The History of the Internet - Part 1

Doc gives us a simple and basic understanding of how the Internet came about and how some of its major parts came into being.
Published: Oct 13, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Kathy Riley, Bill Dennison, Denise Roberts, Paul Schnyder, Alicia McDougal and numerous others

First off, I have to acknowledge that I've received this question a lot.I also want to preface my remarks by saying that this is notintended to be a complete and thorough history of the Internet. There are too many people who deserve to be honored for their contributions to what is now called the Internet for me to cover all of them here.Rather, this article is meant to give a simple and basic understanding of how the Internet came about, how some of its major parts came into being. I hope this article will answer the most common questions and clear up any misconceptions.

The Beginning

The foundations of what became the Internet started way back in1960. That's right, the personal computer was still over 20 years away.A few people, who I'd call visionaries, got the idea that it would be a huge benefit if computers could share information. In 1962, an MIT professor named J.C.R. Licklider first proposed a global, or as he called it, a "galactic" network. Licklider became the head of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to begin development. Another MIT professor, Leonard Kleinrock, developed a theory on packet switching, a concept which forms the basis for Internet connections.One other MIT professor, Lawrence Roberts, was the first to connect two computers on opposite sides of the county -- Massachusetts and California. In 1966 he also joined DARPA. Many other people were involved, but these men stand out because of their vision. Their plan was to create a network called ARPANET.

ARPANET and Beyond!

ARPANET first came online in 1969 and it consisted of computers at four universities. These universities were the University of California at San Diego, the University of Utah, Stanford and UCLA. Then in 1970and 1971 a few more universities joined in including Harvard, MIT, Case-Western Reserve University and Carnegie-Mellon, became part of the network. The foundation for what we call the Internet was in place and starting to grow.

Initially the purpose of ARPANET was simple. It could provide a means of communication even if parts of the network were impacted by a nuclear blast. Yes, that's right, nuclear weapons. Remember, this was at a time during the Cold War and everyone lived under the threat of nuclear war.With a network in place and running, whole sections could be wiped out and there could still be communication between those that survived.

The primary users of ARPANET, the early Internet, were scientists,engineers, computer people and librarians. It was a very complex system and there was nothing user-friendly about it. Oddly enough, it was libraries that began to create a network that was separate from ARPA.Ultimately libraries would create catalogs that could be used by people around the world.

Becoming The Internet

It was the creation of TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, that helped to get things really moving. It's TCP that allows to computers to establish a connection and exchange information. The TCP/IP protocol became the standard in 1983,replacing all of its predecessors. As is the case with so many things standardization started to make it easier to use the fledgling Internet.

The UUCP (UNIX to UNIX Copy Protocol) was invented at Bell Labs in 1978and by 1979 the first newsgroups were created. This gave users of the early Internet an even better way to communicate in a discussion group format. Newsgroups helped to create a sense of community.

The National Science Foundation funded a cross-country backbone for the Internet in 1986. The NSF continued this well into the 1990s and also helped to set basic rules for use of the Internet. Keep in mind that at this point the Internet was still being used primarily by those in education, research and government.

Gradually things like e-mail, telnet, FTP and more were brought to a level where each was standardized. That meant that more people could use it, but it still wasn't easy-to-use.

As more universities and other sites came online, the bulk of the Internet increased. The first person who tried to index the Internet was Peter Deutsch of McGill University in 1986. Deustch and his team created a tool called Archie that archived the listings on FTP sites. From these listing it built a search able index. But this was still a very primitive technology.

At this point we'll stop, just about 1990. Join me next week for part 2of this brief history of the Internet.

I'd like to thank Kathy Riley, Bill Dennison, Denise Roberts, Paul Schnyder, Alicia McDougal and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on any technology topic that you'd like someone to tell you about you can submit it via e-mail by clicking HERE. You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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