces, and host interfaces. The cost was to be
slightly less than the $300,000 originally budgeted.
- Hardware delivery finally got under way in March, coinciding with the University of Michigan Computing Center's move to
its new headquarters and MERIT's subsequent move into the Center's old offices in the North University Building.
- In June, Herzog forms the MERIT Director's Advisory Committee, which includes the three universities' computing center
directors, the three network Associate Directors, Aupperle, and Herzog.
- On June 24 MERIT moves into its new headquarters in offices overlooking the loading docks in the North University Building.
- On July 8 a test communication is done between the PPD-11s at the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
- On October 26, Aupperle and his staff signed on to the University of Michigan host computer, connected through it to the
PDP-11 communications computer, and through the PDP-11 reconnected with the host computer. Though this test did not actually use the network in the sense that it connected two different hosts, it did show that the interface between one communications
computer and a host worked.
- November 16, University of Michigan to Wayne State establish a host-to-host connection during a test.
- A public demonstration came at 12:20 a.m. on December 14, 1971, when someone at the University of Michigan used the network
to sign on to the IBM computer at Wayne State University and run a computer graphics program. The program computed the points of a
parabolic curve inside a triangle displayed by the University of Michigan computer. As the user changed the angles of the triangle,
the program at Wayne State computed the points of the new curve and displayed it inside the changed triangle. A university news
release prepared before the actual demonstration called the connection "a milestone in higher education" and an "historic event.
- At the January MICIS meeting, Herzog reports that MERIT would be out of funds by June 30 if the legislature did not vote new
funds by then. MERIT had not received any funding since the release of the original state money two years previously.
- By April, network service between the University of Michigan and Wayne State was almost daily, though limited to afternoons.
This service became available on a nearly continual basis after July 1. From July through September, there were a total of 1543
successful connections, transmitting over 16 million characters of data.
- At the end of June, Herzog closed the books on the original $800,000 that MERIT had received from the state and NSF.
In July, MERIT went on a no-funding budget while it waited for the legislature to act. The network survived with help from
the universities, which had agreed to support MERIT if there were absolutely no state or federal support. The state legislature
finally granted MERIT an additional $200,000 in the summer of 1972, though the money was still not available by early August.
Merit had survived with no new funds from July 1971 until this aid became available. Though a request had already been
submitted for the next fiscal year, the 1972 aid proved to be the last the state would give.
- In September, an agreement was officially accepted that allowed each host to charge local customers for all services,
including services received through the network from another host, at rates set locally. At the same time, each host
computing center could charge each other host computing center at its own rates for services flowing to that host. The
agreement allowed for cash settlements of deficits, though in practice these deficits were forgiven in the early years
of the network. The agreement was officially accepted in September 1972.
- On October 2, 1972, the Michigan State node was tested and the network was complete. It came just in time for the
EDUCOM conference October 11-13, which was held in Ann Arbor at MICIS' instigation. That conference included continuous,
online demonstrations for the network, as well as presentations by Herzog and Aupperle.
- Official dedication for the network happens on May 15, 1973, in the Centennial Room of the Kellogg Center on the
Michigan State campus. The network was "presented" by William Copeland, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and
Dr. Thomas Owen, Assistant Director of NSF. Allan Smith "accepted" the network. The main speech was given by Owen, who
called MERIT " . . . an outstanding achievement in developing an integrated linkage of computer centers and, as such,
a prototype of future networks."
- Sue Coleman joins MERIT as the network's first technical support consultant.
- Herzog steps down from his post as MERIT's director to return to teaching in the University of Michigan Industrial
Engineering Department. Aupperle is appointed as director by MERIT's Board of Directors. Soon after, Lawrence Von Tersch
(MSU) and Charles Overberger (UM) join the Board after Muelder and Smith resign.
- Christine Wendt succeeds Coleman as technical support consultant. Wendt writes a "how-to" manual for the new HERMES
service. Later, Wendt will lead a growing support staff as network usage grows.
- Work on dial-in internetworking system starts.
- In the fall, MERIT interconnects with Telenet, an early spin-off of the ARPANET, to provide MERIT users dial-in access
from locations around the United States. Telenet would later connect with networks in other countries to provide international
- Western Michigan University becomes the fourth member of Merit, expanding the network beyond the triad of the three
charter universities. This presents a new technological challenge for Merit. Robert Husak and the Merit staff develop new
hardware interfaces for the Digital PDP-11 based on printed circuit technology. The new system is known as Primary
Communications Processor (PCP), with the earliest PCP's being located at WMU and U-M's Electrical Engineering Department.
Timeline Continued:Back to Merit History Section.