Internet: From baby steps to giants leaps

A few weeks back on October 29th, the world was celebrating the Internet, one of the most important invention in human history. The first Internet transmission has been acknowledged on this date ever since 2005 and not in vain. In about 15 years we have gone from slow, boxy version of Internet to one which can accessed at great speeds pretty much anywhere depending on the appropriate connections available. The Internet today is a comprehensive information infrastructure filled with communities and technologies. The Internet along with services operating on top of it are most successful examples of benefits of sustained investment and commitment to the research and development of information infrastructures. Internet and Web medium have brought the whole world into interaction and collaboration regardless of geographic location. They have changed the world of computers and communication like no other force before. Inspired by the Internet day and time let's look back a couple of decades when it all began.

Key elements accelerating the development of the Internet

A drive towards technology advancements lies in human nature

The history of the Internet stems all the way back to the 50's to the development of electronic computers. Predecessor of the Internet, ARPANET was designed to facilitate communication between ARPA (US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency) computer terminals during the early 1960s. ARPA was the primary source of computer development and research in general. The most natural push for the creation of ARPANET lies in human nature to evolve and create technology advancements. Before any network links existed, computers were standing alone and operating fully separated by distance and purpose. The goal was to create remote accessibility to specified computer function and data free of the physical space and time. The first time two computers communicated with each other happened in 1965, however it took yet some years for the first stable link between computers through ARPANET to occur in 1969.

During the next couple of decades as communication evolved, the demand started to gradually shift away from this closed pioneer packet switching network (ARPANET) to more openly networked model where the choice of the network technology was not determined and dictated by the network architecture. The world started to get familiarized with the concept of “Internetworking Architecture” where the network technology could be freely selected and made to interconnect with other networks through a meta-level architecture. The Federal Networking Council (FNC) finally unanimously defined term Internet on October 24th, 1995. In simple words the Internet was defined as a worldwide information system of computer networks in which users at any one computer can with permission get information from any other computer.

Before internetworking, communication between computers was as simple as leaving notes in file directories. These notes, as we today know as emails, could only be used to communicate between users of the same computer. Early email inbox was considered as a file directory where people could leave “notes” to another user's directory that then could be accessed by logging in. Communication started to evolve rapidly and new needs occurred regarding internetworking as the notes needed to be put into a digital envelope with and address. Email, the most commonly known form of internetworking between computers, was officially invented in 1972 by Ray Tomlins. He randomly picked the symbol @ to denote messaging between computers. This “nice hack” as described those days still remains in use. For a couple of decades the Internet was used to share static documents, used almost exclusively by defense organizations and academic institutions. When these possibilities were opened up to the public, the demand for email did not stay solely in governmental purposes for long, but was something that people around the whole world wanted to use for communicating. Email can be considered as major catalyst for increasing interest in developing network technology.

As the world was sharing more and more data, the demand started to grow for effective ways to also make it more widely accessible and browsable. In the early 1990’s World Wide Web - another familiar service that operates over the Internet - was established. First Web servers were switched on in January of 1991 and the first web page went live on August 6th, 1991. The oldest website was initially “lost" but it was later restored and put back online in 2014. The first web page contained hyperlinks, which helped first users get started in building the Web while navigating within the then fairly small community. At this time, in the early 1990’s most people had still never heard of the Internet. The Web medium started to grow quickly simultaneously with the evolution of Internet access and computer technology. With the development of the Web, sales systems started to show up on computer boards pushing for the public usage of the Internet. By 2000 half of all the homes in the US had personal computers and people were getting online. However, the public did not yet fully grasp what the Web was capable of. In the beginning of the 21st century, intercommunication through the Internet exploded. Amazon and eBay started making a profit from their web based business platforms causing other businesses to rush into the marketplace as well. On the other side, personal computers and video games were actually teaching people to use the Internet for networking. Between 1996 and 2008 the number of published websites went from 100,000 to over 162 million. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has stated that he believes that everyone on earth could be online by 2020. A statement that is slightly optimistic however not totally unrealistic either.

Web, a global information medium

Web as we know it today is a global information medium that operates over the Internet

We have come a long way from those days. The Web as we know it today is a global information medium with billions of web pages accessible to thousands of millions of people worldwide. Serving the world to interact, read and write with a vast spectrum of different kinds of ever-smarter computers connected to the Internet through different kinds of high-speed technologies, wired or wireless. Children today grow up with the reality of a connected world while the rest of us are trying to keep up with the speed in which the world is changing meanwhile cherishing the memories of printed encyclopedias, postcards, handwritten letters and notes. Together we are looking forward and learning new ways, tools and technologies to communicate and exchange information. What unites these two generation is the human nature to create, learn and adopt new technology for advancements. Within the evolution not only has the world changed but as well our personal mindsets, the Internet access today has become a rule instead of exception, regardless of time and space.

- Maarit @UROS