Dial Up Motive
Human-interest segment asking Cloudflare employees what their first Internet experience was and how it informed them joining Cloudflare. Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more.
Today's Guest: Dave Barnett
Hello, hello. Welcome everyone to Dial Up Motive. I'm your host, Dan Hollinger. If this is your first time joining us, what we do here on Dial Up Motive is explore the early Internet histories of Cloudflare employees.
Thank you all for joining, whether you're catching the live recording or live show or one of the recordings.
With me, I have Dave Barnett, Head of Sassy Sales here at Cloudflare. Dave, welcome to the show.
Hey, thanks, Dan. It's great to be here. And we're going to go back a bit further than probably usually because I'm very, very old.
We don't use that word here on the show. You're vintage. You're used to the vintage Internet.
Lovely. OK, thank you so much. It's great to be here. Nice spending time with you.
Awesome. Well, glad to have you. And to kick things off, what kind of work are you doing here at Cloudflare today?
Yeah, sure. So I head up a small team of specialists who are looking at advanced technology around Sassy, so secure access service edge.
So basically helping organizations transition from on -premise centric with a little bit dabbling in cloud, more cloud first, always mobile world.
And we're following the Gartner model for that. So if you consider direct to cloud, Zero Trust, a lot of those kind of buzzwords in the industry all add up to Sassy.
So we support the wider organization, engaging the customers to help them deliver on those objectives.
Awesome. And for those joining this call, either new employees or new folks, what's your definition of Sassy since that's a rather new buzzword these days?
Sure. Yeah. So it's hard to do this job without going into buzzword bingo, really.
But what Sassy is, is a combination.
It's more of a way of thinking. It's a combination of two factors.
So one is network transformation. So instead of having fixed lines with fixed offices and people having to go into offices and work, we can actually deploy that through the cloud.
So people can actually have a lot more flexibility in terms of where their network connectivity goes.
And on the other side of things is the network security side.
So not just providing network connectivity, but also security.
So if people choose to travel around the world, they get a threat protection, data protection, protection against the cloud applications that they're using, and also elements of identity protection around authenticating users to whatever cloud or on premise application they choose to.
So that's where Zero Trust comes in.
So instead of having to fire up a VPN, for example, you just initiate your Zero Trust and you're connected if you present the right credentials.
And being kind of buzzword bingo or being a net new technology, what were you doing before shifting to Cloudflare that gave you this expertise around the Sassy space?
Sure. So I mean, I recently joined Cloudflare a month ago. If you had told me that I'd be live on TV a month later, I'd be like, hey, this is really cool.
Oh, not just TV, Cloudflare TV. Cloudflare TV, the best TV station. So yeah, so I've been running Sassy businesses within other vendors for the last, well, cloud security businesses for the last six years, really.
So a couple of the major more sort of on premise traditional companies.
But it's really, it's not that hard to rebadge technology and cloud security or CASB technology and call it Sassy.
But what is really hard is getting the network element in. And that's kind of the reason why Cloudflare is a little bit more of a hidden gem, if you like, in the industry, because they did the network, you know, making sure that everyone's closely connected to the global cloud.
And that's the really hard thing to do.
So once you crack that layer on security functionality, it's just a matter of how fast you can innovate.
And one of the things that really attracted me to Cloudflare when I joined a month ago, was just the pace of innovation that we have here.
It's an innovation first, selling second company. And that really appealed to me as an old techie at heart.
Awesome. So is that part of the initial pitch? It's like, we want you to head up some sales, but you're going to be second to innovation.
Well, we really want to make sure that whatever innovation we do is expressed correctly to our customer base, and also where the customers want us to innovate where we're not currently doing so, that we can pass that back down into our business so we can get things fixed.
Because the market's evolving really quickly.
And there are kind of vendors out there who say this is the functionality you should be using.
But really, that's kind of going about it the wrong way. We should be saying to customers, what kind of innovation do you want, practically?
