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The Atari SIG Historical Archive
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About the Cleveland Freenet

     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.

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