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
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
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 the Internet.
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.