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Who Invented the Internet?

Who Invented the Internet?


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As you might expect for a technology so expansive and ever-changing, it is impossible to credit the invention of the internet to a single person. The internet was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers who each developed new features and technologies that eventually merged to become the “information superhighway” we know today.

Long before the technology existed to actually build the internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks of information. Nikola Tesla toyed with the idea of a “world wireless system” in the early 1900s, and visionary thinkers like Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush conceived of mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media in the 1930s and 1940s.

Still, the first practical schematics for the internet would not arrive until the early 1960s, when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider popularized the idea of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers. Shortly thereafter, computer scientists developed the concept of “packet switching,” a method for effectively transmitting electronic data that would later become one of the major building blocks of the internet.

The first workable prototype of the Internet came in the late 1960s with the creation of ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, ARPANET used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network.

On October 29, 1969, ARPAnet delivered its first message: a “node-to-node” communication from one computer to another. (The first computer was located in a research lab at UCLA and the second was at Stanford; each one was the size of a small house.) The message—“LOGIN”—was short and simple, but it crashed the fledgling ARPA network anyway: The Stanford computer only received the note’s first two letters.

The technology continued to grow in the 1970s after scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a communications model that set standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks.

ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. While it’s often confused with the internet itself, the web is actually just the most common means of accessing data online in the form of websites and hyperlinks.

The web helped popularize the internet among the public, and served as a crucial step in developing the vast trove of information that most of us now access on a daily basis.


The History of the Internet

Before there was the public internet there was the internet's forerunner ARPAnet or Advanced Research Projects Agency Networks. ARPAnet was funded by the United States military after the cold war with the aim of having a military command and control center that could withstand a nuclear attack. The point was to distribute information between geographically dispersed computers. ARPAnet created the TCP/IP communications standard, which defines data transfer on the internet today. The ARPAnet opened in 1969 and was quickly usurped by civilian computer nerds who had now found a way to share the few great computers that existed at that time.


History of Internet and Innovation

Who Invented the Internet? Internet is not Invented by a single person. in the history of the internet, there are so many scientists, engineers, programmers, and developers behind invention in the history of the internet. But our past history says that Leonard kleinrock published the first paper in 1961.

The research paper title was “Information flow in large communication nets”. He was the first guy who shared some ideas about the internet. After that He made several important contributions in the field of computer science and computer networking. He made a very big role in ARPANET development. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).

Still, the internet would not arrive until the early 1960s, when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider released the idea of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers. There is a big hand of Licklider in the history of the internet. Licklider expected about time-sharing automated computers and a network of computers to transfer and retrieve data. This vision ultimately inspired the creation of ARPANET, which eventually evolved to the Internet we know today (Living Internet, 1996-2010).

After that concept of packet switching launched in the history of the internet . Packet switching is generally sharing of data over the internet in the form of small packets. Where each packet sends and receives and after that merges. These packets minimise transmission latency over internet networking. Packet switching was really major an important part in internet networking world which would later become very popular.

The prototype of the internet came in the 1960s with the creation of ARPANET. it was the first wide-area packet-switching network .it was first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol in the 1970s. it was originally founded by U.S. Defence Department. Which used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate over a single network.

On October 29, 1969, ARPANET delivered its first message: a “node-to-node” communication from one computer to another. The first computer was located in a research lab at UCLA and the second was at Stanford each one was the size of a small house. The message—“LOGIN”—was short and simple, but unfortunately, it crashed the fledgeling ARPANET network anyway. The Stanford computer only received the note’s first two letters. this was the first failure in the history of the internet, but No one gave up and continued it up.

But these people never gave up this was continued to grow in the 1970s. finally, the concept of TCP/IP protocol was designed in the 1970s. which is realistically the Internet Model, and developed by 2 DARPA scientist Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. that’s why these persons most often called the fathers of the Internet. After that, it adopted as the protocol standard for ARPANET (the predecessor to the Internet) in 1983. ARPANET basically implemented the TCP/IP protocol.

In 1971 Ray Tomlinson is universally credited as the creator of email as part of a program for ARPANET. Meanwhile in 1978, Shiva Ayyadurai a 14-year-old Indian boy began his work on an email system for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

In 1980. After that researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. it had adopted as the protocol standard for ARPANET (the predecessor to the Internet) in 1983.

