One of the unsung aspects of the University of Prince Edward Island is its pioneering involvement in the early Internet: under the leadership of Jim Hancock (Director of Computer Services from 1972 to 1997), UPEI, among other things, participated in the NetNorth, CA*Net and CANARIE initiatives, hosted Prince Edward Island’s first connection to the Internet, and registered the country’s first “.ca” domain, upei.ca, in 1988.
The upei.ca domain name registration’s anniversary is coming up on Sunday: 25 years ago, on January 12, 1988, the domain was registered with John Demco at the University of BC, a name well-known to any of us involved in the early Internet in Canada, as he was the go-to guy for all .ca domain name registrations for many years (back when they were free, but encumbered by many restrictions; that’s how I ended up, for a time, with the domain name digitalisland.kingston.pe.ca).
While the university’s work in this regard had tremendous benefits for the institution itself, it benefited Prince Edward Island as a whole in many other ways. In my case it made for my first contact with PEI when I was applying for a job here – an email from Morley Pinsent using the CA*Net email system hosted by UPEI that was free to any Islander who asked – and, once I relocated here, it was my conduit to the greater world through my email address firstname.lastname@example.org (I still remember the day in 1993 when, as a meek 27 year old, Earlene Gallant handled the paperwork to sign me up for this).
UPEI’s work led to PEINet, which became (via a 14.4 kbps leased line connection) the conduit for the first webserver on PEI, at the PEI Crafts Council, to join the network; later, it was on PEINet’s web host that I created the first versions of www.gov.pe.ca. Through this all, the counsel of Jim’s successor as Director of Computer Services, Dave Cairns, was extremely valuable (the best piece of advice Dave ever gave me: hard drives will always fail, eventually, and maybe tomorrow).
All Islanders owe a great debt to the University of PEI for its vision in this regard; to help mark the occasion, I printed up a ceremonial poster on the letterpress this afternoon, and I’ll stick them up around town and campus over the next few days: