Saskatchewan in Space Part 2: DevelNet
We would like to thank the University of Saskatchewan Space Team, University of Saskatchewan Computer Museum, Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site, Dr. Dafydd Williams, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Douglas Lindner and Ken Mayhew for providing information and/or photos for these blog posts.
Saskatchewan is probably not the first place that comes to mind when people discuss space exploration, but there are a number of Saskatchewan connections to this topic! One of the WDM’s curatorial priorities is the collection and preservation of Saskatchewan innovations. We work towards this priority through projects like the Saskatchewan Patent Index and our Fuelled by Innovation exhibit at the WDM Saskatoon, where about half the vehicles are Saskatchewan-made.
Over the course of five weeks we will share five website features about space exploration and Saskatchewan innovation. Each feature will highlight one person or object with ties to Saskatchewan. From bricks made in Claybank to computer technology developed in Saskatoon to chainmail made in Swift Current, Saskatchewan has plenty of ties to space exploration!
Our second feature in the series is focusing on the DevelNet computer system.
In 1986, Computerworld Magazine ran an ad for Saskatoon company Develcon, advertising that their distributed data network had been purchased by NASA. After a long search, the ad claims, NASA decided that the DevelNet computer system offered “an unsurpassed level of performance and reliability. At a price the federal government could afford.”
The DevelNet, the ad explained, “offer[s] multiple X.25 gateways. Access to integrated LAN technologies such as 802.3. IBM 3270 protocol conversion for both BSC and SNA/SDLC” and “support for virtually any kind of connection—from baseband and broadband to coaxial and fiber optics. Plus network management and a wealth of configurations.”
In simple terms, the DevelNet acted like a telephone switchboard, allowing users to connect to and communicate with other devices on the network. It was also able to act as a sort of translator, enabling multiple different, otherwise noncompatible, devices to communicate with each other.
In 1986, the DevelNet system was installed in the Kennedy Space Center. It was the largest installation of the DevelNet technology at that time, with over 5,000 subscribers and 24 nodes. It was known as the Kennedy Switched Data Network (KSDN) and was used in the Launch Control Center, the Vehicle Assembly Building, and the Orbiter Processing Facility. Though it was not a “flight critical service” it was used during launch preparation.
DevelNet was selected by NASA because of its versatility. It also had a high Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), meaning that breakdowns of the system were farther apart than some of their competitors, and it had self-diagnostic capabilities.
The DevelNet system was used by NASA for over a decade before it was replaced with newer technology.
By: Kaiti Hannah, Curatorial Associate