In 1978-1980 concept of the OSI model also invented. The development of the 4-layer TCP/IP model started 10 years before work began on the 7-layer OSI Model. ARPANET the precursor to the Internet developed in the late 1960s.

Finally, the worldwide web (WWW) invented in 1989 by Timothy John Berners-Lee (TimBL), Who is an English engineer and computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web (W3C). TimBL has also a big hand behind the history of the internet.

Basically World Wide Web(WWW) is a web networking system. it is responsible for displaying text, graphics, and audio retrieved over hypertext document with its corresponding text and hyperlinks is written in HTML called Hypertext Markup Language. it assigns an online unique address, which is called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). But it’s often confused with the internet itself because the web is actually just accessing data online in the form of websites and hyperlinks.


Who Invented the Internet?

What most of us think of as the Internet is really just the pretty face of the operation—browser windows, websites, URLs, and search bars. But the real Internet, the brain behind the information superhighway, is an intricate set of protocols and rules that someone had to develop before we could get to the World Wide Web. Computer scientists Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn are credited with inventing the Internet communication protocols we use today and the system referred to as the Internet.

Before the current iteration of the Internet, long-distance networking between computers was first accomplished in a 1969 experiment by two research teams at UCLA and Stanford. Though the system crashed during the initial attempt to log in to the neighboring computer, the researchers, led by Leonard Kleinrock, succeeded in creating the first two-node network. The experiment was also the first test of “packet switching,” a method of transferring data between two computer systems. Packet switching separates information into smaller “packets” of data that are then transported across multiple different channels and reassembled at their destination. The packet-switching method is still the basis of data transfer today. When you send an email to someone, instead of needing to establish a connection with the recipient before you send, the email is broken up into packets and can be read once all of the packets have been reassembled and received.

Cerf and Kahn developed a set of guidelines for data transfer using packet switching in 1980, calling those guidelines TCP/IP, or Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. The TCP part of the protocol is in charge of packing the data before it moves across the network and unpacking it once it has arrived. The IP component acts as the trip coordinator and maps the movement of information from its start point to its end point. While Kleinrock’s experiment proved that a single network between two computer systems was possible, Cerf and Kahn’s TCP/IP provided the backbone for an efficient and large web of interconnected networks—thus the name “Internet.” Though other protocols were developed and used before TCP/IP, such as the file transfer protocol (FTP) and network control protocol (NCP), the Internet as we know it today is built on the basis of Cerf and Kahn’s “network of networks.”


“Internet” as the particular internetting standard we use today

The van where the Internet was born, filled with high-tech equipment, was used for a November 1977 test interconnecting three dissimilar networks with the eventual Internet protocol, TCP/IP. The van was built for fundamental research in packet-switched radio networks, the basis of today’s mobile data services.

History is written by the victors. Thus, what we call “the” Internet is quite simply the internetting standard that beat out its rivals. Who wrote it? Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn of ARPA, while drawing on heavy contributions from others in the internetting community mentioned above. They started thinking about it in 1973, and the first field trials came in 1976 and 1977. But the Internet standard we use today didn’t emerge victorious in the 1970s. Back then, it was mostly a proposed upgrade to several of ARPA’s experimental networks. In fact, for the next ten years the official favorites were a new generation of internetting standards, especially the internationally backed OSI. The Internet’s eventual victory around 1990 was somewhat of a surprise, helped by a grassroots developer community and backing from the U.S. government (including Senator Al Gore).


A Brief History of the GIF, From Early Internet Innovation to Ubiquitous Relic

What do Barack Obama, the sloth from Zootopia, and a bear waving its paw have in common? All were named “most popular in 2016” for that most zeitgeist-y of Internet memes: animated GIFs. Since their creation 30 years ago, the looping clips have followed a rocky path to stardom, going from ubiquitous to repudiated and back again. Whether you love them or decry their infantilizing impact on language, it’s impossible to go long without seeing them on the news, social media, or even in office Slack rooms. Thanks to the humble GIF, no emotions are too big or small to capture in animated image form.

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Developer Steve Wilhite and his team at tech giant CompuServe had a problem to solve: how to make a computer display an image while also saving memory. It was 1987, four years before the advent of the World Wide Web, when users who wanted to access email or transfer files did so with hourly subscriptions from companies like CompuServe. Then as now, the issue was space. How could a color image file be shared without taking up too much of the computer’s memory? Wilhite found a way to do so using a compression algorithm (more on this soon) combined with image parameters like the number of available colors (256). His new creation could be used for exchange images between computers, and he called it Graphics Interchange Format. The GIF was born.

