The Internet, something so crucial to every day life, business, and entertainment, and something that we may take for granted, has come into existence so recently in the big picture and is definitely not going anywhere soon. Let’s take a brief look at the major events and big players that gave birth to sites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space.
This led the US government to compete and form NASA in 1958 to focus mainly on computer science. The goal was to create a system that would speak the same language and follow the same, common protocols. After being tested on mostly university mainframes, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Net, the world’s first multi-site computer network, was established in 1969. The original “ARPAnet” was the earliest version of the Internet in that it followed the concept of independent networks that would communicate on the same level.
In 1958, Bell Labs invented the Modem.
This ingenious design converts digital signals to electrical (analog) signals and back, enabling communication between computers. This allows the different networks to communicate back and forth. At this point, there weren’t even screens to “monitor” (mildly-awesome pun intended) this information, but systems simply printed on paper what was interpreted on the keyboard. Computers now had multiple networks and a communication system.
In 1961, Leonard Kleinrock pioneers Packet-Switching.
This is the the type of network in which relatively small units of data called packets are routed through a network based on the destination address contained within each packet. This breakdown allows a sender and receiver to talk back and forth. A current example would be going from site to site on the web.
In 1963, ASCII Is Developed.
The first universal standard for computers, ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange) is developed by a joint industry-government committee. ASCII permits machines from different manufacturers to exchange data. This is the translation of numbers and letters into a 7-digit binary code consisting of 0’s and 1’s. The first computer alphabet had just been created.
In 1972, ARPAnet is shown to the public.
Robert Kahn connected 20 computers at the International Computer Communication Conference, and in doing so, imparted the importance of packet-switching technology. America saw the earliest version of the Internet. In the same year, Jon Postel started the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the first database of website addresses. (Think of how easy it would have been to snatch up Google.com back then!)
In 1974, Elizabeth Feinler, part of the Network Information Center, created domain names.
Without this Internet pioneer, we would be without .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, and .net. Also in ’74, Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn published “A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection”, which specifies in detail the design of a Transmission Control Program (TCP) and coins the term “Internet” for the first time in history.
In 1980, Lawrence Landweber forges the first US-European network gateways.
For the first time, two nations, across a massive body of water, were connected by the Internet. In 1982, the University of Japan was next to connect the island to the rest of the world, which promoted global growth of the Internet. In 1984, the first email was received in Germany from the US, which peaked interest in the German online revolution and quickly spread in Europe. Around 1987, South Africa, Thailand, South America, Australia and 25 countries got online. Latin America would soon follow in 1990.
In 1989, “WWW.” was created by Tim Berners-Lee.
He also went on to develop the first web browser for the Mac OS operating system. In 1991, Al Gore passed a bill which allocated $600 million towards high performance computing known as the Information Superhighway. In the same year, the World Wide Web was opened to the public. In ’92, George Sadowsky formed a team of 1,500 instructors from over 100 countries experienced in Internet technology and operations. Without this group, people would have no idea how to utilize this amazing technological instrument. In ’93, DSL (digital subscriber line), a technology for bringing high- bandwidth information to homes and small businesses over ordinary copper telephone lines, quickly swept the nation.
In 1998, the first blog appeared.
This advent of web-publishing tools available to non-technical users made the Internet easier for everyone. In ’99, Craig Newmark founded Craigslist, one of the most used websites to date. He completely changed how people advertised and introduced an entirely different use for the Internet. In 2000, the Internet became a source for news when Aaron Swartz co-created a network that collected different sources of news and put them in one page, making the spread of information free to everyone. In 2001, Wikipedia emerged, catering to the audience of half a million Internet users! (I wonder if professors would let students cite Wiki as a credible source back then…)
The Internet evolved quickly considering the complexity of its processes and the learning capabilities of its users. In 1990, 0.8% of Americans were using the Internet and only 10 years later, at the turn of the century, 43.1% of our nation was online with the computer becoming more practical and sensible for home-use. Without the many contributions from names most of use have never heard of, the sites we have come to love/hate today would have ceased to exist. The Internet has come such a long way since 1957, especially from what I recall from the 90’s, and who knows what it will look like decades from now. All I ask is that the butler Jeeves comes back to Ask.com! (Its not the same, people!)