The ostensible topic of this next Computer Chronicles episode is databases. But what we’re really talking about here are early online information systems–that is, the precursor to the modern Internet. This was a time (1984) when just getting online was a chore. First, you needed a personal computer with a separate modem peripheral connected to a telephone line. Then you needed a subscription to an online service. The service itself charged you by the minute or hour for access–and that was on top of any long-distance phone charges you might incur if the service did not have a local number.
Today, we think of networking as synonymous with the Internet–a global interconnected network that encompasses not just computers but also millions of “smart” devices. But in this episode of The Computer Chronicles from late 1983, the focus was on local area networking or LANs. Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall talked with representatives from two companies that were at the forefront of developing the still-emerging standards for computer networking. Cheifet opened by asking Kildall to define a local area network.