(For the record, Wilhite pronounces his creation with a soft G, using a play on the peanut butter ad as a demonstration: “Choosy developers choose GIF.” He reiterated the point when he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Webby Awards. But that has hardly settled the debate, as many others insist on the hard “g” as in the word “gift” but without the “t”. Even dictionaries like Oxford English have unhelpfully declared both pronunciations valid.)

Initially, GIFs were used almost exclusively for still images. What made the format revolutionary was a specific compression algorithm, named Lempel-Ziv-Welch for its three creators (Abraham Lemepl, Jacob Ziv and Terry Welch). The way it worked was to identify repeating patterns, then simplify them, allowing for lossless compression of files—meaning none of the data is trimmed in the shortening process. As Eric Limer explains in Popular Mechanics:

[LZW] let computers invent a whole new phrase like ‘blite’ pixel for combinations like ‘a blue pixel, a white pixel,’ but also combo-phrases like ‘bliteple’ for ‘blite pixel, purple pixel’ and on and on, cramming more and more information into a single new word. This approach made the GIF uniquely talented at fitting photorealistic color images with their interwoven colors into small and practical packages.

Included in the file were multiple variations of the still image, which could be strung together to create a looping video, like a flipbook. The first example of this was a weather map. But when developers took to the World Wide Web in 1991, they mostly used still images. The first color picture online was even a GIF.

“GIF soon became a world standard, and also played an important role in the Internet community,” writes software developer Mike Battilana. “Many developers wrote (or acquired under license) software supporting GIF without even needing to know that a company named CompuServe existed.”

And therein lay one major problem: because the LZW algorithm that made GIFs possible was actually under patent, owned by a company called Unisys Corp. And in 1995, after years of developers having a free-for-all with their GIFs, suddenly Unisys wanted to make good on their patent. They announced they would be charging a small royalty (.45 percent and .65 percent on different products) for software that used the algorithm, including TIFF and PDF as well as GIF. Their patent wouldn’t run out until 2003 in the U.S. and 2004 everywhere else.

Developers’ reactions ranged from the practical—creating a new file format named PNG (at one point named PING for “Ping Is Not Gif”) that didn’t use the LZW algorithm—to the theatrical. On the latter end of this spectrum was “Burn All GIFs” day, held on November 5, 1999, when developers gathered together to delete their GIF files. “Burn All GIFs Day may be the first time in human history that anyone has ever thought it worthwhile to stage an organized political protest, even a small one, over a mathematical algorithm,” wrote The Atlantic at the time. Even though Unisys only asked large companies to buy licenses rather than individual non-commercial users, developers still felt like the patent was a threat.

GIF images were largely phased out, especially since other file formats now did a better job when it came to static pictures. But nobody else could fill one niche that GIF had cornered: animated images. And so, even as the Internet evolved beyond early HTML, the scrappy old GIF clung on for dear life.

“Before, GIFs were dressing up the content,” says Jason Eppink, curator of digital media at the Museum of Moving Images. GIFs were clip-art images and construction symbols, he explains. But now—“the GIF itself has become the destination.”

Part of the reason the GIF survived even after the GIF purge, Eppink thinks, is because it fit the DIY spirit of the early Internet. It was a small file, it could be downloaded and stored on individual servers, and nothing really came along to replace its animation style: that short, continuous, soundless loop.

“Like most digital media, it fills a need but it kind of also created the need,” says Kevin Zeng Hu, a Ph.D researcher at the MIT Media Lab. “We all know how unwieldy texting can be and how much context can be lost, especially emotional context. Once you make it visual, you have a higher bandwidth to convey nuance.”

Hu partnered with Travis Rich in 2014 to create GIFGIF, a project aimed at quantifying the emotions that come from certain GIFs. The site functions almost as an intentional A-B test, with users being asked to identify which of two GIFs better represents an emotion. To date they’ve received almost 3.2 million responses, and were impressed by the accuracy of the top GIFs for each emotion. 

In the years since the project began, Hu says GIFs have become better indexed and are more easily usable, thanks to platforms like Giphy. Ironically, today many of the GIFs seen on sites like Twitter and Imgur are actually video files that have been coded to behave like GIFs, simply because new video technology is more efficient than the outdated GIF storage format. “It kind of transcended the file format to become a name for this specific cultural meme,” says Hu.

