The Internet and World-Wide Web are the greatest telecommunication breakthrough
since the telephone. The enormous growth that the web has enjoyed in the last decade has come very quickly to a system still
in its relative infancy.
The foundations of the Internet were formed when packet-switching networks came into operation
in the 1960s. Transmitted data in broken up into small packets of data, sent to its destination, and reassembled at the other
side. This means that a single signal can be routed to multiple users, and an interrupted packet may be re-sent without loss
of transmission. Packets can be compressed for speed and encrypted for security.
Computers at the time were massive,
primitive structures. The only type of network in operation before was made up of terminals that logged into mainframes. This
is similar to the present-day client/server relationship we have with the modern Internet, except the computers are usually
comparable in terms of power, and so the Internet is known as a peer-to-peer system.
J.C.R. Licklider of MIT, first
proposed a global network of computers in 1962, and moved over to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in
late 1962 to head the work to develop it. Leonard Kleinrock of MIT and later UCLA developed the theory of packet switching,
which was to form the basis of Internet connections. Lawrence Roberts of MIT connected a Massachusetts computer with a California
computer in 1965 over dial-up telephone lines. It showed the feasibility of wide area networking, but also showed that the
telephone line's circuit switching was inadequate. Kleinrock's packet switching theory was confirmed. Roberts moved over to
DARPA in 1966 and developed his plan for ARPANET. These visionaries and many more left unnamed here are the real founders
of the Internet.
The Internet, then known as ARPANET, was brought online in 1969 under a contract let by the renamed
Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which initially connected four major computers at universities in the southwestern
US (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah). The contract was carried out by BBN of Cambridge,
MA under Bob Kahn and went online in December 1969. By June 1970, MIT, Harvard, BBN, and Systems Development Corp (SDC) in
Santa Monica, Cal. were added. By January 1971, Stanford, MIT's Lincoln Labs, Carnegie-Mellon, and Case-Western Reserve U
were added. In months to come, NASA/Ames, Mitre, Burroughs, RAND, and the U of Illinois plugged in. The early Internet was
used by computer experts, engineers, scientists, and librarians. There was nothing friendly about it. There were no home or
office personal computers in those days, and anyone who used it, whether a computer professional or an engineer or scientist
or librarian, had to learn to use a very complex system.
The ARPANET used Network Control Protocol as its transmission
protocol from 1969 to 1982, when NCP was replaced with the now-widespread TCP/IP. Services like Email found their first usage
through the ARPANET system, and its obvious benefits were lauded by all who participated. E-mail was adapted for ARPANET by
Ray Tomlinson of BBN in 1972. He picked the @ symbol from the available symbols on his teletype to link the username and address.
The telnet protocol, enabling logging on to a remote computer, was published as a Request for Comments (RFC) in 1972. RFC's
are a means of sharing developmental work throughout community. The ftp protocol, enabling file transfers between Internet
sites, was published as an RFC in 1973, and from then on RFC's were available electronically to anyone who had use of the
In 1991, the first really friendly interface to the Internet was developed at the University of Minnesota.
The University wanted to develop a simple menu system to access files and information on campus through their local network.
A debate followed between mainframe adherents and those who believed in smaller systems with client-server architecture. The
mainframe adherents "won" the debate initially, but since the client-server advocates said they could put up a prototype very
quickly, they were given the go-ahead to do a demonstration system. The demonstration system was called a gopher after the
U of Minnesota mascot--the golden gopher. The gopher proved to be very prolific, and within a few years there were over 10,000
gophers around the world. It takes no knowledge of unix or computer architecture to use. In a gopher system, you type or click
on a number to select the menu selection you want.
Gopher's usability was enhanced much more when the University of
Nevada at Reno developed the VERONICA searchable index of gopher menus. It was purported to be an acronym for Very Easy Rodent-Oriented
Netwide Index to Computerized Archives. A spider crawled gopher menus around the world, collecting links and retrieving them
for the index. It was so popular that it was very hard to connect to, even though a number of other VERONICA sites were developed
to ease the load.