The Internet is one of the best things that has happened to humankind. NO, it isn’t magic, although it may seem like it. There are complex and massive processes behind the scenes that work in harmony to deliver results to the users.
The Internet houses everything from earning opportunities to entertainment, and now it’s hard to imagine a world without it. Had the Internet not been, you wouldn’t find the top online casino for US players, which is both – entertainment and an earning medium!
In this ultimate guide, we dig into the history of the Internet and learn what it truly means!
Internet – the Definition
The Internet is a wire or multiple wires connecting computers across the globe. It can also be referred to as infrastructure. Simply put, it’s a network of globally interconnected computers communicating through a standardized and predefined set of protocols.
This distributed system is integrated into each and every computing device for ensuring an end to end connectivity. This enables the connected devices to communicate with each other.
The Internet is now an indispensable part of the life of every human being. The technological advances associated with it have transformed our society to an unimaginable extent. The Internet has changed all spheres of life. It’s indeed one of the best human inventions ever.
But have you ever wondered how the Internet came into existence, why and how someone even conceived an idea of a global connectivity medium, and who actually brought it to life?
The Internet wasn’t just another start-up idea. You’ll be amazed to know that it was an experiment’s result – ARPANET, which is the Internet’s precursor network.
And like any other invention, it all started with finding solutions to a problem!
Inventors of the Internet
The credit for the Internet’s invention can’t be handed to just one person. With the development of networking technology, various engineers and scientists together created ARPANET. And it paved the way for an invention – what we call the “Internet” today.
Here’s the list of prominent names that contributed to creating this fantastic technology.
1. Paul Baran
In 1959, Paul Baran was asked to join RAND Corporation – an American think tank, where he was given the task of researching how the US Air Force can handle its fleet in case of a nuclear attack.
In 1964, he proposed a network of communication with any central command. If any of the points were damaged, the surviving points could communicate without any disturbance. This was called the distributed network.
2. Lawrence Roberts
ARPA’s chief scientist, Lawrence Roberts, was responsible for developing computer networks. He took Paul Baran’s idea up a notch and began working on it, hence contributing to the creation of the Internet.
3. Leonard Kleinrock
Leonard Kleinrock was an American scientist who created the distributed network alongside Lawrence Roberts.
4. Donald Davies
Donald Davis was a British scientist who developed a similar network at Middlesex’s National Physical Laboratory during the same time when Kleinrock and Roberts were working on theirs.
5. Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf
These American computer scientists created TCP/IP – a set of protocols governing data moves with the help of a network. These protocols transformed the ARPANET and made it what it is today.
6. Jon Postel and Paul Mockapetris
These scientists were the brain behind DNS development, which is the Internet’s phone book. The Internet wasn’t invented in any “Eureka!” moment.
There was a growing need for a medium that could arrange ideas in a weblike, unconstrained manner. The Internet was the answer to this challenge, and it was created thanks to the combined efforts, realizations, ideas, and influences of various scientists.
Origin of the Internet
The following 9 chapters will paint a clear picture of how the Internet was birthed:
Chapter 1 – Need for a Long-Range Communication System in the Cold War
On October 4, 1957, the Soviets union launched Sputnik – the first artificial satellite launched into space. An artificial object floating into space alarmed the Americans.
The roots of the Internet date back to the 1950s in the USA. With the Cold War at its peak, the tensions between the Soviet Union and North America were also rising. These superpowers’ possession of nuclear weapons elevated the fear of deadly attacks. As a result, the US realized the need for an effective communication system.
During this period, computers were not only expensive but also insane in their sizes. They weren’t pocket or space-friendly for the university staff and military scientists. Also, it was frustrating for the researchers to work on them as they were so few in number, and they had to spend most of their time traveling to and from places with this technology.
Such difficulties encouraged organizations, scientists, and engineers to come up with the possibilities of using computer networks on a large scale. Researchers came up with a “time-sharing” solution that allowed the users to access the main computer simultaneously through a terminal series.
Hence, science and technology attracted more great minds. The launch of Sputnik was just a wake-up call for the Americans. In 1958, various agencies were funded by the US Administration, and ARPA was one of them.
Advanced Research Project Agency or the ARPA was one of the Computer Science research projects handled by the Defense Department. It was counted among the most efficient ways for researchers and scientists to share and communicate findings, information, and knowledge.
Moreover, it also laid the foundation of the Computer Science field. The Internet wouldn’t exist without it. And this is why the Internet’s first version was named the ARPANET.
Chapter 2 – Use of First Computer Network and Introduction of ARPANET
Lawrence Roberts created two computers in two different places for ‘talking’ to the person on the other side. The experimental link worked in 1965 for the first time. It featured the use of a telephone line and a modem for transferring digital data with the help of packets.
