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  About the Internet Public Library™
Last updated: 23 Oct 2007
The Internet Public Library has it's roots back in 1983 during the early formative years of the Internet.
Today the libraries public service is simply to provide important clear factual information and resources to the public without bias. Contributions and comments are welcome, please click the WWW Support Services link at the bottom of this page to contact us.
The Background
In the early days the Internet was limited to a few small networks, server addresses were numeric, the same as the IP address today, the domain name (website name) and related Domain Name Server (DNS) had not yet been developed.
The international Internet we take for granted today was very limited, it included connections between Universities such as JANET (Joint Academic NETwork), PSS (Packet Switch Stream) which had foundations in the telephone networks and the ex cold war military networks.
To get round the initial difficulties of limited availability, dedicated enthusiasts built private networks using dial up modems, telephone lines and regular PC's (nodes). These networks became known as FidoNet and grew into 1000's of nodes (PC's) spread round the developed world (majority in the USA). To keep costs down email and data traffic was routed through nodes close to each other within free or local call areas.
Nodes carried searchable lists of documents, free software and data files that were either held on the local node or could be requested from a distant node.
The limitations of FidoNet were all too obvious and at regular conferences enthusiasts brought ideas and know how to share, these included members from the British Computer Society and Co-operative Computer Movement who hosted many conferences.
It was in 1983 that the first ideas of a shared library distributed across a large number of PC's began to take shape in a practical way, the project was known as Public access Resources Database Network (PRDN), the following historic conference document illustrates the thinking at the time, you may recognise the ideas that were later adopted in internet systems such as Google 15 years later.
H G Wells - First Known Inventor of the Internet in 1939 Credit has to nbe given to H G Wells who is the first known inventor of the internet which he outlined in a 1937 essay, the Sunday Times newspaper (23 Dec 2007) summarises Well's written idea as follows:
In his "idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia, Wells foresaw a time when every student would have access to a network that connected the corners of the globe serving as a memory for mankind. Wells said this information would be summoned to any properly prepared spot and be thrown upon the screen so that the student may study it in every detail."
The PRDN Library System was designed to work on existing systems (backwards and forwards compatible) and provide document and file name indexing for up to 26,000,000 (26 million) entries for each member of the worlds population, a massive 130,000,000,000,000,000 entries, still way ahead of it's time in 2007.

     The Online Services Development Association (OSDA)

                      a proposal for a


                        (c) MARCH 1983


This  is simply a working group title for a number of  sysops
and other individuals who have been active in the development
online  services. OSDA is a non profit organisation and has a
good   working  relationship  with  a   number   of   helpful


The  general  concept of a distributed database is  not  new.
However   this   proposed  application  of  the  concept   is
different,  innovative  and more important,  significant  for
what it may achieve.

Simply,  the proposal is to develop a low cost, Public access
Resource Database Newtwork (PRDN).

Sounds expensive...?

We  hasten  to  add that due to the different  and innovative
nature of this proposal, it is not so.

Perhaps  a  suprise to some, a great deal of the initial  and
innovative ground work has been quietly going on for a number
of years.

Much  of the credit being due to many dedicated hard  working
volunteer individuals and organisations including enlightened
elements in the computer industry.


There  are a great many important and beneficial reasons  why
the  proposed PRDN should be developed, to briefly touch on a

There  is a very real danger that 'Information Poverty'  (IP)
will  continue  to develop along side our apparent  ecconomic
ills   leading  to  more  immense  and  difficult  to   solve
developmental problems in the future.

A  developed PRDN would make a very significant  contribution
to  development in all areas. This being made possible by the
availability of useful information and resources.

There  are still tremendous perceptual problems  amongst  the
population at large about the computer's role in society. Few
fully appreciate the computer as a useful tool.

A  suitably presented PRDN could do a great deal to promote a
wider  public understanding and acceptance of the benefits of
computers as a useful tool.

The  greatest wealth of useful information is held by society
as  a whole. A PRDN can tap this COMMON RESOURCE and begin to
make it AVAILABLE and AFFORDABLE to all.

Parallel  benefits  to  the development of a  PRDN  would  be
ecconomic  development for makers and providers of  requisite
equipment,   software,  services.  The  tradititional   costs
associated  with obtaining Information and Resources could be
reduced dramatically.

By providing for the user to contribute useful information to
the PRDN, purposeful, creative and satisfying employment will
be  possible  for  many. This would also do much to  build  a
sense  of belonging and community into fragmented elements of


Generally,  traditional systems are centralised, which  often
means  relatively  high overheads, high investment  and  slow
adaption to change, thus they can be obsolete very quickly.

The  methods  of  networking (information  distribution)  use
currently  expensive high speed data links to  provide  quick
(real time)  access  to  the  distant  centralised  store  of

Such systems command relatively high service charges which in
themselves limit wider access.