So yeah, so it's great.
It's great to be here. Thanks, Dan. Awesome. Well, thinking and speaking about how quickly things evolve, and how quickly the Internet evolves, happy to kind of use this time to take a step back and really understand what was one of your first formative moments with the Internet or with technology that led to the Internet, you know, speaking through your vintage lens, and how you approach that technology or how it changed kind of your career development.
I love the word vintage. Thank you. So I grew up in the north of England in a place called Ilkley in West Yorkshire, and it's kind of cold up there.
You know, it's, it's, it snows a lot.
I was in a valley, it's quite dark. So we have this kind of Yorkshire, we had this contrarian view of things, you know, we wouldn't really accept the status quo, which is kind of the way that culture is in that, in that kind of part of the world.
So I was, I grew up, born in 1969, I grew up in the 70s, and the early 80s were kind of my formative years.
And because it's raining and cold and wet.
And so if we kind of started to look at technology as, you know, something that was particularly interesting, because, you know, I had a science background, my father was a maths professor.
And so my earliest memories, really, because computing came under mathematics at the time, was going into Bradford University in West Yorkshire, and they had a, they just installed a system 360 IBM mainframe.
And they, I remember going in as a, I don't know, it must have been about 1973, 1974, I was just, you know, knee high to a grasshopper.
And my dad showed me this room full of boxes, and people scratching their heads, and there's paper everywhere.
Like, you know, paper tape. And this is this paper tape was the program, right?
So to program the computer, you had to punch a physical stream of tape.
So debugging it involved passing lots of paper through a reader, which is just like, man, can you imagine, you stand on the wrong piece of paper, it rips, and you, that's, that's your bug, really.
Or imagining even if it just gets out of order, like once you are in the kind of punch card era of programming, like, so many things could go wrong that folks learning how to develop now with a development or environment, you know, have no clue or very little understanding of just the difficulties back then at the mainframe stage.
It was, it was crazy.
And you remember those punch cards, right? You know, that's like that size.
They're just the same size as the boarding cards that we have used up until recently on planes, right?
And that's because they were the same thing. Punch card.
So I used to carry these punch cards around me when I started my career about 25 years ago, when we worked for a company where we were selling IBM mainframe connectivity technology, X windows as well, 3270, VT 220, that's kind of emulation stuff.
And I used to carry these punch cards with me because it was a prop that, that typically the person that would buy these technologies I was selling would go, I remember that.
So I used to write the notes from the meetings on the back of the punch card.
And then, you know, obviously, if you wanted, he or she wanted a punch card, they're welcome to one.
But it felt good. So the mainframes were really interesting to me.
But my father wants, because he was, you know, we had lots of old technology at the time.
And he brought home a bit, a core store from a mini computer, which was kind of the next generation on from a mainframe, it shrunk it.
And it had these, it's like a grid of wires. And inside each wire at the intersection of one was like a little donut, you know, probably the size of a pinhead.
And that was a one or a zero, because it could be charged either way. So that was memory.
So if you think about the memory we've got on our phones and our laptops, you know, this core store would store 32 bytes, 64 bytes, which is eight times 32, because there's eight bits in a byte.
So it's mad. And I kind of like, oh, my God, this is technology, physically technology.
And I think we've lost that now, we don't really see the technology so much.
Do you think in some ways, that's a detriment that, you know, it's harder to crack open a phone or crack open a laptop today that is completely sealed, or it is very, it's much more difficult to tinker with and just get into the mechanisms behind the technology?
Do you think that's ultimately a good thing, or in some ways, a bad thing?
I think it's a bad thing that we can't, you know, for the curious, you know, you can't take things apart.
But I grew up in an analog world.
But there's things like, you know, Arduinos, and, you know, what's it called, the little pie thing?
The raspberry pies? Yeah, things like those.
They expose people, and particularly younger people, you know, to coding, you know, because I know they use quite extensively in education.
And that's great, right?
You know, you still can't see what's inside those black chips. That's really cool.
And to think about how far we've come from, you know, a mainframe that was taking up an entire room to now, almost complete computer on a raspberry pi, unlocking, you know, so much experimentation at such a small scale.
We do, yeah.
We've got to remember, also, some organizations still use mainframes. Well, mainframe is the term, but you know, it's still used in banking, for example, or some government applications.
So the language that I learned to code in was Fortran and formula translation.
And that was used to program mainframes really in doing banking apps.
So yeah, the first experience I had for networking was in a teletype situation.
So I'm up in my school when I was 11 or 12. We had this mysterious room that no one really went into.
But I was kind of curious about computing.
So my math teacher brought me up there, and he showed me this teletype machine, which is a way that they transmit the results of the examinations back to the headquarters of the school, you know, back in Leeds or Bradford.
And he would type, you know, Barnard, you know, score, D, usually D, not so great for math, right, or whatever it was.
And I just saw that he typed the password, it's like simple phrase password.
I'm like, okay, I see that. So the next time I was up there on my own, I kind of had a little look around, you know, the system, because you type a word, and it prints it on paper, then it comes back with an answer on paper.
So I worked my way around this thing. And I just thought, oh, could I change my grade?
Should I press that button? And yeah, I may have done. But then, you know, I was before the age that I could have been arrested.
Well, I mean, this is just early age social engineering, right?
Like if that password was just so insecure, that that, you know, and no, no steps were taken to prevent access to that password, you know, in some ways, it's a failure of the system.
Well, maybe I was an early hacker.
I don't know. You know, at the end of the day, you're right. I mean, it's identity, an identity issue.
But it's just so cool, because you could hear the modem going.
And all that's the physical, is the physicality of technology at the time, which is pretty cool.
Yeah. And I mean, it's fascinating, just even something like the modem sound of dialing up and legitimately dialing the numbers to connect to the network.
I have yet to see teletype hacker, necessarily on a resume, but that's definitely a good entry point, both for, you know, protection around passwords and just network security in general.
Yeah, well, you know, maybe I should put that on my CV.
I later found out around about the mid 70s, Vint Cerf and Leonard Kleinrock were built, you know, building a foundations in around ARPANET for the first Internet, which is what ARPANET kind of became it came into.
ARPANET was a an academic network that was developed in the 60s.
As I'm sure you're aware, that enabled, you know, college talks to a college typically in the US.
And it was like, I think the first message on ARPANET, which is way before I was born, was Hello World, which is like, oh, my God, you can get it to appear on a different place just by typing it in and pressing send.
But those those switching networks weren't really scalable for the Internet.
So obviously, Vint Cerf was the father of one of the fathers of TCP IP, but that wasn't possible without the Kleinrock's work around packet switching.
So the challenge, of course, those things are not really secure, right?
Because the whole idea is the packet gets violated. Well, yeah, because those early networks, the assumption was that you can trust everyone joining the network because you were either CERN, you were university, you know, you were a private institution.
So the even the concept of needing a security layer or any kind of check was was really out the window or just and let alone if you were thinking about that just was such would be such a waste of overhead and space, given, you know, the limitations on the network at the time.
And you got to think, yeah, a network, but also the processing power of the devices as well.
So you don't want to be putting something on that slows stuff down.
And in later years, I worked for McAfee or Dr.
Solomon's side. I got to know Alan Solomon as well, quite well, which is really cool.
But the whole concept is you don't want to put too much antivirus that will slow stuff down because, well, you know, Windows itself, you know, Windows 95 in particular was a massive resource hog.
You didn't want to kind of slow stuff down.
But so, yeah, so there was teletypes. And then and then, of course, there were things like, you know, video games, right?
And the whole concept when you're stuck in a cold, wet, like northern town, you know, with the rain coming down and you don't want to go outside and you can you can type something in or you could play a game like Pong, which has got these kind of like things going backwards and forwards and something appears on screen, something that didn't come from BBC or ITV, which is super cool.
You know, being able to have that effect on on the television.
So a little bit later than that was like the early 90s.
So ZX81, ZX80 actually, and ZX81 were the first two kind of real personal computers that exploded on the market.
And these were not networked, right?
You couldn't connect them to anything other than, you know, take them physically around to your friend's house so you can play Space Invaders.
But there was an awful, you know, to get stuff to work, you had to type stuff in.
It was only a little bit later that storage became reliable.
So we used to get these these magazines.
I guess one of the first methods of communication was magazine, you know, they used to have listings of programs.
So somebody had written this program, magazine had published a program and they gave people around about five pounds for a program.
I know because I got one published later on. And you type it in at 10, you know, go to, print screen, all those sorts of things.
So you're literally duplicating, you know, the code from the magazine page onto the computer you're using, and that's how you get access to the game or the program.
You know, it's piracy at its most basic, not piracy, because I assume you had to subscribe to the magazine.
But in terms of a distribution model for software, you know, that sounds very different than today's world, where, you know, there's so many digital downloads of entire software suites or a SaaS-based application where you don't even have to download it.
Yeah. And can you imagine, you know, being given, you know, you start work at Cloudflare and you've given access to, I don't know, a mail client and you've been given a big page of stuff, book of stuff that you have to type in to actually make the mail kind of work, but it just doesn't work.
And this approach was actually later taken on by Alan Zimmerman, who was the guy behind PGP, Pretty Good Privacy, which is the first sort of encryption tool.
And that came out a little bit later on, I don't know if you remember, but it was because encryption was considered to be a digital weapon.
It was controlled by export control, particularly in the US, because they didn't want people to be able to, you know, write stuff on and not be read, you know, for security reasons.
And there was a whole privacy civil liberties, you know, argument to say that people have got the right to privacy.
And now with GDPR and stuff, we absolutely do. But the way that the US government dealt with encryption was it would just block it if it was more than 40 bit.
The way that Alan Zimmerman said was, I'm going to publish it as a book.
And, you know, if it's published as a book, it comes under the First Amendment, where, you know, there's freedom of expression, so you can't block this encryption.
So the first people who use PGP first, actually typed in the program from the book that Alan Zimmerman would share freely available, you know, it's a free book.
And it's like, that's really cool. You get your encryption from something that's through the loophole.
Yeah, if anything, that's fascinating to start seeing kind of the first push and pull between the power to the individual programmers on logging onto the Internet and, you know, wanting to use encryption themselves and the centralized resources out there that from security or national security, whatever their criteria might be, you know, wanting to try to control the Internet from that perspective a little bit more.
So especially for kind of, at that stage for the rebellion to be, yep, I'm just going to release a book and the book's going to have the program and encryption can be essentially given away.
And people that need to use it are able to use it.
It's a fascinating story. Absolutely.
And if it wasn't for the, oh, thank you. It's fascinating. But if it wasn't for encryption, we wouldn't have things like certificates.
And then without certificates, we would have trust because we have trust.
We have this massive cultural and financial value of the Internet, right?
You can do banking, you can do your buying stuff, you can trust it, you know, to by and large, you know, what is true.
And that's all because of the fact that encryption is freely available.
And without that encryption, you know, how could Cloudflare systems if the customer's data was unencrypted on a server somewhere, it would not be possible.
So because of that trust, lots of things happen. So going forward, so microcomputing, really cool, it's stuck on its, you know, you get these programs that are sent to you, or you buy them at the local shop, or you sent you every week on a listing of a, you type it in, you spend an hour, hopefully you don't press the wrong button, and it crashes or have a power issue.
And then later, they started giving you these or selling you these memory cards that you put in.
But of course, you know, you touch it in a way and you've lost the entire program.
So that was the issue.
Then along came the Amiga, which was just this cool, like almost business computer, but it could be used to dial up to things.
So Commodore Amiga was just, it changed my life really, because it enabled me to dial into bulletin boards, which were the first, it was before the Internet was really a thing in terms of mainstream, I wasn't an academic institution.
So with a bulletin board, anybody could own a bulletin board, right?
You could run it on your Amiga, and you could access it from any other computer, typically an Amiga that would talk the same kind of language, the AT commands on the modem.
And so you dial the number, you get access to it, because it's typically open to people to access.
And then you get a series of pages.
And some of the pages are informational. Some of the pages might be a community thing or a chat.
But you can only really have the maximum number of people that would access it would be the number of lines that that person would have available.
So if you're running it from home, you know, if three people dial in, and you've only got one line, and you've got one, you can have a maximum one other person.
So you kind of leave messages and say, Hi, you know, this pub is really good, or you know, this, this TV show tomorrow is really good.
And then you dial off and then somebody else dials in and they go, Oh, okay, that's cool.
Thanks a lot. And there's that formation of community that was that was really significant.
Bulletin boards. So I kind of like it. And what's fascinating is, you know, how much that copied from the analog bulletin board experience, especially on campuses and universities where someone would post, yep, here's a ride to this hometown at this time, you know, here's a bike for sale, here's an apartment for rent.
So for that analog solution to then make its way in very much a very similar form online to where Yeah, I can dial in and see see this person's bulletin board.
And I know many of them started to grow around communities or local areas, because ultimately, that was essentially the first digital meeting place for spreading that information similar to its analog counterpart.
Yeah. And if it wasn't for these early experiments in community, you wouldn't have some of the great, you know, ecommerce giants we have right now, I think Facebook, you know, Facebook was a college intercollege kind of way of advertising who you are.
And eBay was the Ebola research, Pierre Omodaya had his little community.
And, you know, eBay is Ebola Bay, kind of a little page on there was, you know, come and buy and sell your stuff that you happen to be interested in.
And I think there's a famous story that you had a broken laser pointer in the pocket on there.
And someone go, I'll have that, actually, I'll give you a couple of dollars.
What you buy broken laser, but I was gonna chuck it away. Well, now it's probably worth 10 times as much because you put the the original, you know, eBay item on on back on eBay.
And suddenly now it has the historical value added to it. Yeah, can you imagine?
Gosh, first of all, but then there's things like crypto as well.
So, you know, around the turn of the millennium, the sort of crypto currency started to arrive, and she may be a bit further, maybe 2008, something like that.
And it was because of the community that people started to mine these strange things called bitcoins.
And I remember looking at the Bitcoin mining community that I spotted on dig, I think it was, and it was like, there's no way I'm going to spend five years at $5 on a $5 or two days of my computer's time to mine one Bitcoin.
Yeah, that'd be terrible.
Like, you know, $60,000 is only Bitcoin. Oh, you know, it's all measuring risk reward.
You know, I remember growing up, you know, my background kind of highlights the my formative Internet years.
And this is when I'd leave the computer on for days at a time, you know, over the night trying to remind my family not to turn it off.
And because I was the only time you could get a consistent Internet connection without anyone else fighting over it to, you know, download new programs.
And, you know, so that made perfect sense. Like, no, you leave your machine running.
It's fine. Yeah. Well, things like Napster as well. And, you know, trying to download all these MP3s in the morning going, Oh my God.
After purchasing the CD, of course. Absolutely. Yeah. But if only the music industry caught up quicker, because it just took Apple to, you know, revolutionize that market.
One of the really cool things, I don't know if it's still available, but there's a movie called War Games that was quite influential in my life, which is Matthew Broderick.
And I can't remember who else, but it was, I think it won an Academy Award.
It was about the possibility of thermonuclear warfare happening as a result of computers, you know, going into this sort of loop that, you know, we're, we're, we're under attack.
And therefore the humans are cut out of the loop.
And, and it's a story about this, this kid, like 17, 18 year old kid who hacks into systems and hacks into the NORAD computer and the security is so weak that he, you know, he manages to initiate this game, this, this war game effectively that results in a potential attack.
I'm not going to tell you what happened.
If you haven't seen it, I'm going to tell you what happens at the end.
A spoiler alert for a 30 year old movie. More than that. But it's really good.
And it was an early example of networking. But yeah. If anything highlights the beginning of kind of cyber defense, the fears of, you know, what computers could do, what we were starting to put in control or underneath the purview and governance of a computer and a machine.
And so it makes perfect sense for the era that it came out in.
Yeah, totally. And it was really interesting.
So I got to know Alan Solomon when I worked for Network Associates in the early 2000s.
And he told me, he talked me through because Dr. Solomon and McAfee were the two kind of real early antivirus systems.
And I remember whilst I was at Network Associates, it became McAfee.
And we had this certificate from, signed by John McAfee, who I later got to know quite well, actually.
But the certificate was a licensed certificate for a customer in the UK.
And it was for 100 licenses of the antivirus system.
And it would list the actual viruses that it would actually remove, you know, Jerusalem and Melissa or whatever.
That was really cool. And it had his signature.
So I showed him actually when I got to know him. Anyway, so Alan Solomon started this company called SS Associates.
And it was a data backup company.
And he spotted some stuff where some data was being changed without the knowledge of the user.
And it was like, this is really strange. And he figured out it was a virus that was doing that.
It was moving some data around. And he said, hang on a second, if somebody can put a virus onto the media, which was a floppy disk at the time, then that could be used for bad and for evil.
And actually, the first virus, I think, was Jerusalem.
And that actually had the names of the people that wrote it and said, if you can read this, you're obviously technically adept.
So, come and buy some computers from our shop, which was actually based in Mumbai, I think, actually.
It was really cool. So anyway, so he spotted the fact that someone could do something bad with data.
So he started this thing called an antivirus company.
And then, of course, McAfee did the same. And they became quite successful doing that.
John McAfee, he was a character. It's a shame he passed away recently.
But yeah, he's very outspoken. And thank you for taking us through that history, both through mainframes to bulletin boards, early TCIP.
In the last few minutes that we have on the show, I would love to learn, what are you most excited about for the future of the Internet, particularly through your lens here at Cloudflare?
So the Internet has the capacity for good, and it also has the capacity for bad.
And what I love about Cloudflare is there's a spiritual, not spiritual, but a very strong focus on making the Internet better for everyone.
And that's not just for people who are paying for it.
There's people that have an interest in it.
And what I'm really empowered to do, and what I've kind of been trying to do for the last decade, really, is this intersection of technology and human behavior.
And collectively, we can leverage technology for good. And I'll draw you an analogy.
So for hundreds and hundreds of years, clever people have been doing amazing work.
Sculptors, poets, writers, artists, they all do wonderful work.
And society is better as a result of that. But the way that they do it is by using their own choice of tools.
You can't tell Michelangelo what brush he's going to be using to paint the Sistine Chapel, or so on and so forth.
But also the fact that they've kept their brushes clean, and their tools clean.
And what our job is to do is to give people choice and flexibility so they can make their own decisions in terms of digital natives and the digital artisans of the future.
And also keep their tools clean.
So give them choice and keep them clean. And if you do that, then great people create great stuff.
And our society moves forward together.
That's a fascinating metaphor. I'm going to have to probably steal that one.
Unfortunately, now there's video evidence of who I stole it from. But Dave, thank you for taking the time and taking us through the history lesson.
And hopefully, Cloudflare continues to expand the amount of options available and make sure the security is in place to keep them clean.
Thank you, Doug. Thank you, everyone.
Thank you for joining us and have a wonderful morning, evening, or good night.