Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Foundational Strategic Technologies and Systems

Versatile enabling technologies that could lead to entire new classes of capabilities

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In a seminal moment in the development of the Internet, DARPA’s Robert Kahn (who joined the Information Processing Techniques Office as a program manager in 1972) asked Vinton Cerf of Stanford University to collaborate on a project to develop new communications protocols for sending packets of data across the ARPANET. That query resulted in the creation of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), most often seen together as TCP/IP. These protocols remain a mainstay of the Internet’s underlying technical foundation.

Conceived by Douglas Engelbart and developed by him and colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), the groundbreaking computer framework known as oN-Line System (NLS), jointly funded by ARPA and the Air Force, evolved throughout the decade. In what became known as "The Mother of All Demos"—because it demonstrated the revolutionary features of NLS as well as never-before-seen video presentation technologies—Engelbart unveiled NLS in San Francisco on December 9, 1968, to a large audience at the Fall Joint Computer Conference. Engelbart's terminal was linked to a large-format video projection system loaned by the NASA Ames Research Center and via telephone lines to a SDS 940 computer (designed specifically for time-sharing among multiple users) 30 miles away in Menlo Park, California, at the Augmentation Research Center, which Engelbart founded at SRI. On a 22-foot-high screen with video insets, the audience could see Engelbart manipulate the mouse and watch as members of his team in Menlo Park joined in the presentation.

With the arrival of the ARPA Network at SRI in 1969, the time-sharing technology that seemed practical with a small number of users became impractical over a distributed network. NLS, however, opened pathways toward today’s astounding range of information technologies.

For decades, the United States has successfully countered the threats of competitor nations by harnessing advanced technologies to create exceedingly robust and capable military platforms. But as advanced technologies have become more readily available to adversaries on commercial markets, the Nation’s focus on ever more complex weapons systems has become not just a strength but also a weakness. Effective as they are, U.S. military systems today are often too expensive to procure in the quantities needed, and may take so long to develop that the electronic components they contain are obsolete by the time they become operational.
On Wednesday, June 10, DARPA will open general registration for what promises to be an extraordinary gathering:“Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum,” to be held September 9th through 11th in St. Louis.
Normal radios operate in kilohertz (kHz) and megahertz (MHz) frequencies, bandwidths corresponding to electromagnetic oscillations in the thousands and millions of cycles per second ranges, respectively. Upping the ante, cell phones and radar systems operate in the billions of cycles per second range—that is, gigahertz (GHz) frequencies. But no one has managed to push radiofrequency technology into the trillions of cycles per second, or Terahertz (THz), range. With the Terahertz (THz) Electronics Program, however, DARPA has begun to make it possible.