History of The Internet
The Internet is a worldwide connection of thousands of computer networks.
All of them speak the same language, TCP/IP, the standard protocol. The Internet
allows people with access to these networks to share information and knowledge.
Resources available on the Internet are chat groups, e-mail, newsgroups, file
transfers, and the World Wide Web. The Internet has no centralized authority and
it is uncensored. The Internet belongs to everyone and to no one.
The Internet is structured in a hierarchy. At the top, each country has at
least one public backbone network. Backbone networks are made of high speed
lines that connect to other backbones. There are thousands of service providers
and networks that connect home or college users to the backbone networks. Today,
there are more than fifty-thousand networks in more than one-hundred countries
worldwide. However, it all started with one network.
In the early 1960’s the Cold War was escalating and the United States
Government was faced with a problem. How could the country communicate after a
nuclear war? The Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA, had a
solution. They would create a non-centralized network that linked from city to
city, and base to base. The network was designed to function when parts of it
were destroyed. The network could not have a center because it would be a
primary target for enemies. In 1969, ARPANET was created, named after its
original Pentagon sponsor. There were four supercomputer stations, called nodes,
on this high speed network.
ARPANET grew during the 1970’s as more and more supercomputer stations were
added. The users of ARPANET had changed the high speed network to an electronic
post office. Scientists and researchers used ARPANET to collaborate on projects
and to trade notes. Eventually, people used ARPANET for leisure activities such
as chatting. Soon after, the mailing list was developed. Mailing lists were
discussion groups of people who would send their messages via e-mail to a group
address, and also receive messages. This could be done twenty-four hours a day.
Interestingly, the first group’s topic was called Science Fiction Lovers.
As ARPANET became larger, a more sophisticated and standard protocol was
needed. The protocol would have to link users from other small networks to
ARPANET, the main network. The standard protocol invented in 1977 was called
TCP/IP. Because of TCP/IP, connecting to ARPANET by any other network was made
possible. In 1983, the military portion of ARPANET broke off and formed MILNET.
The same year, TCP/IP was made a standard and it was being used by everyone. It
linked all parts of the branching complex networks, which soon came to be called
In 1985, the National Science Foundation (NSF) began a program to establish
Internet access centered on its six powerful supercomputer stations across the
United States. They created a backbone called NSFNET to connect college campuses
via regional networks to its supercomputer centers. ARPANET officially expired
in 1989. Most of the networks were gained by NSFNET. The others became parts of
smaller networks. The Defense Communications Agency shut down ARPANET because
its functions had been taken over by NSFNET. Amazingly, when ARPANET was turned
off in June of 1990, no one except the network staff noticed.
In the early 1990’s the Internet experienced explosive growth. It was
estimated that the number of computers connected to the Internet was doubling
every year. It was also estimated that at this rapid rate of growth, everyone
would have an e-mail address by the year 2020. The main cause of this growth was
the creation of the World Wide Web.
The World Wide Web was created at CERN, a physics laboratory in Geneva,
Switzerland. The Web’s development was based on the transmission of web pages
over the Internet, called Hyper Text Transmission Protocol or HTTP. It is an
interactive system for the dissemination and retrieval of information through
web pages. The pages may consist of text, pictures, sound, music, voice,
animations, and video. Web pages can link to other web pages by hypertext links.
When there is hypertext on a page, the user can simply click on the link and be
taken to the new page. Previously, the Internet was black and white, text, and
files. The web added color. Web pages can provide entertainment, information, or
commercial advertisement. The World Wide Web is the fastest growing Internet
resource. In conclusion, the Internet has dramatically changed from its original
purpose. It was formed by the United States government for exclusive use of
government officials and the military to communicate after a nuclear war. Today,
the Internet is used globally for a variety of purposes. People can send their
friends an electronic “hello.” They can download a recipe for a new type of
lasagna. They can argue about politics on-line, and even shop and bank
electronically in their homes. The number of people signing on-line is still
increasing and the end it not in sight. As we approach the 21st century, we are
experiencing a great transformation due to the Internet and the World Wide Web.
We are breaking through the restrictions of the printed page and the boundaries
of nations and cultures.