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How a single laptop or computer method science alum contributed to the improvement of the On line – Dal News


Mar 16, 2023

Dan MacKay (BCS’89) remembers New Year’s Day, 1983 effectively. He was in the Sculpture Court at the Dalhousie Arts Centre and about to make history by assisting bring Nova Scotia on the net for the initially time.

The usual ceremonial flourishes wouldn’t do for such a distinctive occasion. 

“We had our gear set up in the Sculpture Court, and the premier was there, and as an option of cutting a ribbon, I had him connect two pieces of ethernet with every single other — an old sort of ethernet referred to as 10base2,” recalls MacKay, who was a crucial player on the technical group that constructed the On line in Nova Scotia and across Canada. 

While the day the group officially connected Nova Scotia to the transcontinental network stands out as a highlight in MacKay’s thoughts, there had been several fascinating and complicated moments all through the project. 

“Every day there was a new challenge,” the Faculty of Laptop Science alum says. “We had been constructing and enhancing the speed of the on the net across Canada, and I got to speak to tech people at schools, libraries and organizations all across the province about fascinating new installations and improvements.”

MacKay also played a function in establishing the technological method that syncs time across just about every single clock, laptop or computer method and watch connected all extra than the planet. 

MacKay pictured in 1991 all through an On line hookup at Park View college in Bridgewater, N.S.

Every single factor was new

There’s no wonder MacKay was involved in constructing the on the net. From a young age, he was immersed in the planet of technologies thanks to his two older brothers, a single of whom graduated a member of the Class of ’75 with a degree in physics.

“By the time I was 5 years old, I had a residence physics, chemistry and engineering lab to play with,” says MacKay. “When I was just barely a teen, I got to try out programming on paper tape on the new Intel 8080 chip in my brother Michael’s lab.”

Establishing the On line in a time just ahead of it was broadly obtainable came with its individual set of challenges.

“Everything was new,” he says. “The seriously initially routers we started functioning with had been constructed in Burnside applying seriously experimental laptop or computer software program and had all kinds of seriously critical troubles that designed them unusable. The subsequent batch was from the USA but had laptop or computer software program constructed in Ontario which had by no implies been connected to the On line just ahead of. The tools we had for diagnosing troubles with the on the net had been seriously primitive — they nonetheless are — and so we got seriously fantastic at reading the nuances of what tools we had.”

When asked how the On line has changed contemplating the reality that these early days, he replies: “It would be a great deal much easier to document the components that haven’t changed! That is e-mail and the underlying protocol, TCP/IP.” 

MacKay says the biggest revolutions to the On line contemplating the reality that its inception are the improvement of the Planet Wide World-wide-web and advances in On line-wide search engines.

Advisable reading: Dal laptop or computer method science students hack their way to national competitors

A shifting sector 

This earlier January, MacKay held a celebration in the Goldberg Laptop Science Establishing to mark the 40th anniversary of bringing Canada on the net.

The occasion inspired MacKay to carry out on a project documenting the history of regional public, completely free of charge, subsidized, and egalitarian access to the On line by way of organizations like The Chebucto Neighborhood Net and C@P and a piece of laptop or computer software program referred to as C-Suite.

When asked about the future of the On line and its evolution, MacKay sees some important new shifts underway.

“That answer has changed drastically in the final couple of months, and it will continue to do so. It seems a excellent deal of our lives will be mediated by artificial intelligence which will differ from administration tasks to sophisticated well being-connected consultations.” 

While the On line continues to evolve, a single element is certain: MacKay’s contributions to the tech industry and connecting Nova Scotia to the on the net will frequently be remembered and celebrated.

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