Early Origins of the Internet

The ability to communicate through data, the concept behind the Internet, actually came before computers. Telegraphy, for example, was the transmission of a message without the physical transport of a letter. The first basic computer was invented by Konrad Zuse in 1936, and the first commercial computer was created by John Presper Eckert & John W. Mauchly in 1951. In the 1950’s, most systems that allowed communication between networks were somewhat limited, as they only transmitted data to machines on the same network. Still, these communications were the precursors to the modern day Internet.

In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT, wrote about a worldwide system of connected computers in which everyone could share and access programs and data. Leonard Kleinrock of MIT had published a paper on packet switching theory the year before, and he put out his first book on the subject in 1964. He stated that it was possible for computers to communicate through packets, rather than circuits, as they had done in the past. Packet switching, which is a network system composed of packets of information (or “message blocks”), lead to improved bandwidth and faster responses. The information was divided randomly into small segments and routed individually. The problem with this system was that it was prone to failure as there was no duplication at the beginning.

The first version of the Internet went live in 1969, with a network called ARPAnet. ARPA stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was a military section that worked during the Cold War to develop weapons and systems. ARPAnet was built to safeguard the flow of information between military networks, and it worked off of a new protocol, called Network Control Protocol (NCP). ARPAnet, in the beginning, only included four computers at the following locations: Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and the University of Utah. The first Internet exchange was between Stanford and UCLA; however, the computer at UCLA crashed. ARPAnet was responsible for the invention of electronic mail (email), as well as file transfer protocol (ftp), which allows bulk information to be sent.

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