So, last night, my internet was out. I mean, it was only out for a good ten minutes before I realized that the router had been disconnected (the dog is the top suspect for this one), but it made me start thinking about the internet in general. Being in my early 20’s, I have never been without the internet. So it got me thinking, how did people survive before the internet, and how did it come to be?
For me, getting the internet to work again was as easy as reconnecting the router, but there was obviously more work involved for starting the internet from the very beginning. So I did some research.
The Internet: What Is It, Really?
So, I began my research with the basic Google search of the word “internet”. Of course, there was a good bit of mumbo jumbo about all the different internet providers, but good, old Wikipedia pulled through–which I then fact-checked through Merriam-Webster Dictionary because we all know that people can basically write whatever they want on Wikipedia.
Apparently, the word internet is defined as a network of electronic communications that connects computer networks and facilities around the world. In simpler terms, the internet is a network of global exchanges, transmitting data from computer to computer all across the world. Is that amazing or what?
Okay, honestly, it still sounds a bit like computer nerd jargon, but if you think about it as a big, huge spider web of connections that stretches across the entire world to connect people, computers, and the communications shared between them; it is pretty cool.
Actually, maybe just think of something other than a million baby spiders carrying all of those messages back and forth across that gigantic spider web that covers the world… It’s kind of terrifying. Maybe just think of colorful electrical charges traveling along the webbing to carry the messages instead.
Of course, learning all of this information led to more curiosity, so I did some more digging.
The Birth of the Internet
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “curiosity killed the cat.” Well, this time, curiosity killed my free time. I probably spent way too much time digging down that rabbit hole that I had created for myself, but what can I say, it was intriguing. And I am dragging you down with me.
So . . . the birth of the internet.
It all started in the middle of the Cold War in the 1960s while the US was still paranoid about the Soviet Union and all of their rapid scientific growth and development. I guess paranoia was the popular mood for back in the day, but sometimes all we need is just a little bit of fear of the worst that could happen to push us to do something great.
The US military was worried about how easily their long-distance communications network could be destroyed. At the time, that network only consisted of telephone lines and wires that weren’t exactly damage resistant, especially if the Soviet Union attacked from space.
Photo curtesy of Found on “How The Cold War And George Orwell Helped Make the Internet What It Is” October 6, 2014 3:30 PM ET from npr.org
While the US military was busy playing telephone with their tin cans connected to fraying yarn (or perhaps their communication system could have been a bit more complex than that), a man named J.C.R. Licklider, a scientist from ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), came up with a brilliant idea that would keep the communication lines active in the case of a nuclear attack. He called it the “Galactic Network,” as it was supposed to globally interconnect a set of computers in a way that would allow access to data and programs from practically any site.
If you ask me, “Galactic Network” sounds a lot cooler than “the internet,” but I guess it could have been a bit too close to sounding like part of a plan for world domination… Yeah, I can see why they did away with the name, but really, did they have to give the earliest version of it such an ugly name as the ARPAnet?
Anyways, the ARPAnet became the great-grandfather of the internet that we have today as a smaller network of connections between computers to keep the communication lines alive. So basically, the internet we have today is the adorable great-grandbaby grown up to be more intelligent and successful than any past generations.
On another note, Great-Granddaddy ARPAnet was not alone in paving the way for his future generations. Apparently, it was really a development by an MIT scientist, Leonard Kleinrock, known as packet switching that really put it all into motion.
Next in the evolution of the internet comes the development of the host-to-host protocols and early developments of applications for the ARPAnet, like email, but we will discuss all of those intriguing developments in history in the next installment of the Evolution of the Internet.