For Eppink, another unique aspect of GIFs is their lack of authorship and how divorced they become from their source material. Just because you’re familiar with a GIF—say, a kid at an old computer giving you a thumbs up—doesn’t mean you have any idea where that animation came from. “Most of the time when excerpts are used, they’re still the property of the thing they came from. There’s something interesting in GIFs in that they become their own entity,” Eppink says.

For now, GIFs are protected from copyright claims by fair use doctrine (which protects copying material for limited and transformative purposes), though that protection hasn’t been tested in court. In the past, sports associations like the NFL and the NCAA’s Big 12 conference have sent claims to Twitter about accounts using GIFs of sports events, and the International Olympic Committee unsuccessfully tried to ban GIFs from the 2016 Olympics. 

Despite the uncertainty over the GIF’s legal future, it’s a cultural icon with staying power. GIFs have even appeared twice at the Museum of the Moving Image. In 2014 they hosted an installation on reaction GIFs, and this June they’ll have another exhibition dedicated to the animated images: a GIF elevator, its walls and ceiling covered in the looping pictures where visitors can be immersed in a single, perpetual moment.

“A successful GIF is one that is shared,” Eppink wrote in an article on the history of GIFs for the Journal of Visual Culture. “Even though individuals process the pixels, communities make the GIFs.” 


A Brief History of Porn on the Internet

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“Almighty God, Lord of all life, we praise You for the advancements in computerized communications that we enjoy in our time. Sadly, however, there are those who are littering this information superhighway with obscene, indecent, and destructive pornography.”

It was June 14, 1995, inside the Senate chamber in Washington, D.C., and Jim Exon, a 74-year-old Democrat from Nebraska with silver hair and glasses, had begun his address to his colleagues with a prayer written for this occasion by the Senate chaplin. He was there to urge his fellow senators to pass his and Indiana senator Dan Coats’ amendment to the Communications Decency Act, or CDA, which would extend the existing indecency and anti-obscenity laws to the “interactive computer services” of the burgeoning internet age. “Now, guide the senators,” Exon continued his prayer, “when they consider ways of controlling the pollution of computer communications and how to preserve one of our greatest resources: The minds of our children and the future and moral strength of our Nation. Amen.”

As the stone-faced senators watched, Exon held up a blue binder that, he warned, was filled with the sort of “perverted pornography” that was “just a few clicks away” online. “I cannot and would not show these pictures to the Senate, I would not want our cameras to pick them up,” he said, but “I hope that all of my colleagues, if they are interested, will come by my desk and take a look at this disgusting material.”

One by one, they flipped through the pages of “grotesque stuff,” as Coats put it, that innovation fostered. He cited figures—albeit dubious—from a study that found more than 450,000 pornographic images online that had been accessed approximately 6.4 million times the previous year. The main source had been the free newsgroups—alt.sex, alt.bestiality—and so on, that remained a Wild West of flesh and filth. “With old Internet technology, retrieving and viewing any graphic image on a PC at home could be laborious,” Coats explained, forebodingly. “New Internet technology, like browsers for the Web, makes all this easier.”

As urgent as the situation seemed to the senators, however, such concerns over pornography and emerging technology were far from new. John Tierney, a fellow at Columbia University who studied the cultural impact of technology, traced what he called the “erotic technological impulse” back at least 27,000 years—among the first clay-fired figures uncovered from that time were women with large breasts and behinds. “Sometimes the erotic has been a force driving technological innovation,” Tierney wrote in The New York Times in 1994, “virtually always, from Stone Age sculpture to computer bulletin boards, it has been one of the first uses for a new medium.”

Excerpted from The Players Ball: A Genius,a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet’s Rise, by David Kushner. Buy on Amazon.

Such depictions emerged, predictably, with every new technological advent. With cave art, there came sketches of reclining female nudes on walls of the La Magdelaine caves from 15,000 BC. When Sumerians discovered how to write cuneiform on clay tablets, they filled them with sonnets to vulvas. Among the early books printed on a Gutenberg press was a 16th-century collection of sex positions based on the sonnets of the man considered the first pornographer, Aretino—a book banned by the pope. Each new medium followed a similar pattern of innovation, porn, and outrage. One of the first films shown commercially was The Kiss in 1900, distributed by Thomas Edison, which depicted 18 seconds of a couple nuzzling.

“The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting,” one critic wrote, while Edison celebrated how the film “brings down the house every time.” The first erotic film, a striptease called Le Coucher de la Mariée, released in 1896, was also heating up audiences.

By the late 1950s, the advent of 8-mm film put the power of porn in anyone’s hands—and launched the modern porn industry. When videocassette recorders entered homes 20 years later, more than 75 percent of the tapes sold were porn. It became widely accepted that Sony’s decision to ban porn from its competing Betamax format doomed it to oblivion. More recently, the breaking apart of the Bell phone system in 1984 spawned the explosion in 900 phone-sex numbers. And so it was no surprise that the dawn of the internet was giving rise to the same kind of innovation, demand, and outrage that had been going on for eons.

The furor over internet pornography had started with the publication of a study, “Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway,” in The Georgetown Law Journal. The authoritative-sounding study, written by a Carnegie Mellon undergraduate, Marty Rimm, claimed to be “a Survey of 917,410 Images, Description, Short Stories and Animations Downloaded 8.5 Million Times by Consumers in Over 2000 Cities in Forty Countries, Provinces and Territories.” Rimm asserted that 80 percent of images on newsgroups, the primary repository of pictures online, were porn.

That shocking figure caught the attention of Time magazine, which published a cover story on July 3, 1995, just in time for holiday readers, announcing the soon-to-be-released findings. The cover photo showed a young boy at a computer keyboard, bathed in blue light, eyes wide, mouth opened in horror. “CYBERPORN,” the cover line screamed, “a new study shows how pervasive and wild it really is. Can we protect our kids—and free speech?” As the writer put it in the piece, “If you think things are crazy now, though, wait until the politicians get hold of a report coming out this week.”

He was right. Despite the outcry of civil libertarians and skeptics (“Rimm’s implication that he might be able to determine ‘the percentage of all images available on the Usenet that are pornographic on any given day’ was sheer fantasy,” as Mike Godwin wrote on HotWired), Rimm’s study became the basis of the Communications Decency Act proposal. And, as Exon put it during the Senate gathering, their responsibility was clear. Despite objections over the restrictions on free speech, the CDA would target the burgeoning purveyors of porn online, who would now face up to two years in prison for posting obscene material that could be accessed by anyone under age 18. When the vote was taken, the answer was overwhelming: The Senate, and later the House, approved the CDA.

By summer, however, the basis of the law had been resoundingly discredited. Rimm’s paper, savaged by critics, was found to have been published without peer review—feeding conspiracy theories that it was all the machinations of anti-porn activists. The New York Times dismissed the study as “a rip-snorter,” filled with “misleading analysis, ambiguous definitions and unsupported conclusions.” Attacked by internet trolls, Rimm went into hiding. But his work, and the senators,’ was done.

On February 8, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law. “Today,” he said, “with the stroke of a pen, our laws will catch up with the future.” For Exon and the others, it couldn’t have come soon enough. “If nothing is done now,” as he had urged his colleagues during the hearing, “the pornographers may become the primary beneficiary of the information revolution.”

One day in Boca Raton, Florida, in May 1996, Jordan Levinson, the owner of AIS Marketing, a startup that brokered ads for adult websites, received a call from a man who wanted to benefit from the burgeoning underworld of the information revolution: Stephen Cohen.


Who Invented the Internet? – HISTORY

As you might expect for a technology so expansive and ever-changing, it is impossible to credit the invention of the internet to a single person. The internet was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers who each developed new features and technologies that eventually merged to become [&hellip]

As you might expect for a technology so expansive and ever-changing, it is impossible to credit the invention of the internet to a single person. The internet was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers who each developed new features and technologies that eventually merged to become the “information superhighway” we know today.

Long before the technology existed to actually build the internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks of information. Nikola Tesla toyed with the idea of a “world wireless system” in the early 1900s, and visionary thinkers like Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush conceived of mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media in the 1930s and 1940s.

Still, the first practical schematics for the internet would not arrive until the early 1960s, when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider popularized the idea of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers. Shortly thereafter, computer scientists developed the concept of “packet switching,” a method for effectively transmitting electronic data that would later become one of the major building blocks of the internet.

The first workable prototype of the Internet came in the late 1960s with the creation of ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, ARPANET used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network.

On October 29, 1969, ARPAnet delivered its first message: a “node-to-node” communication from one computer to another. (The first computer was located in a research lab at UCLA and the second was at Stanford each one was the size of a small house.) The message—“LOGIN”—was short and simple, but it crashed the fledgling ARPA network anyway: The Stanford computer only received the note’s first two letters.

The technology continued to grow in the 1970s after scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a communications model that set standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks.

ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. While it’s often confused with the internet itself, the web is actually just the most common means of accessing data online in the form of websites and hyperlinks.

The web helped popularize the internet among the public, and served as a crucial step in developing the vast trove of information that most of us now access on a daily basis.


It’s foreknown that the Internet is one of the comprehensive and everchanging technology, so it’s not possible to credit one single person for it. The Internet was the work of several pioneering scientists, engineers, and programmers that has contributed to developing new features and technology that eventually become one of the greatest inventions.

Before the technology came into existence, many scientists had played around the technology to make something similar. For instance, in the early 1900s, Nikola Tesla played with an idea of building a “world wireless system.” Another example is from the 1930s to 1940s, where Vannevar Bush and Paul Otlet invented searchable storage systems of media and books.

An idea of an Internet practically came into existence from the early 1960s due to MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider, who popularized the idea of “Intergalactic Network.” Shortly, the concept of “packet switching” came into existence to successfully transmit electronic data. Later, it also became one of the building blocks of this powerful technology Internet.

In the late 1960s, ARPANET’s creation (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) came into existence. It became the first workable prototype of the Internet, originally funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The first “node-to-node” communication from one computer to another took place on October 29, 1969, through ARPANET. The first computer was in a research lab at UCLA and another at Stanford.

Furthermore, ARPANET went ahead and on January 1, 1983, even adapted TCP/IP, and from there on, researchers started assembling the “network to networks” that came out as the modern Internet. Lastly, the online world took a more recognizable turn when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee came out with the World Wide Web.


How the internet was invented

I n the kingdom of apps and unicorns, Rossotti’s is a rarity. This beer garden in the heart of Silicon Valley has been standing on the same spot since 1852. It isn’t disruptive it doesn’t scale. But for more than 150 years, it has done one thing and done it well: it has given Californians a good place to get drunk.

During the course of its long existence, Rossotti’s has been a frontier saloon, a gold rush gambling den, and a Hells Angels hangout. These days it is called the Alpine Inn Beer Garden, and the clientele remains as motley as ever. On the patio out back, there are cyclists in spandex and bikers in leather. There is a wild-haired man who might be a professor or a lunatic or a CEO, scribbling into a notebook. In the parking lot is a Harley, a Maserati, and a horse.

It doesn’t seem a likely spot for a major act of innovation. But 40 years ago this August, a small team of scientists set up a computer terminal at one of its picnic tables and conducted an extraordinary experiment. Over plastic cups of beer, they proved that a strange idea called the internet could work.

T he internet is so vast and formless that it’s hard to imagine it being invented. It’s easy to picture Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb, because a lightbulb is easy to visualize. You can hold it in your hand and examine it from every angle.

The internet is the opposite. It’s everywhere, but we only see it in glimpses. The internet is like the holy ghost: it makes itself knowable to us by taking possession of the pixels on our screens to manifest sites and apps and email, but its essence is always elsewhere.

This feature of the internet makes it seem extremely complex. Surely something so ubiquitous yet invisible must require deep technical sophistication to understand. But it doesn’t. The internet is fundamentally simple. And that simplicity is the key to its success.

The people who invented the internet came from all over the world. They worked at places as varied as the French government-sponsored computer network Cyclades, England’s National Physical Laboratory, the University of Hawaii and Xerox. But the mothership was the US defense department’s lavishly funded research arm, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) – which later changed its name to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and its many contractors. Without Arpa, the internet wouldn’t exist.

An old image of Rossotti’s, one of the birthplaces of the internet. Photograph: Courtesy of the Alpine Inn Beer Garden, formerly Rossotti's

As a military venture, Arpa had a specifically military motivation for creating the internet: it offered a way to bring computing to the front lines. In 1969, Arpa had built a computer network called Arpanet, which linked mainframes at universities, government agencies, and defense contractors around the country. Arpanet grew fast, and included nearly 60 nodes by the mid-1970s.

But Arpanet had a problem: it wasn’t mobile. The computers on Arpanet were gigantic by today’s standards, and they communicated over fixed links. That might work for researchers, who could sit at a terminal in Cambridge or Menlo Park – but it did little for soldiers deployed deep in enemy territory. For Arpanet to be useful to forces in the field, it had to be accessible anywhere in the world.

Picture a jeep in the jungles of Zaire, or a B-52 miles above North Vietnam. Then imagine these as nodes in a wireless network linked to another network of powerful computers thousands of miles away. This is the dream of a networked military using computing power to defeat the Soviet Union and its allies. This is the dream that produced the internet.

Making this dream a reality required doing two things. The first was building a wireless network that could relay packets of data among the widely dispersed cogs of the US military machine by radio or satellite. The second was connecting those wireless networks to the wired network of Arpanet, so that multimillion-dollar mainframes could serve soldiers in combat. “Internetworking,” the scientists called it.

Internetworking is the problem the internet was invented to solve. It presented enormous challenges. Getting computers to talk to one another – networking – had been hard enough. But getting networks to talk to one another – internetworking – posed a whole new set of difficulties, because the networks spoke alien and incompatible dialects. Trying to move data from one to another was like writing a letter in Mandarin to someone who only knows Hungarian and hoping to be understood. It didn’t work.

In response, the architects of the internet developed a kind of digital Esperanto: a common language that enabled data to travel across any network. In 1974, two Arpa researchers named Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf published an early blueprint. Drawing on conversations happening throughout the international networking community, they sketched a design for “a simple but very flexible protocol”: a universal set of rules for how computers should communicate.

These rules had to strike a very delicate balance. On the one hand, they needed to be strict enough to ensure the reliable transmission of data. On the other, they needed to be loose enough to accommodate all of the different ways that data might be transmitted.

Vinton Cerf, left, and Robert Kahn, who devised the first internet protocol. Photograph: Louie Psihoyos/Corbis

“It had to be future-proof,” Cerf tells me. You couldn’t write the protocol for one point in time, because it would soon become obsolete. The military would keep innovating. They would keep building new networks and new technologies. The protocol had to keep pace: it had to work across “an arbitrarily large number of distinct and potentially non-interoperable packet switched networks,” Cerf says – including ones that hadn’t been invented yet. This feature would make the system not only future-proof, but potentially infinite. If the rules were robust enough, the “ensemble of networks” could grow indefinitely, assimilating any and all digital forms into its sprawling multithreaded mesh.

Eventually, these rules became the lingua franca of the internet. But first, they needed to be implemented and tweaked and tested – over and over and over again. There was nothing inevitable about the internet getting built. It seemed like a ludicrous idea to many, even among those who were building it. The scale, the ambition – the internet was a skyscraper and nobody had ever seen anything more than a few stories tall. Even with a firehose of cold war military cash behind it, the internet looked like a long shot.

Then, in the summer of 1976, it started working.

I f you had walked into Rossotti’s beer garden on 27 August 1976, you would have seen the following: seven men and one woman at a table, hovering around a computer terminal, the woman typing. A pair of cables ran from the terminal to the parking lot, disappearing into a big grey van.

Inside the van were machines that transformed the words being typed on the terminal into packets of data. An antenna on the van’s roof then transmitted these packets as radio signals. These signals radiated through the air to a repeater on a nearby mountain top, where they were amplified and rebroadcast. With this extra boost, they could make it all the way to Menlo Park, where an antenna at an office building received them.

It was here that the real magic began. Inside the office building, the incoming packets passed seamlessly from one network to another: from the packet radio network to Arpanet. To make this jump, the packets had to undergo a subtle metamorphosis. They had to change their form without changing their content. Think about water: it can be vapor, liquid or ice, but its chemical composition remains the same. This miraculous flexibility is a feature of the natural universe – which is lucky, because life depends on it.

A plaque at Rossotti’s commemorating the August 1976 experiment. Photograph: Courtesy of the Alpine Inn Beer Garden, formerly Rossotti's

The flexibility that the internet depends on, by contrast, had to be engineered. And on that day in August, it enabled packets that had only existed as radio signals in a wireless network to become electrical signals in the wired network of Arpanet. Remarkably, this transformation preserved the data perfectly. The packets remained completely intact.

So intact, in fact, that they could travel another 3,000 miles to a computer in Boston and be reassembled into exactly the same message that was typed into the terminal at Rossotti’s. Powering this internetwork odyssey was the new protocol cooked up by Kahn and Cerf. Two networks had become one. The internet worked.

