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This is the last description of the CWRU/Free-Net relationship and history that was posted.
The University's involvement in the development of community computer systems has its origins in an experiment conducted in the School of Medicine in the fall of 1984. Dr. Tom Grundner of the Department of Family Medicine, set up a single phone line, computerized, "Bulletin Board" system called "St. Silicon's Hospital and Information Dispensary" to test the efficacy of using this medium as a means of delivering general health information to the public. The heart of the system was an interactive area where lay people could call in using their home, school, or business computers, leave medically-related questions, and have them answered by a physician within 24 hours. The experiment proved so successful that it attracted the attention of the Information Systems Division of AT&T and the Ohio Bell Telephone Company, who supported a larger project to expand and develop this interactive concept. Based on these donations, Dr. Grundner began work on a full-scale "community computer system" on an AT&T 3B2/400 computer with 10 incoming phone lines. This pilot project was designed to serve as a community information resource in areas as diverse as law, medicine, education, arts, sciences, and government--including free electronic mail services for the citizens of northeast Ohio. On July 16, 1986, this system, called the Cleveland Free-Net was opened by Ohio Governor Richard Celeste and Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich and the project was officially underway. During its prototype stage, the Cleveland Free-Net gathered over 7000 registered users from throughout the Cleveland metropolitan area and handled between 500-600 calls per day on 10 incoming phone lines. In 1989, however, it moved out of prototype in a big way. A new system was designed around six IBM-RT (Model 135) computers which would be linked together so that, from the user's standpoint, they would appear as one big machine. This new system would provide the Cleveland Free-Net with 96 megabytes of RAM (96 million characters of Random Access Memory), 2.3 gigabytes of hard disk storage (2.3 billion characters of hard disk), and would be capable of supporting up to 360 simultaneous users. In August of 1989 the Cleveland supersystem opened with 32 phone lines on its way to a projected 96 lines by the end of the year. In August also, the Free-Net was connected to the CWRUNET fiber-optic campus network. This merger of a community computer system with a campus network is yet another first and provides an entirely new model for campus network development. By the end of 1992 the Cleveland Free-Net had grown to over 36,000 active accounts handling over 11,000 logins a day.