Creation of the Internet
The USSR‘s launch of Sputnik spurred the United States to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, later known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA) in February 1958 to regain a technological lead. ARPA created the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) to further the research of the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) program, which had networked country-wide radar systems together for the first time. J. C. R. Licklider was selected to head the IPTO, and saw universal networking as a potential unifying human revolution.
In 1950, Licklider moved from the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University to MIT where he served on a committee that established MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He worked on the SAGE project. In 1957 he became a Vice President at BBN, where he bought the first production PDP-1 computer and conducted the first public demonstration of time-sharing.
Licklider recruited Lawrence Roberts to head a project to implement a network, and Roberts based the technology on the work of Paul Baran who had written an exhaustive study for the U.S. Air Force that recommended packet switching (as opposed to Circuit switching) to make a network highly robust and survivable. After much work, the first node went live at UCLA on October 29, 1969 on what would be called the ARPANET, one of the “eve” networks of today’s Internet. Following on from this, the British Post Office, Western Union International and Tymnet collaborated to create the first international packet switched network, referred to as the International Packet Switched Service (IPSS), in 1978. This network grew from Europe and the US to cover Canada, Hong Kong and Australia by 1981.
The first TCP/IP wide area network was operational by 1 January 1983, when the United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) constructed a university network backbone that would later become the NSFNet. (This date is held by some to be technically that of the birth of the Internet.) It was then followed by the opening of the network to commercial interests in 1985. Important, separate networks that offered gateways into, then later merged with, the NSFNet include Usenet, Bitnet and the various commercial and educational X.25 Compuserve and JANET. Telenet (later called Sprintnet), was a large privately-funded national computer network with free dialup access in cities throughout the U.S. that had been in operation since the 1970s. This network eventually merged with the others in the 1990s as the TCP/IP protocol became increasingly popular. The ability of TCP/IP to work over these pre-existing communication networks, especially the international X.25 IPSS network, allowed for a great ease of growth. Use of the term “Internet” to describe a single global TCP/IP network originated around this time.
The network gained a public face in the 1990s. On August 6th, 1991 CERN, which straddles the border between France and Switzerland publicized the new World Wide Web project, two years after Tim Berners-Lee had begun creating HTML, HTTP and the first few Web pages at CERN.
An early popular Web browser was ViolaWWW based upon HyperCard. It was eventually replaced in popularity by the Mosaic Web Browser. In 1993 the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released version 1.0 of Mosaic and by late 1994 there was growing public interest in the previously academic/technical Internet. By 1996 the word “Internet” was coming into common daily usage, frequently misused to refer to the World Wide Web.
Meanwhile, over the course of the decade, the Internet successfully accommodated the majority of previously existing public computer networks (although some networks such as FidoNet have remained separate). This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary open nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from exerting too much control over the network.