Local Area Networks
In 1983 Computing was still dominated by the mainframe computer, the PC was only just becoming a reality, and software for these machines was as limited as the memory and other capabilities of the PCs themselves. Communication was in the form of “dumb” terminal access to the mainframe computers connected invariably by low speed serial line (RS232) over coaxial cables. With one cable per terminal, an ever-complex and ever-bulky star of coaxial cables spread out from the mainframe computer.
A new technology was emerging, that of the Local Area Network which enabled a large number of terminals and computers to share the same coaxial cable and to communicate at much higher speeds than with RS232.
The project gained strong involvement of academic staff in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. It obtained the services of Geoff Butlin on secondment from the University as Project Executive Officer. Its case study approach provided relevance and significant engineering analysis and design. It also fully exploited emerging technology in its operations. In other words, ‘it walked the talk’.
Within its first year of activity, The Warren Centre was thus ‘on the map’ in relation to the Faculty of Engineering and the University of Sydney. It also made its mark for the first time in the burgeoning information technology industry, through a strategy that was to be repeated in numerous other fields with continued growing success.
NEW KNOWLEDGE GUIDED DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
The new knowledge generated by the LAN project led to a wide range of outcomes, developments and implementations that impact to this day:
- It clearly enhanced the profile of data networking in both research and teaching within the University of Sydney
- The results of the case studies prompted significant change and investment within those organisations that offered themselves for the studies
- The Project Fellows considered the relationships that developed as well as the knowledge they acquired to be of long term value
- A Project Fellow from AWA credited the project with stimulating the development and subsequent commercialisation by his company of a new australian networking product, AWANET
- The presence in australia of the leading international networking expert Dr Limb had consequences which spread beyond the project team. For example, his seminar presentation in Perth stimulated the invention and subsequent international recognition of a new networking standard, DQDB. This standard was exploited commercially in Perth through a new company QPSX, which was eventually acquired by Telecom. Even today, the microelectronics and data community in Perth has many professionals who developed their skills within QPSX.