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A Remote Part of Tech History

Technology timeline

Back in the day, computers were basically just giant calculators, confined to the use of tech enthusiasts and the government. They used these machines in one spot and were only able to access whatever that computer had to offer. With a big help from the internet, the advent of remote access technology and services would change all that. Take a look at this brief history to see where it all started and how far it’s come.

1981: IBM releases its first personal computer and Microsoft comes out with DOS (Disk Operating System). The original Microsoft operating systems come with remote access capabilities built in, but in order to use them you need a landline and a modem – a device that translates the digital data of computers into the analog signal of telephone lines and back again. (This important technology dates back to the 1950s, where it was initially used to transfer information between government labs and air defense systems before it hit the commercial market in the 1960s.)  

However, because of their dependence on telephone lines, modems create an expensive barrier to remote access technology.

Mid- to late ‘80’s: ARPAnet, which would later turn into the World Wide Web, grows in size and users across the globe. To circumvent the long-distance costs of using preliminary remote access technology, companies and individuals turn to the free means of using the internet as a platform for remote access software.

1993: Mosaic, one of the first internet browsers, is released. It pulls the trigger on the internet boom of the ‘90’s.

Mid- to late ‘90’s: Broadband makes a grand entrance. The improved internet is able to handle the higher data requirements of new graphic interfaces while offering an always-on connection that doesn’t require any dialing. Programs like pcAnywhere and VNC (Virtual Network Computing) are created with cross-platform capabilities, allowing users of all operating systems to have access to one another’s servers. However, this type of access utilizes inadequate security, giving hackers the ability to “listen-in” on the hubs of information that users are accessing, regardless of the strength of the user’s password.

1999: The first VPN (Virtual Private Network) is created by Cisco Systems. The VPNs use firewalls on the host end and a software client on the remote end to create secure “tunnels” through which encrypted data can pass. This system allows information to be accessed remotely without the threat of being altered, intercepted or stolen in the process. Unfortunately, the cost of setting up a point-to-point VPN system proves to be very high, and maintaining it is complicated.

2001: Broadband becomes ubiquitous. Because of this, the web enables host computers to remotely and securely access any computer with an internet connection. Anyone working from a remote computer can simply download the software and remotely access networks from anywhere. This offers remote access users the security of a VPN without much cost or hassle, and allows remote users without their own computer to access the network on any computer at a library, school, etc.

Today, remote access is used by tons of people for a wide range of things, like technical support, troubleshooting, secure file sharing, software installation and updates, employee training, work groups, virtual classes, and more. It’s also helped change a multitude of industries, like information technology, business, and education. In today’s world, it’s necessary to have a method to interact with others that aren’t sitting next to you, and remote access is a major one. So next time you press that Mayday button on your Kindle Fire HDX, remember that you have the history of remote access technology and services to thank for it.

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