Information  is  often  kept  secret  and  protected  against
open publication so its value stays high to ensure sufficient

This  may  be considered good business practice, but  it  can
also  slow  the  wider and more  general  development  of  an
efficient society and feed Information Poverty.

To  put  such  systems  in  perspective,  while  they  remain
relatively   expensive  to  use,  they  are  best  suited  to
specialist  information services for which there is little or
no need by the majority.


There  is already an embryonic backbone of such a system with
a number of willing system owners and operators.

This  backbone  is made up of a number  of  Nodes  (computers
with  substantial  data storage  facilities).  These  already
network  with each other to exchange information,  electronic
mail  (email) and data, mainly via the telephone system on  a
need to connect basis (ie: local node information changes  or
new email requiring delivery automatically triggers the  node
to make appropriate connections on a priority basis).

Collectively  these individual computers  contain  a  growing
wealth of useful information.

A  simple  to  use  automatic  RESOURCE  DATABASE  system  is
required to enable Nodes to provide access to the information
on the collective system.

There  are  a  number  of ways of  achieving  this,  what  is
required is general agreement on the best method.


One method is as follows:

The  Resource Database would provide a simple menu system  to
provide subject, title, description and keyword search of the
collective information.

Immediate  access would be given to information held  on  the
local node,  while  other  information  would  be   requested
from  the node holding the information. Subject  to  priority
this would be transfered immediately or later.

Regularly requested information could be held locally to save
on  networking overheads. Local Node  software  automatically
deciding what to hold localy.

All  nodes would use the same Resource Database  files,  with
changes  and  additions automatically updated  by  a  central
processing node with at least one full backup node.

Individual  nodes  would  automatically  forward  details  of
changes to their content for inclusion.

It  would  not  be  neccessary  to  redistribute  the  entire
database  as Node based software would  automatically  update
the main database files from small Content Change files.

As  a PRDN develops and traffic increases faster  data  links
may become economic, providing wider real time access.

Some  suitable  form of reimbursment to cover  costs  may  be
considered neccesary. It is important that whatever method is
introduced, it does not prevent those most in need from using
such a system.

Some  Sponsorship  Funding may be found by  encouraging  some
forms of advertising. Within limits the General Public  might
be freely permited to Advertise Items for Sale while business
advertising  could  provide  sponsorship.  An  ADvert   INDEX
(Adindex)  could  enable  fast  location  of   items   needed
and improved use of resources.

Teachers  frequently  reinvent the  wheel  when  they  create
teaching material their colleagues have done countless  times
before.  Such resources could be put in an Education  Library
with open access and contributions from all.

It  may  also  be appropriate to  include  the  facility  for
Authors of material to charge some suitable small amount each
time  their  information is transfered to an End  User.  This
could greatly encourage the provision of useful  information,
electronic publications and software.



With  low cost Gigabyte storage for computers just round  the
corner we need to plan for a large amount of potential growth.

While  a PRDN is embryonic the index files will not be large,
perhaps  taking  up megabytes. However when  considering  the
techniques  we  innovate or adopt, we should keep an  eye  to
the future growth to avoid later problems.

Longer  term,  we  should  perhaps expect a  minimum  of 1000
gigabytes of storage within a national PRDN (It is  difficult
to estimate this).

Allowing  for  localised duplication of files held  on  other
Nodes  we  may  expect  the main INDEX  files  to  cope  with
5,000,000  file titles and descriptions in the not to distant


We need something fairly simple and compact in use of storage
space and network transfer time.

A Subject number system would save considerable space,  three
bytes being required for 16,777,216 subject areas. The  local
Node would use a look up table for conversion.

1. SUBJECT (3 byte number with look up table)
2. TITLE (word number token string)
3. KEYWORDS (word number token string with look up table)
4. FILE DESCRIPTION (compex compresed string data)
5. INFORMATION STATUS (one byte with look up table)
6. PRIMARY LOCATION (holding node address 4 byte number)
7. SYSTEM FILE NUMBER (Read/write name 11 bytes)
8. FILE SIZE (2 byte number nearest K)

The  above  index format uses the least space  but  may  need
modification  if data processing time is likely to  become  a


The  COMPEX protocol permits fast real time  compression  and
decompression of string text.

This  works  on  the basis that about 75% of text  uses  only
thirteen or so characters from the alphabet. It uses a nibble
code  algorithum  to code and decode text  accordingly.  This
could  provide  a reduction in size of between 50%  and  30%,
subject to the use of characters.


To maintain downwards compatability we will be stuck with the
eight  character file name and three character type part used
by many systems.

A suitable number scheme is to use characters "0" through "9"
and "a" through "z" to provide a 36 base number system.  This
providing for around


unique file names, sufficient for 26,000,000 file names  each
for every member of the worlds population.


Complete  system  accounting  with  the  ability   to   check
costs, level  of use for information provided,  files,  Users
and traffic would be essential.

How We Looked in 1996
The library front page as it looked in 1996 is shown below.
The Internet Public Library in 1996


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