“So Ugly It’s Beautiful” – The First Internet Router

During the fall of 1969, the foundation of modern Internet communication technology was quietly assembled by computer science students at UCLA and Stanford. At the time, engineers were working to interconnect computers at each campus via a phone line. To make the connection, a gateway device was required to facilitate the traffic between each campus’ systems. That device was know as an Interface Message Processor (IMP). IMPs later evolved into complex data traffic cops know as routers. Today, routers form the core Internet backbone and govern the flow of data between all Internet connected computers.

UCLA recently published a few short video clips detailing early Internet gateways and the first Internet connections. Embedded below is packet switching expert and Internet pioneer, Leonard Kleinrock, showing off UCLA’s first IMP. Dr. Kleinrock wonderfully exclaims that the IMP is “So ugly it’s beautiful.” A jumble of wires and steel, the first IMP clearly put function ahead of fashion: