Monday, June 12, 2006

The History of the Internet in Kuwait

I came across a document which describes the early history of the Internet in Kuwait, so I thought of sharing it with you



The History of the Internet in Kuwait

Prelude
The information technology (IT) revolution started during the last two decades of the 20th century. This revolution excelled to higher levels and led to rapid changes in many fields as a result, at an overwhelming speed. This revolution would not have happened if rapid development in two major areas had not occurred. These two areas are the hardware field and the software field. Yet there is another area of development that is often dismissed. It is the development in the computer networking and communication.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the IT and network development is the flourishing of the Internet and the development of the World Wide Web in the nineties of the same century, although the Internet itself, is the product of the cold war.

Much information is available about the history and the development of the Internet; and how it reached its status today. However, little can be found about the growing of the Internet in individual countries other than the United States of America unfortunately Kuwait is no exception.

As part of a class project, the students of Kuwait University’s graduate class of Library and Information Science (LIS 545) are investigating the history of the Internet in the State of Kuwait. A class member met with Prof. Malek Ghuloum Hussain, a Kuwait University faculty member, the former Director of the Kuwait University Computer Services Center (KUCS), and the person behind establishing the first Internet services in Kuwait and the Middle East.

The interview was held at Prof. Hussain’s office at the Department of Electrical Engineering – Kuwait University, March 31st 2003, at 9:00 AM. The following is his contribution to the project:

A Tale of the Past
Prior to 1990, Kuwait University was connected to a network that was known as BITNET. This connection was being provided by International Business Machine (IBM) of Kuwait then the connection was to be extended to the global BITNET through IBM Bahrain. The usage of this network was confined to electronic mail (e-mail) and some other minor services.

In December 1991, Prof. Hussain was appointed the Assistant Vice President for Research and the Director of the Kuwait University Computer Services Center (KUCS). KUCS at that time needed full rebuilding due to the destruction of the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

The Internet Coming into the Picture
Prior to the invasion of the State of Kuwait by the Iraqi forces, Prof. Hussain had worked at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. He held the deanship of Professional and Technology Programs as well as the Director of the Computer Center of the university. Part of the position responsibility was to attain funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the body that was in charge of the Internet at that time.

At Kuwait University, after the Iraqi invasion, the Computer Center at the university needed a great effort of rebuilding. The rebuilding included setting a comprehensive and effective Information technology strategy for the computation services at the university to be provided by the center. Such strategy should be global for the university as a whole, not limited to certain services and definitely not limited to certain location or users. The Bottom line was that Kuwait University needed a strategy for every possible service to all its campuses and users; Administration, students, and academic staff.

Part of this strategy was to make information resources and services from other institutes around the world available to the academic community at Kuwait University. The main information providing facilities were the university’s libraries. Unfortunately, they were totally destroyed and needed a great time and resources to be rebuilt. So the one available solution was to get connected to other information resources of other academic and research institutions. The Internet was the most convenient and only possible mean available at that time to achieve this task.

Connecting Things Together
Kuwait University's IT strategy was to connect all the university campuses together. A dicision was made to facilitate the puclic data network of Kuwait's Ministry of Communications (MOC). This task was done in cooperation with the ministry's contractor at the time - SPRINT.

Through SPRINT in Kuwait, a meeting was set for Prof. Hussain with SPRINT in the US to discuss the Internet connectivity issues. Next, another and most important meeting was arranged with the NSF. The University put a strong case that Kuwait University lost most of its information resources due to the Iraqi invasion and was in desperate need of other available resources. The Internet was the only available mechanism that enabled the university to reach for these resources.

At late 1992, the National Science Foundation agreed to extend the Internet services to Kuwait at a time it was only available to US institutions and some selected institutions overseas. The agreement granted Kuwait University a full grade “A” extension (no limitation) to the university’s premises free of charge for two years.

Bumps on the Road
The project did not have serious obstacles that halted its advancement. On the contrary, the negotiation went very smooth. The problems were at the university. The Internet needed Local Area Networks LANs) to be connected with other LANs on the other side. Without LAN, it was nearly impossible to use the Internet. So part of Kuwait University efforts to rebuild the Computer Center was the establishment of 14 LANs around the university’s campuses. Furthermore, the second obstacle was the availability of experienced and trained staff. The university recruited around 120 staff from all over the world.

Not to forget that the available basic data networks (primitive) that did not handle large volume of transferred data did not help at all.

