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An Idea That Changed Life as We Knew It: A Brief History of the Internet

September 9, 2014

Do you remember the world before the Internet?

Chances are even if you were working professionally as far back as the 1970s, it’s a world that is almost impossible for you to imagine today. After all, the Internet has become so integral to civilized society that you can’t help but wonder what would happen if it suddenly altogether ceased to exist. So where did such a transformative piece of technology come from anyway? As you could imagine, it’s a long and interesting story. We’ll give you the highlights:

– 1946: ENIAC, the world’s first digital computer, is designed by John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert. It occupies 1,800 square feet of floor space and weighs 30 tons. The computer costs about $500,000 at the time, which is close to $6 million in today’s economy.

– 1962: Referred to by some as the father of the Internet, J.C.R. Licklider, a faculty member at MIT, conceives the idea that a network of computers could be connected to one another in order to transmit and receive data efficiently.

– 1969: Then a graduate student at UCLA, Charley Kline sends the first ever transmission over the ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet. Kline attempts to type the word “LOGIN” but the systems crash after the L and O are transmitted.

– 1989: Tim Berners-Lee writes his initial proposal for the World Wide Web. The world’s first website goes online on Aug. 6, 1991.

-1992: Delphi becomes the first company to offer Internet access and email to consumers

– 1995: NSFNET, a network linking research and educational institutions, is formally decommissioned. This essentially lifts all commercial restrictions on the Internet, setting the stage for it to evolve into what it’s become.

Today, the Internet has grown into a complex ecosystem that connects computer networks around the world, encompassing countless email accounts and more than 1 billion websites. We’ve certainly seen the Internet change over the years—just compare the classic Space Jam website to your Facebook feed, for example. And that evolution has been incredible.

But where do we go from here?

Everyone’s guess is as good as the next one. But as new technologies continue to emerge—like HTML5 and IPv6, among countless others—the future of the Internet remains more exciting than ever.


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