Leonard Kleinrock used the first packet network. He used a computer located at UCLA for sending a message to a computer system at Stanford. The scientist tried typing ‘login,’ but unfortunately, the computer crashed after typing the letter ‘ O’. ‘ Fortunately, the second attempt was successful. And that marked the creation of the ARPANET.
Chapter 3 – Creation of the Global Computer Networks
J. C. R. Licklider – an American Scientist, worked on ARPA and his visions and ideas paved the way for the foundation of ARPANET. Today, we may take the Internet for granted, but this invention came after thousands of hours of grueling efforts of what we now call some of the brightest minds of human history.
At the time, computers weren’t the same as they are today. They were costly and massive and were predominantly used as calculators. In other words, they could perform only a handful of tasks. So individuals could perform only a specific task on them. And experiments required countless studies, which means one computer wasn’t enough for the purpose. This called for heavy investment in purchasing expensive hardware to set up more computers!
The scientists built a connection between multiple computers on a single network and got those systems to speak the same language to establish a communication channel.
It’s imperative we mention here that the idea of connecting multiple computers to one network wasn’t new. This kind of infrastructure was created in the 1950s and was named Wide Area Networks or WANs. But it had several technological limitations and was constrained to small areas, limiting its capabilities.
Every machine has its unique language making intercommunication between the devices almost impossible. The ‘global network’ idea proposed by Licklider gained popularity in the 1960s. The vision of perfecting symbiosis between humans and computers was tremendous, indeed. He believed that future computers would enrich the quality of life and eliminate repetitive tasks. As a result, humans would have more time to think creatively and bring new ideas to life. And boy was he right!
The idea was to break the language barrier and integrate a computer system into a vast network. And this is where the concept of “networking” was born, which made the Internet as we know it today. Bottom line – the Internet emerged from the need to create a common standard for multiple communication systems.
Chapter 4 – Building a Packet-Switching Network
By the end of the 1960s, running tasks on the computer systems needed data transfer via the telephone line that used the “circuit switching” method. This method was apt for phone calls but inefficient for the Internet and computers.
The method allowed the transfer of data through Packet-Switching Network. The data could only be sent to a single computer at any given time. That said, the technique was not cumbersome, but there were also high chances of the information getting lost – which meant starting the entire process from scratch.
It was costly, ineffective, and time-consuming. Also, it was dangerous to carry such a procedure during the Cold War. If enemies targeted the telephone system, it could risk the entire communication system.
Packet switching was the answer to this problem – an efficient and straightforward way to transfer data. The solution sent the data in pieces instead of a single stream. The system “switched” the information “packets” into small blocks, which were then forwarded to multiple directions. Each forwarded data took on a unique route to reach the destination.
The data was reassembled on reaching its destination. This was possible because every packet included information about the destination and sender. It was then restored to its original form by the receiver.
Paul Baran’s ideas of distributed networks were used for ARPANET development. He was trying to build a communication system that couldn’t be affected by a nuclear attack. He concluded that the creation of networks is dependent on two different structures – distributed and centralized.
The distributed network was the fittest to survive any attack. In case of damage in one of its parts, the other parts would function smoothly. At the time, the scientists didn’t think about the network’s rapid expansion; in the later years, the growth took place.
Baran was truly ahead of his time, and that’s why he was able to lay the foundation for the Internet’s invention. The packet switching network was highly successful and laid the foundation of ARPANET architecture.
Chapter 5 – Growth and Decommissioning of the ARPANET
In 1958, Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which brought the country’s top scientific minds under one roof. He aimed at safeguarding the American military technology from the enemies by eliminating the possibilities of “surprise attacks.” One of the significant projects of the ARPA was testing the feasibility of a computer network on a large scale.
Lawrence Roberts was given the responsibility of creating computer networks. He worked alongside scientist Leonard Kleinrock at ARPA. Roberts connected two computers, and in 1969, the first packet-switch network system was designed, which Kleinrock first used for sending messages to the other side. This is how ARPANET or the ARPA Network came into existence.
The efforts did not stop at the success of ARPANET, and scientists worked hard on its expansion. By 1973, around 30 research, academic, and military institutions joined this network and connected various locations, including the UK, Hawaii, and Norway.
With the growth of the ARPANET, the need for a particular set of rules to handle data packets also grew. As a result, in 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn invented the transmission-control protocol or the TCP/IP. This new method enabled computer systems to speak similar languages. The invention of TCP/IP led to the exponential growth of ARPANET, which turned into a globally interconnected network known as the ‘Internet’ today.
The ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990 since better opportunities were on the table.
Chapter 6 – Setting Up Common Standards
Today, we have devices that automatically connect the systems to the global network. But back in the day, it was a complex and time-consuming task. The network of networks – the Internet – works on protocols based on the methods that networks use to exchange data and communicate.
