The Big Bad Web—or, networked computers

25.02.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course Brief history of computers by Sudeshna Das

 

When two or more computers “talk” to each other, we call it a network. But why do we need a network in the first place? It is sort of the same reason why we talk to other humansto exchange ideas, let someone know what we need, or just give them something they need. Computers need to exchange information, request files, or hand over the control for resources like printers. A simple example would be you reading an ebook on your phone and wanting to share it with your best friend. You would just send data (the ebook) to them through a network, or maybe via Bluetooth.

Computer networks have been in existence ever since it was possible hardware-wise for computers to communicate data. In the 1950s, these networks started expanding. From two computers forming a network in the same room, networks starting spreading out and including more computers in them.

By 1973, there were different types of networks, and most of these used different protocols. You can think of network protocols as rules for communicating. The protocol for you talking to your parents would specify not mentioning what happened at that party you attended last weekend, and the protocol for you talking to your friends would specify not mentioning how much you like wearing your grandma’s sweaters. But what happens when you are talking to your parents and friends at the same time, and they are also talking to each other? You need a common set of rules for everyone to follow. This is exactly what happened. There were so many different types of networks that there was a need to merge them all together and specify and common set of rules.

Networks like ARPANET, DARPA, and CYCLADES were merged together, and a common set of rules was set up for them. These rules were called TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, and any network that followed these rules was called an Internetwork, which was abbreviated to Internet.

Internetworks were mostly in use in the United States, but in 1984, they were adopted by European countries. Australia, Singapore, and Thailand followed soon after, and then the Internetworks were being used in many countries.

In the early 1990s, a digital revolution took place. The Internetworks, which were mostly used by government agencies, slowly opened up for use by everyone. What that led to is something we are going to cover tomorrow.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a great day!

 

Recommended book

“The Soul of A New Machine” by Tracy Kidder

 

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