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Video clip synopsis – Trevor Barr compares the complex and slow access to the Internet in the 1960s to today's high speed broadband service.
Year of production - 2004
Duration - 1min 5sec
Tags - design, emerging technologies, innovation, technology, technology and society, telecommunications, see all tags


Australia dials up

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About the Video Clip


This interview with Trevor Barr was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Trevor Barr is an author, professor and the Director of the Creative Industries Research & Applications Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


This Module can be used to achieve some of the outcomes of the NSW Information and Software Technology Years 7–10 syllabus; specifically the following outcomes:
5.4.1: A student analyses the effects of past, current and emerging information and software technologies on the individual and society.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Communicating between devices is nothing new. The telegraph offered coded messaging from the 1840s, and telephones were introduced in the 1870s. Computer-to-computer communication was anticipated in the 1940s, when the first computers were built, but back then only science fiction dreamed of girdling the Earth with a network of computer links. Thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries had understood the importance of the press to society and had named it the Fourth Estate, after the other three Estates of the nobility, the clergy, and the middle class. Little did they know that the 21st century would see the emergence of an equally important Fifth Estate – the Internet and World Wide Web.

Australia Dials Up
In the early 1970s, two massive Unix-based mainframe computers in Melbourne and Wollongong – each the size of a room – exchanged files using a telephone dial-up line. Computer scientists had briefly established Australia’s first 'online’ connection. (Clarke Origins and Nature)

Soon after, computer science departments at the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne established the successful Australian Computer Science Network (ACSNet), which provided network connections between computer science departments at Australian universities from the mid-1970s. ACSNet used telephone lines to exchange files and transmit messages (emails) between computers. By the early 1980s a permanent Australian email connection was established to ARPANet in the United States.

Gradually, other university departments began to make use of ACSNet, starting with the engineers and other scientists. From this expanding network of university computers, the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) was born in 1989.

Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss and research the meanings of the following words: ARPANet, ACSNet, hacker, internet, modem, network, telecommunications, TCP/IP, topology, Unix, Usenet.
  2. The website An Atlas of Cyberspaces documents a range of the historical maps of ARPANet, the Internet, Usenet and other computer networks, tracing how these pioneering networks grew and developed. As with any large-scale project, it is important to map network growth over time, especially if the functionality and complexity of the project increases significantly. Similarly, most school computer networks have grown in functionality and in size.
    1. Arrange for your class to interview a staff member who was working at the school when computers were initially introduced into your school. From their answers develop a map of that network as well as listing the users and activities undertaken on that network.
    2. Create a map of the current computer network at your school and list the users and activities undertaken by that network.
    3. Compare and discuss the two maps.
  3. The Internet has had a significant impact on our society.
    1. List five activities that you use the Internet for.
    2. Interview your grandparents or at least someone who was your age in the early 1970s. Ask them how they undertook similar activities back then.
    3. Compare and discuss the differences.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

An Atlas of Cyberspaces – Historical Maps of Computer Networks

Computer History Museum

DARPA Mission Statement

DARPA Over the Years

RT Griffiths, The History of the Internet (Chapter Two: From ARPANET to World Wide Web.)

ARPANET from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia