It is a known fact that the main impetus for the advent of EARN in Europe was a commercial marketing effort by IBM. While IBM had been very successful in selling mainframe computers to large corporations such as banks and insurance companies during the 60’s and 70’s it had been somewhat less successful in the “scientific” market in Europe. In this market other manufacturers (in particular DEC) had been able to expand and prosper, and thus created a barrier for the IBM sales force. Rumor has it that in order to facilitate the acceptance of the IBM technology by the Universities IBM decided to create a European-wide scientific network by offering, free of charge, to each University buying an IBM mainframe, a leased telephone circuit to the nearest University already connected to the network. The only condition required by the accepting University was that it had to be available and willing to accept a connection from the next University joining the club, thus creating a backbone. IBM also sponsored the needed (and very expensive) dedicated international telephone lines to connect the European countries to each other, and one line to connect to the American counterpart: BITNET. To provide a legitimate framework IBM recommended the creation of the EARN AssociationEARN STATUTES ), which was formed under French law as a non-profit association on February, 6, 1985 at a meeting in Paris.




The EARN Association was managed by a Board of Directors (BoD), comprised of one representative person for each country connected to the network. The EARN BoD in turn elected among its members a President and an Executive Committee (Exec) formed by 5 EARN   Officers  (President,  Vice-President,  Secretary General, Treasurer and one ordinary member). In order to facilitate the take-off IBM also sponsored some engineers to work on the technical coordination, and a General Manager. The EARN BoD and Exec documented their work in a set of documents since 1984: minutes of meetings, annual and financial reports. Some of these historical documents are available in the Archive section.

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The IBM initiative, which turned out to be very successful, was also limited in time, as IBM never meant to sponsor forever the network lines or the manpower: the plan was to support financially EARN from 1984 to the end of 1987. So following an agreed plan with the EARN Association IBM gradually withdrew the financial and manpower support, until it ceased completely in spring of 1990. At that time Alain Auroux, seconded by IBM as the General Manager of the EARN Office in Paris since September 1987, was replaced by the first EARN-hired General Manager, Hans Deckers.

Since its inception the EARN Association established a charging scheme for the participating countries to share the cost of operation. The major expense was the cost of the international and transatlantic circuits once the IBM sponsorship stopped, and later also salaries of technical staff to support the day-to-day coordination of the network and/or specific projects approved by the Board of Directors.

Throughout its lifetime EARN opened 2 offices in Europe, one in Amsterdam, (NL) the EARN OSI Newtwork Operation Center (EOC), and one in Paris, (FR) at first known as EARN Office, and later as EARNCC, aka EARN Coordination Center.

The Amsterdam EARN OSI Newtwork Operation Center, managed by Jerry Striplin (seconded by DEC), was active between 1989 and 1991. The main purpose was to test the feasibility of porting the EARN Traffic over an OSI X.25 backbone and later coordinate the EARN X.25 backbone once the traffic would be migrated. As it turned out, by 1991 the Internet (read native TCP/IP services) happened instead, thus the project was abandoned and the office closed. You will find a set of slides describing the EARN OSI experience here.

The Paris EARN Office was actually only briefly based in Paris. Because of lack of cheap suitable office space downtown it was migrated at the Orsay University Campus near Paris at the beginning of 1990 where was hosted by the CIRCE organization (a large computer center serving the Orsay University Campus) free of charge until 1993 and later moved to a different University building in the campus, near Bures-sur-Yvettes until 1995. The Paris office was initially managed by Alain Auroux, seconded by IBM, and from March 1990 until June 1993 by Hans Deckers. After mid 1993 the office was only staffed by engineers and one secretary. The main activities of the Paris Office, among others, were centered on the technical support of the member countries, the management of the EARN working groups,  user documentation, and the coordination with the peer networks, BITNET in particular. On the administrative side the Paris Office was supporting the works of the Board of Directors and of the Executive Committee and was responsible for the invoicing and the collection of the yearly fees from the member countries.