Site Overlay

The Internet 101: A Brief History of the Internet

A revolution of unprecedented proportions has taken place in the computer and communications field because of the Internet. In addition to providing worldwide broadcasting capabilities, the Internet is a worldwide information dissemination mechanism, as well as a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals through their computers without regard to geographic location. 

Starting with early packet-switching research, the government, industry, and academia have collaborated to develop and deploy this exciting new technology. Here’s a brief insight into the history of the Internet.

The Beginnings

The first detailed descriptions of the social interactions that could be enabled by networking were a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider, who discussed his “Galactic Network” concept in August 1962. It was his dream to create a network of computers connected globally through which everyone could access data and programs from anywhere. That concept is very similar to today’s Internet.

In July 1961, Leonard Kleinrock at MIT outlined the theory of packet switching; the first book appeared in 1964. Kernrock persuaded Roberts that packets were a feasible replacement for circuits for communications, a major step towards the development of computer networks. With the help of Thomas Merrill, Roberts connected the computers with a low-speed dial-up telephone line in 1965, creating the first wide-area computer network ever created.

As part of the DARPA program, Roberts developed the computer network concept and quickly proposed the ARPANET plan in 1967, publishing it the following year.

In addition to the paper he presented, Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury of NPL also presented the idea of packet networks from the UK.

Presenting the Internet to the Public

Because Kleinrock developed packet switching theory early on and focused on analysis, design, and measurement, the University of California’s Network Measurement Center was selected in the beginning to be an ARPANET node. The first computer was connected to BBN’s first IMP at UCLA in September 1969. 

Toward the end of 1969, the ARPANET had been launched with four computers connected into an initial network. While this may seem like an early stage, it should be noted that network research incorporates work on both the underlying network and the use of the network itself. Today, the pattern persists.

The International Computer Communication Conference in October 1972 was an excellent venue for a large, very successful demonstration of the ARPANET to the public. A year later, electronic mail became the first popular application.

Marcin Wichary from San Francisco, Calif., CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Defining Internet

FNC unanimously passed a resolution on October 24, 1995, defining the term Internet. Members of the internet and intellectual property rights communities contributed to the development of this definition. “The Internet” refers to the global network of information, a system that: 

  • consists of logically connected devices, each of which may have its own unique address space based on the Internet Protocol or its derived extensions
  • supports the TCP/IP protocol suite or any subsequent extensions, or other IP-compliant protocols 
  • delivers, uses, or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high-level services built on top of certain communication and infrastructure

Over the past two decades, the Internet has undergone many changes. The time-sharing concept was developed in the era of time-sharing but has since survived into the era of personal computers, client-server architectures, peer-to-peer computing, and network computing. This does not mean that the Internet has stopped changing. For it to remain relevant, it must change and evolve at the pace of the computer industry.