How the Queen of England Beat Everyone to the Internet


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The Queen of England was posted online by PETER KIRSTEIN. In 1976.

If the year is not immediately apparent from the computer terminal she is using or from her clothing, it can be found on the wall, to her left, printed on one of the placards announcing the launch of the ARPANET. That is Her Majesty in the picture above.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II’s mail account was set up by Peter Kirstein, who chose the username “HME2.” He recalls that she only needed to push a few keys to send her message.

The part played by Kirstein in the initial royal email was just proper. In 1973, he established a network node at the University of London, which is also the person who introduced the ARPANET to the United Kingdom. He oversaw Britain’s participation in ARPANET during the 1970s and into the 1980s, helping to move this extensive research network to the crucial TCP/IP protocols that gave rise to the modern internet.

Kirstein was honored into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society (ISOC) in April in honor of his tenacious pursuit of internetworking in Great Britain, if not his astute selection of royal usernames. He was a member of the hall’s inaugural class, together with people like Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, and Tim Berners-Lee.

Kirstein was raised in the UK. At Cambridge and the University of London, he pursued mathematical and engineering studies. He worked as a researcher for General Electric in Zurich, Switzerland, after earning his PhD. But he also spent a lot of time studying in the United States, at Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

He had relationships with several other researchers who had recently spread the ARPANET across various U.S. research operations, including Larry Roberts, the man who originally designed the thing for the U.S., by the time the 1970s came around and he settled into professorship at the University of London. In the 1960s, at UCLA, he had met Vint Cerf, who would one day help create the TCP/IP protocols.

Digital communication underwent a revolution. But everything was routine to the Queen. She even claimed to have earned some serious hacker cred with the first message she ever sent via the ARPANET in 1976. The topic of her missive was Coral 66, a computer language created by the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, which is also listed on the wall to her left.

“This message to all ARPANET users announces the availability on ARPANET of the Coral 66 compiler provided by the GEC 4080 computer at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, Malvern, England,” the message read. “Coral 66 is the standard real-time high level language adopted by the Ministry of Defence.”


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