Government Technology
By Ulf Wolf: Citizen engagement and responsibility in the digital age.

The Internet -- A Brief History

February 21, 2012 By

On the 31st of December 2011, a Saturday, over one third of every man, woman, and child on our planet accessed the Internet.

And, yes, these days it seems like the Internet (not really news anymore), and the World Wide Web that rides on top of it, have been around forever; as ubiquitous—and as necessary to life—as water.

My children certainly view it that way, and their children, I am sure, will have a hard time conceiving of a world without it. Already, to some children in this world—to too many, if you ask me—the Internet is the world.

But like all things, it has a beginning, and at this beginning it wasn’t even called the Internet. It was called the ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency), and ARPA, too, of course has a beginning.

We can trace it back to 1958, when President Eisenhower requested funds to create ARPA. It was approved as a line item in an Air Force appropriations bill.

Moving forward from there, here are some of the Internet milestones:

  • 1961 — Len Kleinrock, a professor of Computer Science at UCLA, wrote the first paper on packet switching entitled “Information Flow in Large Communications Nets.”
  • 1962 — Len Kleinrock writes another ground-breaking paper entitled “Communication Nets,” which describes the design for packet switching networks, which was eventually used for the ARPAnet.
  • 1964 — Paul Baran writes a paper entitled “On Distributed Communications Networks,” which was the first paper about using message blocks to send information across a decentralized network topology.
  • 1965 — Larry Roberts at MIT conducted the first network experiment at the Lincoln Lab, where two computers talked to each other using packet-switching technology.
  • December 1966 — The birth of the ARPA project with Larry Roberts at the helm as its chief scientist.
  • December 1968 — Two years later, the ARPAnet contract is awarded to Bold, Beranek & Newman (BBN) in Cambridge, MA.
  • September 1969 — The first ARPAnet node is installed at UCLA’s Network Measurement Center. Len Kleinrock installed the Interface Message Processor to a Sigma 7 Computer.
  • October 1969 — A month later, a second ARPAnet node is installed at Stanford Research Institute, where the Interface Message Processor was connected to an SDS 940 computer.
  • October 1969 — The first ARPAnet message ever sent said “lo” in an attempt to spell log-in, but the system crashed after those two letter.
  • November 1969 to March 1970 — Three additional ARPAnet nodes are installed at the UC Santa Barbara, University of Utah, and at Cambridge, MA respectively.
  • March 1972 — Sees the birth of email in a program written by Ray Tomlinson at BBN for the ARPAnet. Its two components were “SNDMSG” and “READMAIL.” At this point the “@” was chosen for its “at” meaning.
  • March 1973 — Sees the first International connection to the ARPAnet as the University College of London and NORSAR in Norway came online.
  • 1974 — A key ingredient of the Internet—the Intel processor—saw the light of day as the 8080 processor.
  • 1974 — This year also saw the first design details of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) in a paper written by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn entitled “A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection.”
  • 1976 — The two Steves—Jobs and Wozniak—found Apple Computers. This is the same year that Vint Cerf joins ARPA as its program manager.
  • 1978 — TCP is split into TCP and IP (Internet Protocol).
  • 1980 — Time Berners-Lee writes a program called “Enquire Within,” which is a precursor to the World Wide Web.
  • 1981 — Microsoft creates its Disk Operating System (DOS).
  • 1981 — IBM announces its first Personal Computer.
  • 1983 — Cisco, a prominent Internet key-player-to-be—is founded.
  • 1983 — In November of this year, Jon Postel, Paul Mockapetris, and Craig Partridge create the Domain Name System (DNS) and the domains .edu, .gov, .com, .mil, .org, .net, and .int all see their respective lights of day.
  • March 1985 — becomes the first registered domain.
  • 1986 — The ARPAnet connectivity reaches the 5,000 hosts milestone.
  • 1987 — The Internet reaches the milestone of 10,000 hosts. This is the same year that 25 million PCs are sold in the U.S., and that Cisco ships its first router.
  • 1989 — The Internet reaches 100,000 hosts; McAfee Associates are founded, and Quantum changes its name to America Online.
  • 1990 — ARPAnet quietly shuts down the same year that Time Berners-Lee creates the World Wide Web.
  • 1993 — Jean Armour Polly coins the term “Surfing the Internet.”
  • 1993 — Marc Andreesen creates the Mosaic Web browser at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
  • 1993 — Internet Network Information Center, known as InterNIC—the organization primarily responsible for domain name and IP address allocation—sees the light of day.
  • April 1994 — Netscape also sees the light of day.
  • 1994 — Microsoft licenses technology from Spyglass to create a Web Browser for Windows 95.
  • 1996 — Let the browser wars commence; with Netscape and Microsoft as the principal players.
  • 1999 — America Online buys Netscape and the Browser Wars are declared over with Netscape and Microsoft splitting virtually 100% of the market between them.
  • 2000 — Wireless, high-speed Internet technology becomes a viable alternative to copper and fiber optics.
  • 2000 — the Dot-Com bubble bursts.
  • 2000 — In February of this year, the Internet saw 10,000,000 registered domain names.
  • 2000 — By September this same year, the number of registered domain names doubled to 20,000,000.
  • 2005 — launches.
  • 2006 — The Web is estimated to now contain over 90 million sites.
  • 2006 — In October, Google, Inc. acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction.
  • 2007 — Apple surpasses One Billion iTunes downloads.
  • 2007 — Google becomes the most valuable global brand.
  • December 2011 — There were 2,267,233,742 unique Internet users this day; that is over one third of the Earth’s population.

To think that this vision was born over fifty years ago, when Len Kleinrock conceived of packet switching.

It all started with a brilliant idea.

A belated Happy Fiftieth to the Internet.




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