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Network Information Center (NIC)

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Introduction

The Network Information Center (NIC) was created in the early 1970's to manage the information resources of ARPANET. The NIC assigned hostnames on ARPANET, and assigned IP addresses to local networks which wanted to connect to the Internet in the 1980's. The Network Information Center (NIC) was in operation from the early 1970's to the late 1980's, and was primarily managed by Elizabeth J. "Jake" Feinler (1972-1989).

The Network Information Center (NIC) was renamed to the Defense Data Network (DDN-NIC) in 1984. When the NIC was created, the only operational wide area network was ARPANET; by the 1980's, ARPANET inspired the creation of more networks, and these networks interconnect to form the Internet. Therefore, the NIC evolved to manage more resoruces, such as: top level domains within the Domain Name System (DNS).

The Network Information Center (NIC) was one the first 'authority' of ARPANET, and was located at the Augmentation Research Center (SRI). The Augmentation Research Center was a research laboratory located at the Stanford Research Institute, and was founded by Douglas Carl Engelbart. The Stanford Research Institute was located in Menlo Park, California, United States of America. The NIC could be contacted using the following email addresses:

  1. ACTION@NIC.DDN.MIL
  2. HOSTMASTER@NIC.DDN.MIL
  3. NIC@NIC.DDN.MIL
  4. REGISTRAR@NIC.DDN.MIL
  5. SUGGESTIONS@NIC.DDN.MIL

History

ARPANET was a computer network that was a forerunner to the Internet. The technical architecture created for ARPANET would evolve and eventually become the Internet. ARPANET was the first computer network in the United States to use packet switching, and each device that connected to ARPANET was assigned a numerical address. The problem with numerical addresses is that they are difficult for humans to remember. Therefore, a system of assigning hostnames - alphabetical names - to the host computers of ARPANET was developed.

The process of assigning hostnames to host computers needed to be managed. The Network Information Center (NIC) was created to handle the process of assigning hostnames and publishing/distributing a list of hostnames. The list of hostnames was included in a file named: HOSTS.TXT; which was downloaded from the Network Information Center (NIC). The structure of the HOSTS.TXT was defined in 1974, and was devised by: S.Crocker, J.Postel, J.Reynolds, E.Feinler, amongst others.

The problem with this system was that each host computer had to manually download and install the HOSTS.TXT file onto their system. This manual process was time consuming, and it became difficult for network managers to keep the HOSTS.TXT file up-to-date as more and more nodes were connected to ARPANET. Eventually, the Domain Name System (DNS) was created (1984) to solve this issue, and the DNS became a central location for storing Internet names and resolving naming issues. Postel had joined the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) in 1977, and, alongside Reynolds, created IANA. Postel inspired the creation of the Domain Name System (DNS), and administrated it through his leadership of IANA. NIC would administer the top level domains of the DNS.

The centralised NIC/IANA arrangement of managing the Domain Name System (DNS) was changed on the recommendation of the Internet Activities Board (IAB) in 1990. Control of the top level domains would no longer be managed by NIC.