BBC Internet Services - History

OK, time for the history lesson, are you all sitting comfortably?

In Jan 89 I registered with the DDN NIC and got a Class B address for the whole BBC on the pretext of linking all BBC sites into one network and then the Internet (but a dream then) it seemed a good idea rather than make up addresses as lots used to do).

I started Internet access as bbc.uucp, mid 89, before but a wealthy few and universities had permanent connections. Our dial UUCP access was via Brunel University as the only sellor of connections in the UK at that time - UKnet (an alias for Kent University)- wouldn't sell us a connection as we weren't able to let other sites dial us for their connection (the net at that time was mostly a coopertive you dial us we'll dial you affair).

At that time just Development group had access to the net. Later we put a link into Kingswood and fed the then Research Department (jul 92).

In Oct 90 UKnet upgraded the UK link to Amsterdam (the link to the rest of the net from 9600 to 64K, we upgraded our modem from 1200 to 2400 (everything, USENET & mail included went across that). USENET was getting big as it grew to 10000+ nodes, worldwide.

Mid 91 EUnet decided to follow the Americans and join the DNS and the uk top level domain was created, adminstered by NRS (the academic Name Registration Service).

I registered bbc.co.uk with NRS, the UK academic naming body, in Oct 91. At that time we were TOLD by NRS that we should be registered in the UK (that was all they were prepared to let us do) and to prove I really represented the BBC and wasn't trying to spoof the domain the application form had be signed by a director of the company. In this case I had the form signed by Mr C. Dennay, Director of Engineering at the time. I still have a copy of that.

JANET started an experimental TCP/IP network alongside/overlaying their X25 network, that and Specialix getting a leased line to UKnet made the first links of the Internet in the UK.

They soon started to sell leased line access, charging 20K plus BT charges for 64K. At that price I still couldn't get enough money out of various departments to put in a leased line connection. They were still charging for international mail at 7.5p per kilobyte and gave billing down to every user who sent mail (there were few enough for that to be possible). No 10Mbyte screen savers were mailed around :-)

In mid 92 Pipex were getting started and offered leased line access at a more reasonable 10K per annum (they had a _big_ 64K line to the States and another to JANET so it was looking good). I still couldn't get the money but by Jan 93 we were getting close, I managed to get Pipex accepted as a viable alternative (there was suspicion about how they could be half the price of UKnet) as they went from zero to fifty customers in that 6 months. We got the 64K leased line.

Then it grew...

1994
        Apr  - approx www.bbc.co.uk started, mostly regional IT playing
               along with us, some studio info up (Aberdeen did
               a guide to their site), some OUPC stuff.

        Jun  - BBC Networking Club started and hoovered those we'd
               been coaxing to provide content

        Sep  - our first E Commerce service. Caversham delivered their
               trascription service via our ftp server, at it's peak
               (they got their own line as they had so much fun they
               wanted to play themselves) had 122 accounts (including loads
               of FBI bureaus around the world) taking daily updates from
               a selection of 12 feeds.

1995
        Feb  - Westminster Online web site for Live TV programme,
               was first to allow on air feedback - IRC chat, email

               also had Caversham and Aberdeen web sites

        Sep  - first foreign language site - Hungarian

        Oct  - UUNET upgrade to 2M

               Radio3 Facing the Radio - live programme on R3 & real audio
               with our 1st studio web cam (pushed images). Programme
               was made up of audience supplied content - they left
               stuff over previous weeks on our ftp server (audio, midi
               etc)

1996
        Jan  - Andrew Neil show (sucessor to Westonline), 1st Real Audio,
               same idea but the programme sound was broadcast on the net

        Jun  - Radio 1 site launches, a technical disaster. The next day
               we unraveled it from the entirely dynamic database
               driven system (the bit that kept falling over) and made
               them a static site.

               Radio1 also started streaming, built stream server in
               THDO on VBCnet link, unusual in that they let us use 2M
               but provided it on a 10M carrier so we could
               burst/upgrade as needed. Went on to do 30+ live
               programmes per week (around 80 hours) all plyed on
               demand until next live tx. Lots of OB's - New Years ever
               parties, Glastonbury, had ticker fed by RDS saying who
               is on air

        Aug  - party conferences site with audio (feed from conferences,
               wall to wall coverage, no programme breaks unlike on air)

        Nov  - Budget, demonstrated huge growth potential of events

1997    gets busy -
        Mar  - given 4 weeks to build THNY mirror site and upgrade THDO
               for election. Only funding is for ISP b/w, machines mostly
               scrounged.
             - Started by upgrading THDO site (to 10M on 100M bearer)

        Apr  - 3 weeks later installed NY site (10M on 45M bearer)

        May  - 2nd election, biggest site ever (volume and size - approx
               8000 pages built automatically from a 3 day CPS built in
               Oracle that turned live Ceefax and Election system feeds
               into html for each constituency and candidate)

               follow on politics97 site, News felt the pressure to do
               something as CNN & co were doing well. For lack of
               another other readily available content and their only
               people with experience were from the Election &
               Political sites they did this to keep things going
               whilst they had another team work on a full news site.

        Jun  - Hong Hong handover, our first live Real Video stream
             - another budget, bigger every time
               start of lots of meeting to determine BOL/News server
               infrastructure, no agreement

        Aug  - Diana died, called out to set up coverage, organised
               multi ISP cooperative webcast of funeral the following
               weekend. News realise it's big and have to do something
               about a site soon (had been dithering for 18 months this
               demonstrated need & got management backing)

        Sep  - more party conferences, video too
             - after months of meetings agreed to only option is to
               give us money to Sort out new servers/ISP upgrades for
               BOL/perhaps News but have to be live for mid Oct

        Oct  - Built net access service mirror at Telehouse Livepool St
               Upgraded THDO (to 100M) & THNY (to 30M) and new servers

        Nov  - after extra delays News launch and then BOL (though
               they weren't ready so made it a soft launch)

        Dec  - BOL really launch
               Streamed Queen's broadcast live

1998
        more events (Glastonbury, Cricket, Golf) but BOL mostly
        stagnate and fail to launch any significant sites. Also
        dabble determining their own technology only to eventually
        come back to where we started them (some got more public
        before failing, like forums)

        Apr  - 24x7 Arabic stream for World Service in case war breaks out
               again. Ended up leaving it on forever, though no war, as
               too popular

        Jul  - THLS added PSI 4M circuit

        Nov  - News UUNET infrastructure not performing, asked to build
               NY mirror to our plan.

1999
        Jan  - UUNET upgrade to 8M
             - World Service GDS sat feed into KW for more stream feeds

        Mar  - additional 4 tie lines to Bush House for additional
               language streams