History of the Internet

In this paper, I will cover the internet’s experimental beginnings, the commercialization of this technology in the present, and the project that is taking place that will probably be the future of the internet.

Before I begin talking about the internet, allow me to define what is the internet, who governs it, and what is the financial impact of this technology. The internet is made up of all computer networks that use IP protocol, which operate to form a seamless network for their collective users.[3 Krol] This means that federal, commercial, and institutional networks all compose parts of the internet. This network is connected by either telephone wires, cable lines, or satellite signals. These wires, lines, or signals are then pipelined from server computer to server computer until your host server transmits the electronic information into your computer. The governing body of the internet is the Internet Society (ISOC).[4 Krol] The Internet Society’s purpose, according to Ed Krol, is to “promote global information exchange through Internet technology”. Another governing body is the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).[5 Krol]

This IAB board governs the protocol standards whereby how computers and software applications talk to each other.[6 ibid] They also make the rules on how to keep track of each 32-bit address number used by each computer on the internet. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the governing body that takes care of operational and near-term technical problems of the internet.[7 ibid]

Along with all conveniences, there is a price to pay. Though information could be obtained from the internet for free, everyone has to pay for their access to it. Just like NSF pays for NSFNET and NASA pays for NASA Science Internet, individuals pay their Internet Service Provider and their telephone company for access to the internet.[8 ibid] As Ed Krol said in The Whole Internet User’s Guide, ”everyone pays for their part.”

The internet, just like the light bulb and the airplane, started as an idea. In August 1962, a researcher at MIT by the name of J.C.R. Licklider wrote a series of memos that outlined a “Galactic Network” of interconnected computers whereby everyone could quickly access information and programs from any site.[9 Leiner] Another researcher at MIT, Leonard Kleinrock, published a paper in July 1961 that would make communication on the internet more feasible.[10 ibid] Kleinrock’s paper on the packet switching theory convinced MIT researcher Lawrence Roberts to set up an experiment that involved connecting a TX-2 computer at MIT to AN/FSQ-32 computer at System Development Corp. at Santa Monica, California.[11 ibid] This experiment resulted in the first computer network ever built.[12 ibid] In 1966 Roberts took his computer network expertise to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and quickly put together a plan for an “ARPANET”. During the implementation of this plan, Leonard Kleinrock’s theory of packet switching was put into practice by the development of key components called Interface Message Processors (IMPs).[13 ibid]

The impact of this development led to the assembly of the ARPANET. The first site chosen to implement the ARPANET is the Network Measurement Center at UCLA.[14 ibid] This was made possible by the installation of the first IMP and the first host computer at UCLA in September 1969.[15 ibid] Then later, the Stanford Research Institute, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah were added to the beginning of the ARPANET.[16 Zakon] In October 1972, the ARPANET was successfully demonstrated at the International Computer Communication Conference (ICCC).[17 Leiner] It is this ARPANET that grew into what we know as the Internet.[18 Leiner]

Two different developments came from the ARPANET: the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and electronic mail.[19 ibid] These developments laid the groundwork for the commercialization of internet technology. In the early 1980s, commercial developers of internet technology were incorporating TCP/IP into their products to network computers.[20 ibid] These commercial developers were shown in a 1985 workshop organized by Dan Lynch and IAB how TCP/IP worked and how it didn’t work. By September 1988, a trade show called Interop was organized to show how well each developer’s internet product worked with other developers’ products.[21 ibid] This trade show was important because demonstrated web browsers, webpages, and other network interactive material developed by different companies can interact with each other.

In 1990, “The World” was the first commercial provider of Internet dial-up access.[22 Zakon] Other companies such as CompuServe, Prodigy, America Online, and others soon followed. These services allowed anybody with a computer and a modem to have access to the internet. According to Vint Cerf, an internet researcher now at MCI WorldCom, the internet has grown to include some 5,000 networks in over three dozen countries, serving over 700,000 host computers used by 4 million people by the end of 1991.

This explosive growth in the number of internets led to an emerging presence of an electronic economy. In July 1997, President Clinton presented a report called “The Emerging Digital Economy” to analyze “…the importance of electronic commerce and information technologies to the economy as a whole and individual sectors of the economy.”[23 [http://www.ecommerce.gov]] In this report, President Clinton presented some case studies such as Internet traffic doubling every 100 days, Cisco Systems increasing their revenue from $100 million to $3.2 billion in just one calendar year, and Amazon.com, the first Internet bookstore, recording sales of only $16 million in 1996 skyrocketing to $148 million in 1997.

The internet produced a new economy that has huge economic growth potential. In April 1998, Vice President Gore announced that $500 million was invested by private companies to develop a “Next Generation Internet”. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. government will invest $50 million toward this effort to help produce “…an Internet that is faster, more dependable, and can connect billions of computers and other devices.”[24 [http://www.appnet.fi/~ois/usis/current/super2.shtml]] The NGI group will collaborate with the Internet2 consortium, which is made up of corporate and university sponsors, to create an internet that can, “Facilitate and coordinate the development, deployment, operation and technology transfer of advanced, network-based applications and network services to further U.S. leadership in research and higher education and accelerate the availability of new services and applications on the Internet