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June 23, 1983: First Successful Test of the Domain Name System [Geek History]

Nearly 30 years ago the first Domain Name System (DNS) was tested and it changed the way we interacted with the internet. Nearly impossible to remember number addresses became easy to remember names.

Without DNS you’d be browsing a web where numbered addresses pointed to numbered addresses. Google, for example, would look like http://209.85.148.105/ in your browser window. That’s assuming, of course, that a numbers-based web every gained enough traction to be popular enough to spawn a search giant like Google. How did this shift occur and what did we have before DNS? From Wikipedia:

The practice of using a name as a simpler, more memorable abstraction of a host’s numerical address on a network dates back to the ARPANET era. Before the DNS was invented in 1983, each computer on the network retrieved a file called HOSTS.TXT from a computer at SRI. The HOSTS.TXT file mapped names to numerical addresses. A hosts file still exists on most modern operating systems by default and generally contains a mapping of the IP address 127.0.0.1 to “localhost”. Many operating systems use name resolution logic that allows the administrator to configure selection priorities for available name resolution methods.

The rapid growth of the network made a centrally maintained, hand-crafted HOSTS.TXT file unsustainable; it became necessary to implement a more scalable system capable of automatically disseminating the requisite information.

At the request of Jon Postel, Paul Mockapetris invented the Domain Name System in 1983 and wrote the first implementation. The original specifications were published by the Internet Engineering Task Force in RFC 882 and RFC 883, which were superseded in November 1987 by RFC 1034 and RFC 1035.Several additional Request for Comments have proposed various extensions to the core DNS protocols.

Over the years it has been refined but the core of the system is essentially the same. When you type “google.com” into your web browser a DNS server is used to resolve that host name to the IP address of 209.85.148.105–making the web human-friendly in the process.

Domain Name System History [Wikipedia via Wired]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/23/11

Comments (4)

  1. MJ

    So that was the origin of the Hosts file. Never knew that.

  2. jb

    Try Google.com from a country outside the US and you could get a different IP result. I’m in Canada and my browser is redirected to Google.ca which resolves to multiple IP’s — 74.125.226.51,74.125.226.49,74.125.226.50,74.125.226.48,74.125.226.52

  3. AbbaDabba

    The .txt has dropped off the HOSTS file and it is still very useful for blocking sites that populate all the ads on a webpage. By putting in one of the ad sites and redirecting it to 127.0.0.1, you skip them. Very useful tool and glad they didn’t drop it from current O/Ses.

  4. Chaim Chaikin

    So why did they make top-level domain names, like .com etc. Wouldn’t simply typing “google” or “facebook” be much more user friendly. (Especially because a lot of beginner computer users simply do type “facebook” and then click on facebook.com in the Google search results.)

    Is there a particular reason why they had to use “.com” at then and does that reason still apply?

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