“There weren’t balloons or anything like that,” Don Nielson tells me. Now in his 80s, Nielson led the experiment at Rossotti’s on behalf of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), a major Arpa contractor. Tall and soft-spoken, he is relentlessly modest seldom has someone had a better excuse for bragging and less of a desire to indulge in it. We are sitting in the living room of his Palo Alto home, four miles from Google, nine from Facebook, and at no point does he even partly take credit for creating the technology that made these extravagantly profitable corporations possible.

The internet was a group effort, Nielson insists. SRI was only one of many organizations working on it. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t feel comfortable popping bottles of champagne at Rossotti’s – by claiming too much glory for one team, it would’ve violated the collaborative spirit of the international networking community. Or maybe they just didn’t have the time. Dave Retz, one of the researchers at Rossotti’s, says they were too worried about getting the experiment to work – and then when it did, too worried about whatever came next. There was always more to accomplish: as soon as they’d stitched two networks together, they started working on three – which they achieved a little over a year later, in November 1977.

Over time, the memory of Rossotti’s receded. Nielson himself had forgotten about it until a reporter reminded him 20 years later. “I was sitting in my office one day,” he recalls, when the phone rang. The reporter on the other end had heard about the experiment at Rossotti’s, and wanted to know what it had to do with the birth of the internet. By 1996, Americans were having cybersex in AOL chatrooms and building hideous, seizure-inducing homepages on GeoCities. The internet had outgrown its military roots and gone mainstream, and people were becoming curious about its origins. So Nielson dug out a few old reports from his files, and started reflecting on how the internet began. “This thing is turning out to be a big deal,” he remembers thinking.

What made the internet a big deal is the feature Nielson’s team demonstrated that summer day at Rossotti’s: its flexibility. Forty years ago, the internet teleported thousands of words from the Bay Area to Boston over channels as dissimilar as radio waves and copper telephone lines. Today it bridges far greater distances, over an even wider variety of media. It ferries data among billions of devices, conveying our tweets and Tinder swipes across multiple networks in milliseconds.

The Alpine Inn Beer Garden today – still a place where Silicon Valley crowds gather. Photograph: Courtesy of the Alpine Inn Beer Garden, formerly Rossotti's

This isn’t just a technical accomplishment – it’s a design decision. The most important thing to understand about the origins of the internet, Nielson says, is that it came out of the military. While Arpa had wide latitude, it still had to choose its projects with an eye toward developing technologies that might someday be useful for winning wars. The engineers who built the internet understood that, and tailored it accordingly.

That’s why they designed the internet to run anywhere: because the US military is everywhere. It maintains nearly 800 bases in more than 70 countries around the world. It has hundreds of ships, thousands of warplanes, and tens of thousands of armored vehicles. The reason the internet can work across any device, network, and medium – the reason a smartphone in Sao Paulo can stream a song from a server in Singapore – is because it needed to be as ubiquitous as the American security apparatus that financed its construction.


Overview

Summary

Janet Abbate recounts the key players and technologies that allowed the Internet to develop but her main focus is always on the social and cultural factors that influenced the Internet's design and use.

Since the late 1960s the Internet has grown from a single experimental network serving a dozen sites in the United States to a network of networks linking millions of computers worldwide. In Inventing the Internet, Janet Abbate recounts the key players and technologies that allowed the Internet to develop but her main focus is always on the social and cultural factors that influenced the Internets design and use. The story she unfolds is an often twisting tale of collaboration and conflict among a remarkable variety of players, including government and military agencies, computer scientists in academia and industry, graduate students, telecommunications companies, standards organizations, and network users.

The story starts with the early networking breakthroughs formulated in Cold War think tanks and realized in the Defense Department's creation of the ARPANET. It ends with the emergence of the Internet and its rapid and seemingly chaotic growth. Abbate looks at how academic and military influences and attitudes shaped both networks how the usual lines between producer and user of a technology were crossed with interesting and unique results and how later users invented their own very successful applications, such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web. She concludes that such applications continue the trend of decentralized, user-driven development that has characterized the Internet's entire history and that the key to the Internet's success has been a commitment to flexibility and diversity, both in technical design and in organizational culture.

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Authors

Janet Abbate

Reviews

[M]ay be the finest extended work on Internet history and development to date. useful for anyone studying information technology.

Endorsements

This sophisticated history is the best account so far published of the unpredictable and turbulent evolution of the Internet. With its broad international context, the book will be of value to makers and users of the global communications network, as well as to science and technology policy makers.



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