Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

11.6. I heard someone hooked a toaster to the Internet?! Really?

Answered by Daniel Dern (

In 1990, the toast of INTEROP (an annual networking show and exhibition), was a Sunbeam Deluxe Automatic Radiant Control Toaster, connected to INTEROPnet(an annual networking show and exhibition), the network deployed for the duration of the show, via a SLIP connection and controlled via Simple Network Management Protocol (NSMP).

The Internet Toaster was the creation of John Romkey, whose credits include coding the first version of TCP/IP for DOS, co-founding FTP Software and a few other companies specializing in TCP/IP technologies, and being a leading developer of many of the things we as Internet users rely on daily.

At the October '89 INTEROP conference in San Jose, California, Dan Lynch, President of the Interop Company (then Internet Inc.) promised Romkey that, if Romkey was able to "bring up his toaster on the Net," the appliance would be given star placement in the floor-wide internetwork to which all Interop exhibitors are required to link, at Interop '90.

Romkey did, and it was.

The Sunbeam toaster, according to Romkey, had one real control: power on and off. When the power goes off, it automatically pops the toast.

"We found we could calibrate the `degree of doneness' in software by controlling how long the power was on," says Romkey.

To save time and effort, Romkey joined forces with fellow Internet appliance networkers. "Team Toaster" included Simon Hackett, an Australian networking engineer whose company, Pnakotic Software (Adelaide, South Australia) does computer-controlled technology for audio/video applications.

The final toaster was a gleaming triumph to technology, both as "a good hack" and a demonstration that Internet technology could be made to do real-world tasks.

The Internet Toaster began a multiyear INTEROP tradition for funky networked devices. Subsequent years have seen the "Lego Loader" (an SNMP-controlled loader and remover for toast built of Legos), the SNMP weather bear, the SNMP table-top electric train, and the giant mouse (big enough to sit on).

Consider it an example of bread-and-butter networking.

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