ARPANET lacked a uniform language that could be used outside its network for communicating with other computers on the web. It was a reliable and secure packet-switching network, though.
The scientists had to find a solution for connecting the networks. There was a need for network expansion to build an efficient global network.
A set of rules or protocols was required for building an open global network. Moreover, the protocol had to be efficient enough in securing data transfer and easy enough to accommodate the different ways that data could be transferred.
Chapter 7 – Creation of TCP/IP
Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf started working on the Internet’s design. Thanks to them, the Internet Protocol and Transmission Control Protocol were created in 1978.
The interconnection rules were as follows:
- No change was required in the independent networks.
- Internal networks were allowed along with the gateways responsible for connecting these networks. They translated the language between different networks according to the protocol.
- There wouldn’t be any central control – a single organization or a person couldn’t be in charge.
TCP was created to take the messages created by a HOST and reproduce the messages stream at a recipient HOST. The IP located information from the multiple available machines.
About Data Travel
Now you must wonder how a packet traveled from one place to another – from sender’s to the recipient’s destination; TCP/IP has a significant role in this.
Whenever a user receives or sends information, the TCP breaks the data on the sender’s machine into small packets and then distributes the same through different networks. These packets are transferred from one router to another over the Internet.
The IP protocol addresses and forwards the packets. Towards the end of the process, those packets are reassembled by the TCP and changed into their original form.
Chapter 8 – Internet Growth – Phase 1
The scientists tested the established protocols thoroughly throughout the 1980s. And this resulted in the adoption of multiple networks. Eventually, the Internet grew and scaled at a rapid pace.
The interconnected network of networks was taking a form. But its use was limited to scientific studies and research where scientists, researchers, and programmers exchanged info and messages. And it wasn’t accessible to the general public; they practically had no idea about this modern marvel.
The late 1980s was a revolutionary phase. Tim Berners introduced the Internet and the web to the world in this period. Now, the Internet wasn’t limited to just sending messages or info from one system to another.
It was transformed into an intuitive solution that allowed people to browse and find information. The first set of interlinked websites was introduced and accessible to the public.
Chapter 9 – Internet Growth – Phase 2
DNS invention, the use of TCP/IP by the general public, and the increasing popularity of the Internet and email resulted in countless Internet users. From 1986 to 1987, this vast network saw a massive growth from 2,000 to over 30,000 hosts. Individuals now started to use the Internet to send messages, swap files, and read the news.
Advanced knowledge of the Internet and computing was required to use the system more efficiently and effectively. A set of rules was needed to guide the novice users on safely and efficiently navigating this technology.
The answer to this problem was found in 1989. Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, came up with a proposal to CERN – Geneva’s International particle-research lab. He proposed an advanced method of linking and structuring all the info available on the CERB computer network, making it easy and quick for people to access the information.
Today, Berners-Lee’s concept of creating an ‘information web’ is known as the World Wide Web. In 1993, the Mosaic browser was launched, making the web accessible to a broader audience, including the non-academics.
People began creating their web pages on HTML. Resultantly, the website count increased from 130 (in 1993) to 100,000 (in 1996). The World Wide Web and the Internet were now well established. Netscape Navigator was a widely used browser in those times, with over 10 million users globally.
Internet: Too Good to Be True?
The Internet’s invention has tagged along a plethora of trends, inventions, and catastrophes. Prime examples of this include the ‘dot-com bubble’ and eCommerce.
The Dot-Com Bubble
From 1995 to 2000, there was great excitement among people about this new technological advancement. People were curious to learn about the Internet in detail, and they started using it extensively; this phase is termed the dot-com bubble period.
The global industry went through an advanced economic paradigm. The stock market experts and investors succumbed to the hype. The Internet was believed to be the pivot of economic growth by now. The share prices encouraged new online companies to explore new verticals related to this technology.
As a result, stock prices spared high, and venture capitalists and investors flourished extensively. New tech companies came into existence with enticing business plans. The most considerable notoriety was Boo.com – a digital fashion retailer that spent around $200 million to enter the market. However, it collapsed within a few months of going live.
In April 2000, the US market fell by more than 25 percent, and the forerunner in this were technology stocks. The bubble had burst, and there was no saving the Internet-based startups. Trillions of dollars of shareholder money were wiped away, and the ever-enticing Internet suddenly became a radioactive zone for the investors.
Decades of hard work have gone into creating what’s truly the basis of modern and future life – the Internet. From the cold war to Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, numerous people and situations contributed to creating the Internet.
In a nutshell, the Internet is what you think it is! It’s an investment opportunity, a store to shop from, a marketplace to sell on, a medium to communicate with your loved ones, a time-killing gateway, a getaway from the mundane life, and so much more!