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The day Mexico connected to the Internet for the first time

On World Internet Day, we remember that the first connection to this network was made by Tec de Monterrey.
man in gray suit and blue tie surrounded by 80s computer equipment
Daniel Trujillo worked with UT Austin to connect to THENET, a network that offered more than just email: file transfer. (PHOTO: Rafael Ibáñez / Tec Review. The book)

Every May 17th since 2006, World Internet Day celebrates a revolutionary invention that transformed the way we communicate and access an impressive amount of information at a speed not seen before.

Mexico first connected to the Internet 34 years ago, thanks to Tecnológico de Monterrey. In October 1988, a group of graduates was responsible for connecting the Monterrey campus with the world for the first time.

They tell us the story of this great milestone.

This picture from 1986 shows members of various areas of the Computer Science Division at the Tec’s Monterrey Campus Computing Center. (Courtesy: Daniel Trujillo / Tec Review: The Book)

The history of the first Internet connection in Mexico

Back in those days, Ramiro Flores, Daniel Trujillo, David Treviño, and Hugo García described themselves as just “a bunch of kids.” They had just graduated from the Tec when they were able to “experiment” with a new technology. They never imagined the impact they would have in Mexico and Latin America.

These young engineers were part of the IT management team on Monterrey campus at that time. One of the institution’s goals was to go further toward achieving true collaboration and exchange with other higher education and research institutions outside the country.

It all started in 1986, when the Monterrey campus joined the Education Communication (Educom) consortium of universities and research institutes.

Thanks to this, they connected to the international cooperative academic network BITNET (Because It’s Time NETwork) and linked to the closest node, the University of Texas, through a private telephone line and modems, beginning a close relationship between the two institutions.

That was the first encounter both the group and the Tec had with the Internet: a network that allowed them to reach the rest of its 26 campuses and establish communication with higher education institutions abroad. BITNET not only sent and received emails, but it also offered discussion lists and access to libraries.

A network called THENET

In 1988 at the University of Texas, Daniel Trujillo and David Treviño heard about the network called THENET (Texas Higher Education NETwork), or the Internet. In addition to email, it offered services such as a remote terminal connection and file transfer.

“It seemed very important for the academic world,” said Hugo García. The team started to work, but it was not an easy road. At that time, telecommunications and infrastructure were very limited in Mexico. Everything was analog, and it was almost impossible to import computer equipment.

However, from the beginning, the Tec understood the importance of connecting to THENET and investing in it.

Daniel Trujillo, one of the engineers on the IT management team at the Monterrey campus who worked on the first Internet connection.  (Courtesy: Rafael Ibáñez / Tec Review: The Book)

An academic network was born

In 1988, after months of negotiations, training, installations, and other preparations, they achieved the first Internet connection between the Monterrey campus and the University of Texas Medical School in San Antonio. That was on October 12, 1988. This opened the door to great opportunities in Mexico and helped establish close relationships with other universities. With connection to THENET, the Monterrey campus was able to obtain access to more than 30,000 nodes around the world.

The technology drew national attention. Mexico’s President Carlos Salinas de Gortari visited the Monterrey campus and witnessed the group connecting to Harvard University to access his doctoral thesis, Daniel Trujillo recalled.

This MicroVAX II was the first name server for the .mx domain, the first router and mail server. (Courtesy: Daniel Trujillo / Tec Review: The Book)

Other campuses quickly became interested in participating in THENET. Hugo García, who was in charge of making this collaboration model spread beyond the system, explains that the first connection outside of the Tec took place at the UNAM. Later, ITESO and the University of Guadalajara joined… and the rest is history.

“We never imagined that the Internet would have the impact it has today. It all started as an educational effort,” explains Daniel Trujillo. “We were lucky to be the pioneers, to do something that was unattainable for many at that time.”

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