Team Work
While it was reorganizing itself within the set strategy, the Computer Center divided itself into 3 working groups. These groups are the technical group, the academic group, and the information systems group. The team work of the technical and academic groups, headed by the director of the Computer Center were the force behind making the Internet available and working at Kuwait University. By early 1993, the Internet and its services were available and operation at the university, thus in Kuwait. And it was during this year, which NFS handed over the responsibility of the Internet operation to the private sector in the United States. Meanwhile, all around the world, more organizations became connected to the Internet. The same happened in Kuwait, the operation of the Internet was fully transferred to the private sector, and the Internet started to flourish.


Acknowledgment
The above was prepared from an interview with Prof. Malek Ghuloum. Hussain, the former Vice President for Academic Support Services and Director of Kuwait University Computer Services Center (KUCS). Prof. Hussain was the force and probably the sole person behind the initial and later efforts for bringing the Internet services to Kuwait University, Kuwait and the whole region. He has our thanks and gratitude of many if not all Internet users in Kuwait.


12 Comments:

Blogger nibaq said...

Boy do I feel old. I remember those days. I been online since 1993.

10:56 AM  
Blogger esetch said...

nibaq welcome to my blog

Yes it is that far, wow.
This post is all about remmebering those days, Netscape Navigator with the big N flashing.

I feel very old.

11:33 AM  
Blogger لمياء الحالمة said...

Well, I'm not old, but I like to read the history

did anyone of you, ever used Mozaic browser?

do you people remeber GOPHER ?

the name came after a dog, i guess, which stand for Go - For

:)

12:27 PM  
Blogger esetch said...

Lamiaa

I did use mozaic, also lynx, IE3 (yuck)

How about Archie and Veronica or WAIS

OMG, this is old history

GOPHER was the creation of the University of Minnesota developed as a tool to search for information on the Net before the days of Google and even the web

The developers named it after the University mascot, the Golden Gopher,. Yet its so ironic that it could also interpreted as Go For.

1:23 PM  
Blogger لمياء الحالمة said...

esetch

Lynx is still used in some Linux distros (the old ones) since everyone is switching to Firefox

Have you heared about "Power Browser" which was developed by Oracle, but it was a complete failure, they had to get rid of it quickly, only few people knew about it

It started in the 90s,they were trying hard to beat other database companies, CA, IBM, and Sybase (which is now under CA's ambrella) , by porting thier products into ALL known platforms

and they failed too

did I talke too much?

:(

1:54 PM  
Blogger q80_demon said...

Anyone here remembers the prehistoric days of Compuserve, BBS, BIX and, ... now what was that service introduced by Sears and IBM, oh yes: Prodigy?

Has anyone tried to hookup an Apple ][ to a phone handset using an acoustically coupled modem operating at 300bps - which was never attainable? I still have the computer - and if I look around even the coupler - somewhere around and maybe I should send them to a museum? :-/

Boy how AOL on the Macintosh changed all that, years before the internet became popular!

7:02 PM  
Blogger لمياء الحالمة said...

q80 demon

telephone coupler ?

the first time I saw one of those was in a movie called "war Games"

Did anyone of you guys had a Commodore 64 ?

9:40 AM  
Blogger q80_demon said...

Lamiaa,

I remember that movie and the IMSAI computer it featured. Too bad I never had one of those, although I had a little exposure to CP/M :-((

I worked on the Apple ][ (my favorite and its still working), various flavors of Radio Shack TRS-80, Atari 400/800, a couple of Sinclairs and the Commodore PET 2001/ Commodore VIC-20 before coming across the Commodore 64.

5:35 PM  
Blogger لمياء الحالمة said...

q80 demon

My uncle used to have a VIC-20, I still remember it with it's cassette recorder/player, which was VERY slow, and it's built-in BASIC interpreter

do you still remember: PEEK and POKE ?

those were my favorite instructions to get/put data in/out of the memory

:)

I've never had a chance to play with an Apple computer, I mean a REAL one, but i do have Mac emulators running on my PC

I guess, you've heard about Basillisk emulator

or the new open source one, which emulates PowerPC, it's called PearPC, it's great, but a little bit slow

9:23 AM  
Blogger forzaq8 said...

i hate posts like this :P

it make me feel OLD :(

1:02 PM  
Blogger esetch said...

Forza

A small reminder like this between now and then is a healthy thing

2:14 PM  
Blogger لمياء الحالمة said...

Forzaq8

I'm not old, but I really do like these topics and posts

usually I'm not interested in history, except when it comes to computers, then i find it interesting


esetch

Great post, thank you

2:25 PM  

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