PioNet History

The Dark Ages: Mid-1980s and Prior

Not much information has been gathered about this era of networked computing on campus. Albany was the core of networked computing on campus for most of this time. There was a central Annex Server with workstations connected by serial cable. Most of the work done on the Annex server was central to business functions and scientific data computation.

The Beginning: 1986-1989

In 1986, Apple Computer gave a grant to our Core Program.  This allowed several computer classrooms and each dorm complex to get a small workgroup of computers that may have shared a central printer but were not interconnected between buildings. 

In 1988, AppleShare file servers were put in each class lab to allow software to be shared.  A file server was also set up to allow central storage of files in dorm clusters.  A grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust allowed for the creation of a small lab of workstations to be purchased for the Computer Science curriculum as well as serve as equipment for a small network between Albany and Olin.  PioNet became part of BitNet (a predecessor to today’s Internet) this year also.

PioNet Expands: 1990-1993

In 1990, the Registrar’s Office moved to Templeton Student Center.  To provide access to the Prime (Colleague’s mainframe,)  fiber optic cable was run between Albany, BoDine, Watzek Library, the Manor House, and Templeton Student Center.  AppleTalk routers were also purchased to connect many of the independent AppleTalk networks together.

An interconnected data network meant that data traffic no longer had to exist in just the building’s workgroup.  Computers from other buildings could “talk” to each other via the AppleTalk router.  Now that everyone could access the network, e-mail and file-sharing proliferated.

With the advent of more robust networking protocols, standards, and industry support, the world started inter-connect their networks.  The group of world-wide interconnected networks was known as the “Internet.”  In 1991, there was a 56Kbps line added from PioNet to the Internet.  At this point, the Internet was mostly for communicating between institutions.  

In 1992, Ethernet (10BaseT) was introduced to campus.  Prime was added to the Ethernet network.  ThinNet networking was also deployed to Olin, Templeton, and the Business Office in the Manor House.   In 1993, ThinNet was added to Throckmorton.  The same year, the first Cisco router was purchased and installed.  10Base-T Ethernet was deployed to Ponderosa, Templeton Student Center, BoDine, and Watzek Library. The file servers Franc, Magician, Ringo, and Newhope were added to the network.

PioNet, Meet WWW: 1994-1997

The mid-1990s is when the Internet as we know it was starting to really take off.  So much so, we upgraded our 56Kbps link to the Internet to a T1 connection (1.5Mbps) in 1994.  What we call “The Internet” now was then called the World Wide Web (WWW.) Some of the protocols that were being used at the time to share data were: file transfer protocol (ftp://,) Gopher (gopher://), hypertext transfer protocol (http://), internet relay chat (#irc), and Newgroups (alt.*). 

The same year, BioPsych got 10Base-T Ethernet.  In 1995, 10BaseT Ethernet was added to more buildings: FOB, BoDine, SOAN, Law School, and Copelands.  The first 18 switched Ethernet ports to our machine room.  The labs server got upgraded, and Ringo was replaced with Information Techology’s file server.

1996 was another year of Ethernet expansion.  The data networking bug was catching on all over campus with students, staff, and faculty alike.  More switches were added to campus to allow more segregation of networks and better functionality.  12 switched Ethernet ports were added for CAS and 12 ports were added to the Law School.  10BaseT Ethernet cabling was added to: Miller, Fields, Fir Acres, Evans, Albany Birdhouse (The Dovecote,) Throck labs, Physical Plant (Facilities,) Student Financial Services, Olin labs, Appalachia, Law School, and Harzfeld dorms.  

As use of data networking became ubiquitous, the need for shared storage increased.  Magician file server was replaced with the Novell Admin server, and the labs server was upgraded again.

In 1997, 10BaseT was added to Huddleston 3, 4, 5, and the Gatehouse.  Franc was replaced and merged with the Admin file server.  More Novell file servers, Acad and Art were added.  24 switched Ethernet ports were added to the machine room to accommodate the growing need of servers.

PioNet Switches It Up - 1998-2003

After the wiring of most buildings with 10BaseT, Ethernet connectivity became a need for students, staff and faculty.  With this, there could no longer be large LANs around campus.  Switches, fiber uplinks and 100BaseT Ethernet wiring were being added.  During this time, older CAT3 telephone cables were being upgraded to CAT6 Gigabit capable wires.

In 1999, Platt and Howard dormitories were equiped with DSL over the telephone lines.  All dormitories were then “wired.”  In 2001, wireless networking was added to the Olin Science Center.  Fiber uplinks were being upgraded from 10Mbps fiber to 100Mbps and Gigabit (1000Mbps) uplinks to help with network congestion.  The uplink to the Internet was also upgraded to a 15Mbps uplink.

PioNet goes Wireless: 2004-Present

As the internet became more media intense, so did the need for larger network connections.  Most of the work done since 2004 was to upgrade the infrastructure itself rather than expanding into new spaces.  Most of the 10BaseT Hubs have been replaced with Gigabit uplinked 100Mbps switches, but there still remained a few 100Mbps uplinked buildings (which would soon be upgraded to gigabit uplinks).  Network traffic shaping was in its infancy on campus at this point.

As WiFi (wireless fidelity, 802.11x) became popular in coffee shops around the area, students and faculty started to request wireless networking so that one could have meetings and bring a computer along without much issue.   The first expansion of wireless happened in 2003.  The buildings this included was Olin, Watzek, Templeton, Rogers Hall, Miller, McCarty, Gatenbein, LRC, Boley, and Wood Hall.

In 2006, wireless networking expanded to all academic buildings on the undergraduate campus.  Most of the access points deployed were Cisco 1100s and 1200s.  As wireless proliferated, more network bandwidth was being used.  The 15Mbps Internet uplink was upgraded to 30Mpbs.  The upgrade satisfied the user’s need for a while, but movie streams, music streams, BitTorrent downloads were kiling the bandwidth within a year. 

Traffic shaping became more of a need and network traffic heading outside our network was prioritized to allow for better web browsing and media use.  In 2007, another uplink was added for backup.  This brought the total bandwidth of Internet uplink to 45Mbps (30Mbps for dorms and 15Mbps for the rest of campus.)  This only lasted a year, and in 2008 we upgraded to a 100Mbps uplink.

In the summer 2009, IT expanded the wireless network to all academic and residential buildings.  Every dormitory and academic building now has wireless access.  In order to accomodate the extra bandwidth, the switches in the residential buildings were all upgraded to a Gigabit to allow for more bandwidth at each access point.  As well, we have upgraded the uplink to the Internet to 150Mbps. 

The Future of PioNet

PioNet has been a great asset to Lewis & Clark.  As the need for more information grows, so does the need for network infrastructure to keep up.  Given the growth of network use and emerging data networking technologies (VoIP, video conferencing, etc.), PioNet will need to continue its constant maintenance and upgrades.  Look for more bandwidth, more robust network infrastructure, and bigger file systems.