SA internet turns 28 today!

November 12th, 2019, Published in Articles: EngineerIT, Featured: EngineerIT

Mike Lawrie, the father of South Africa’s internet

As of today (12 November 2019) it is 28 years ago that Mike Lawrie led the Rhodes University team that established the very first South African internet networking system. While SA’s first internet protocol (IP) address was established in 1988, it was on 12 November 1991 that the first local IP connection was made.

“Mike Lawrie and his colleagues have provided South Africa with a phenomenal foundation that we now have the responsibility of fine-tuning for 2020 and beyond,” said Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZA Central Registry (ZACR) NPC.

Rhodes University was the first university in South Africa to install a computer. It was an ICT 1301 installed in November 1965. It had a core memory, drum storage and punched cards, but they were unusual in that they were based on decimal logic instead of binary. Under the direction of Make Lurie, often referred to as the father of the internet in South Africa, work continued to link computers at various universities and to the rest of the world. The first leased line to the USA, between Rhodes and the home of Randy Bush in Portland, Oregon was driven by Penril modems at 14,4 kbps with 386 PCs at either end. The software that performed the routing function was developed by Phil Karn, a radio amateur with the callsign KA9Q. The code became know as the KA9Q routing software. The link was established in November 1991.

Today ZACR is responsible for the technical and administrative wellbeing of the entire South African presence on the worldwide web. The non-profit today administers some 1,25-million domain names within the .za namespace which include South Africa’s flagship co.za domain which this morning amounted to 1 213 332 registered names, 95,3% of all .za domains.

“Without the dedication of SA’s early internet pioneers, millions of South Africans would today not have access to worldwide web. This global web of information enables so many of us to earn incomes, pursue educational and entertainment opportunities, and connect with each other,” says Masilela.

ZACR, for its part, has supported the growth and development of the local web by investing in the tools necessary for the efficient registering and management of the domain names that enable Internet navigation. The launch of the AF Proxy domain name registration platform is just one example of ZACR innovation aimed at supporting the SA and African domain name industry.

ZACR is Africa’s best performing registry operator and a previous winner of the Best African Registry category awarded by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The ZACR was furthermore one of the first registry operators in the world to implement a Mark Validation System for protecting Intellectual Property Rights within its domain name system.

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