October 29, 2014

The beginning of the Internet is the story of two large computers, miles apart, sending the message: “LO.” The world has never been the same.

In the late 1960s an experimental network of four computers called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was commissioned by the U.S. government. The computers were located at UCLA, SRI International (then known as Stanford Research Institute), UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET evolved into the network of computer networks we know as the Internet.

On October 29, 1969, the first message was sent between two ARPANET computers. They tried to type in “LOGIN,” but the computers crashed after the first two letters.

UCLA’s Leonard Kleinrock, who was part of the team that first connected the ARPANET computers, is interviewed in this KTLA-TV story. (Here is a link to another story about the first ARPANET connection.)

“The breakthrough accomplished that night in 1969 was a decidedly down-to-earth one. The Arpanet was not, in itself, intended as some kind of secret weapon to put the Soviets in their place: it was simply a way to enable researchers to access computers remotely, because computers were still vast and expensive, and the scientists needed a way to share resources.

….One of the most intriguing things about the growth of the internet is this: to a select group of technological thinkers, the surprise wasn’t how quickly it spread across the world, remaking business, culture and politics — but that it took so long to get off the ground. Even when computers were mainly run on punch-cards and paper tape, there were whispers that it was inevitable that they would one day work collectively, in a network, rather than individually.”

— “Forty years of the internet: how the world changed for ever.”
Guardian.co.uk, October 23, 2009
(This article is part of a special section called, “The internet at 40

On January 1, 1983, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) were accepted as the standard protocols for the ARPANET and other computer networks. For some, the acceptance of TCP/IP as a common network communication language is considered the beginning of the Internet. Vint Cert talks about the history of TCP/IP:

“’The 1969 connection was not just a symbolic milestone in the project that led to the Internet, but in the whole idea of connecting computers — and eventually billions of people — to each other,’ said Marc Weber, founding curator of the Museum’s Internet History Program. ‘In the 1960s, as many as a few hundred users could have accounts on a single large computer using terminals, and exchange messages and files between them. But each of those little communities was an island, isolated from others. By reliably connecting different kinds of computers to each other, the ARPANET took a crucial step toward the online world that links nearly a third of the world’s population today.'”

— “The Computer History Museum, SRI International, and BBN Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of First ARPANET Transmission”
Computer History Museum, October 27, 2009

There are many fathers and mothers of the Internet and several have been honored in the Internet Hall of Fame.

Finally, PandoDaily and Explainer Music have helped put the Internet into perspective with their video, “PandoHouse Rock: A History of The Internet and Computing in 71 Seconds.”

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