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Internet history; from ARPANET to the future

July 16, 2018

Internet history; from ARPANET to the future

This post is also available in: Spanish

Internet history in just a thousand words

Today, we can now say that the Internet is one of the most disruptive technologies in history.

Like fire or a wheel, the Internet has changed our lifestyle so much that we can barely conceive a world without it.

However, it is interesting to take a look at the Internet History. Although we must travel back in time a few decades, it is not a very lengthy or tricky story. Instead, it is a rather short and explosive story, compared to other technologies of the same historical significance. And if we consider that, a few decades ago, computers did not even exist, we can realize that progress during the second half of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century has been breathtaking.

First years

The beginnings of the Internet date back to the early 1960s, in the environment of MIT and a United States government organization called ARPA.

We owe the first theoretical formulation of the Internet to J.C.R. Licklider, who in 1962 described his concept of the network of interconnected computers and the benefits it would bring at a social level, calling it a “galactic network”. Licklider, linked to both MIT and ARPA (he was the Director of Computer Research), would be an inspiration to his collaborators and successors in both institutions.

Shortly before, in 1961, Leonard Kleinrock had already published an important document on the theory of packet switching, which would make the network possible in its early stages. A few years later, in 1965, a successor to Licklider in ARPA, Lawrence G. Roberts, managed for the first time, together with Thomas Merrill, to connect a Massachusetts computer to another one in California via a telephone line, in the first long-distance connection by this method, which involved some technical complications that convinced its participants of the need to use packet switching.

However, the foundations for the development of the network were already in place and the process was going to be unstoppable. In 1967, Roberts published his plan for ARPANET. Interestingly, at the project launch conference, Roberts found, through the presentations of other colleagues from the UK (NPL and RAND), that they were doing similar work, which was a fruitful exchange of ideas.

During the following years, more work was done, giving rise to the first nodes, and the exchange of messages began, mainly in universities, all of them in the United States. At the end of 1969, 4 hosts were connected to ARPANET.

In the late 1970s, another milestone was reached, with the first host-to-host protocol, called NCP (Network Control Protocol), being developed, which allowed the first application developments to take place. ARPANET would soon be ready to go public.

This would happen in 1972, in a very successful demonstration at the ICCC (International Computer Communication Conference), when a new application that you all know would also be introduced: e-mail, by Ray Tomlinson. Thus changing the Internet History.

Years later, however, the need to continue changing the network would arise. The NCP protocol, too rigid and designed only for ARPANET, had to be replaced by another one capable of supporting the specific features of an open architecture network environment. This is how the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, also known as TCP/IP, was created by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf. As a result, TCP/IP was implemented in ARPANET, and a simultaneous transition considered as “historic” was carried out on 1 January 1983. A few years earlier, in 1979, the first NewsGroups, or discussion forums, had been created by American students.

The leap into the world

Although during its early years of development the Internet had barely left the academic environment, many saw its potential there. In the 1980s, the PC concept was on the rise. Something as strange at first as having a computer in one’s own home was beginning to make a lot of sense.

Hand in hand with the PC, and concepts and technologies such as LAN, Ethernet or DNS, the expansion of the network had been following its unstoppable path in previous years. During the 1980s, important state programmes such as NSFNET (United States) or JANET (United Kingdom), which were highly funded, gave a strong boost to the network through measures such as the creation of transoceanic circuits. In 1990, ARPANET ceased its service. By then, the IP protocol (simplified as the Internet) expands into a world where more than 100,000 computers are already connected. Thus changing the Internet History

New audiences demand new needs, and in 1991, at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee created a data storage and retrieval system called the World Wide Web (WWW).

The ease of use of the WWW triggered it to the success that you know today. The first web browsers were immediately developed for use, the first being “Mosaic” by Marc Andreesen, who created it shortly after Netscape.

Discussing the history of the Internet from here would probably mean going to places known to almost everyone. Once the Internet, the WWW and browsers became common, a new world was developed with enthusiasm. Hundreds of thousands of web pages were created, putting all kinds of knowledge within the reach of millions of people and interconnecting “navigators” from all continents. The first search engines appeared, while applications such as email jumped from being used by a few to becoming massive phenomena.

Around the year 2000, the bursting of the.com bubble led some people to question the future of the Internet. However, it emerged stronger from the phenomenon, going from being a fashion of uncertain future to a profound change in our way of life, until today.

The future of the Internet

As you can see, the Internet history has been mind-blowing. In just a few decades, it has gone from an academic research environment to perhaps the most influential technology in history. And its journey continues unstoppable, causing changes that we can hardly see yet.

Nobody knows what the future holds, but in this blog we have tried to figure out the future of the network.

Why don’t you take a look at Pandora FMS?


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