A brief history of the Internet

In the beginning there was no Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter. There was no web, no Internet, not even computers… ok, let’s not go back that far! There were computers, at least as far back as the end of World War II… not many I must add! A few more were in existence by the mid 1950’s, then in 1957 the technical world had a breakthrough… both shared cpu time and remote-access came to fruition. It was the second milestone since the introduction of the computer… “Networking”. Yes it all began in 1957!

See the source for yourself: (Bilgil, 2009).

Here is a timeline summary of this history:

  • 1957: Both remote access and CPU time-sharing became a reality (Bilgil, 2009).
  • 1958: The US government founded DARPA (the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency) with the purpose of researching computer information shearing. Later the word Defence and the “D” is dropped and the agency becomes known as ARPA. (http://www.darpa.mil/About/History/History.aspx)
  • 1963: Licklider heads ARPA and initiates a project termed “the ARPANet project”. Licklider and colleagues discuss the “Intergalactic Computer Network” (KurzweilAI).
  • 1964: Paul Baran, a member of the RAND Corporation writes a paper called “Introduction to Distributed Communications Networks” (Computer History Museum), putting forward the notion of packet-switching communication techniques, also being researched and developed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Britain. So who came up with the concept first? You will have to research that for yourself.
  • 1964: On-line transactions make their debut with IBM’s SABRE air travel reservation system in the USA (Computer History Museum). It is assumed that this was a proprietary network of commercial interest only, with no intention of introducing the technology for open general use. Further research would need to be carried out to verify this!
  • 1966: Development of the ARPAnet began. ARPA developed interfaces between workstations and mainframes, then the networking of workstations. To distinguish between the two, the workstation networking was referred to as the IMP (Interface Message Processor) subnet. Much like the relationship between a LAN and a WAN of today. The IMP paved the way to the “TCP” protocol (Bilgil, 2009).
  • 1960’s: The British National Physical Laboratory (NPL), also developing computer networking, developed a system of data transfer that involved multiplexing by sending data in smaller packages across the network to be reassembled into a whole dataset again at the other end. Packet switching was born. Meanwhile the French group “Cyclades” were also active in computer network development around this time. Cyclades developed the idea of a transfer node where each node along the route would pass on packets without intervening to cover greater transmission distances—like re-energising them using node built-in hardware as they travel the route. Their system gave birth to the term Internet (Bilgil, 2009).
  • 1969: First two computers networked (WAN) as part of the ARPAnet project (Computer History Museum).
  • 1970’s Phone companies came on-board as they had infrastructure already in place to carry data around the globe. They developed the X.25 protocol for compatibility with their infrastructure and made global WAN a reality (Bilgil, 2009).
  • 1972 Ray Tomlinson writes the first Email program for ARPAnet and invents the user@host convention (Computer History Museum).
  • 1972 Intel corporation develops the 4004 chip (Integrated circuit). Texas Instruments and Hewlett-Packard develop hand-held adding machines and calculators that put the slide rule out of business. In this year Bell labs also release a new programming language called “C” (Computer History Museum). (Not part of the Internet development, but gives perspective to the times).
  • 1973 Vint Cerf is enlisted to help develop a way to interconnect the different computer networks (wired, radio-based PRnet and SATNET) of the ARPAnet and starts development of the new TCP protocol. Simultaneously at Xerox PARC, Bob Metcalfe is working on protocols for better wired Local Area Networking that will become today’s Ethernet (Computer History Museum). To improve compatibility, international standards needed to be established. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), took on the task by designing the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model. The preferences for this were assimilated into the earlier TCP model to produce the new TCP/IP protocol. The universal adoption of this standard protocol finally merged all these networks creating the Internet. (Bilgil, 2009).
  • 1990: ARPAnet formally shuts down, but the Internet has been born. (Bilgil, 2009). The protocol standards now being defined by ISO are taken up by many technology companies.

It should be noted that the World Wide Web is not the Internet. The web is an interactive information sharing and social communication application that uses its own protocols, which integrate with the lower layer TCP/IP protocols to run over the Internet backbone. There is an overlap in the early stage history of the World Wide Web development and the later stages of the Internet development. This will be the subject of the next weblog entry… Stay tuned.


Bilgil, (2009). The History Of The Internet [Streaming Video]. Retrieved from http://www.lonja.de/the-history-of-the-internet

Computer History Museum. Exhibits, Internet History 1962-1992. Retrieved from http://www.computerhistory.org/internet_history

Internet Society. Brief History of the Internet. Retrieved from http://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet

KurzweilAI, (2001). Memorandum For Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network. Retrieved from http://www.kurzweilai.net/memorandum-for-members-and-affiliates-of-the-intergalactic-computer-network

Researched and writen by Gavin Lardner, OUA student, 2014


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