Greetings from the founder

Jun Murai, Ph.D.
Jun Murai, Ph.D. Founder

Greetings from the founder

WIDE Project Fiscal 2018

Around the time WIDE Project started up, developing the groundwork for transferring IP data was a very interesting area to be involved in. With 4.2BSD, we had an OS that included the TCP/IP protocol stack. The network interface code provided here only supported some Ethernet boards, and this meant that IP networks could only be used in a LAN configuration. Development of the other supporting code made it possible for TCP/IP networks to work as WANs. The first fun we had was with technologies like the SLIP (Serial Line IP) protocol, a way of transmitting IP packets over a serial line. If you had both a telephone line and a modem, you could send and receive IP transmissions (although it was slow and unstable). This was the environment in which we studied and verified almost all other protocols, such as routing protocols. Mr,Shinoda and Mr,Kato were at the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Department of Computer Science at the time. They tied up the internal extension phone line to connect to a computer where I was at the University of Tokyo’s large-scale computing center (now the Information Technology Center), and we worked day and night to test network-to-network connections involving multiple machines. Through this experience, I think we came to understand every single line of TCP/IP code written by UC Berkeley. This is why we had the capabilities we did when we started WIDE Project.

We wanted to use IP on anything that could be used to transmit digital data, and X.25 packet switching equipment and contracts for remote connections to mainframes were our next target. X.25 is a packet switching service, and we were also engaged in research and development aimed at improving performance by using several calls simultaneously. As with JUNET, which was developed using phone lines that were essentially free—modem-based phone lines, support from the Musashino R&D Center, etc.—we were also running into the problem of the cost of packet charges when it came to mainframe access. As with JUNET, WIDE Internet initially started getting underway once universities began building it into their communications budgets.

Eventually, plans for connecting universities and organizations via dedicated lines came together, and when the costs of doing this were calculated, we found that it would be around 50 million yen a year. The initial 10 companies were asked to share this cost, and this marked the official beginning of WIDE Project as a joint research consortium. Thanks to the support of everyone involved, WIDE-based IP connectivity was off to a smooth start in Japan.

While I was at the University of Tokyo, the Center for Science Information approached me to consult on the prospect of adding email to a terminal connection between Japan and the United States based on a dedicated 9.6Kbps line. At first, we discussed dividing up the 9.6Kbps to use 4.8Kbps for the terminal and 4.8Kbps for email. In our earlier experiments, such as those with SLIP, we had already experiencing how pitiful a 4.8Kbps IP connection was. I therefore proposed that the dedicated 9.6Kbps line be operated as an X.25 packet switching network, and that both the terminal and IP use X.25, and preparations subsequently got underway. This made it possible to use the IP protocol for almost everything aside from a small portion of the terminal traffic. The terminal was to be installed in a room at the NSF in Washington, D.C. When I arrived at Haneda Airport with a Sun Workstation that had been named Mt. Fuji, ready to board my flight for Washington, D.C., with the goal of setting up the 9.6Kbps IP over X.25 connection, I was greeted by special newspaper editions announcing that the emperor had passed away. It was January 7, 1989.

We mark the 30th and, as it turns out, last year of the Heisei period in 2019. The various retrospectives on the Heisei period appearing in the media give quite a bit of attention to the internet. Indeed, looking back over the last 30 years, the spread of the internet has certainly been one of the most impactful phenomena for Japanese society, and the internet has certainly brought about transformative changes across industry, the economy, and everyday life.

Since its inception, WIDE Project has continued to grow and develop, producing a whole range of achievements and talented individuals. These successes are the product of collaboration between WIDE Project members engaged in research and development and the sponsors who have provided extensive and ongoing support. I would like to reiterate my sincere gratitude for all of these people. And I look forward to working together to create the future foundations of digital technology and the internet, which have become the most important aspects of our social infrastructure.

Jun Murai
March 2019