22.03.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Inventions that changed the world and their stories”

The Internet has no sole “inventor.” The Internet began in United States more than 50 years ago as a government weapon in the Cold War. In October of 1957, the Soviet Union propelled a satellite into orbit. Sputnik the satellite did not do much in reality, but many Americans thought that the USSR could now win the Cold War. After Sputnik’s launch, Americans were motivated to make significant progress in science and technology.

A possible Soviet attack on the national telephone system distressed U.S. experts—one missile could destroy phone communication. In 1962, an MIT scientist proposed a “galactic network” of computers that could talk to one another to enable government communication in the event of a disaster. In 1965, another MIT scientist developed a way for computers to share information. “Packet switching” breaks data down into packets before sending so that each packet takes its own route between computers. Without packet switching, the government’s network (now called ARPAnet), was as vulnerable as the phone system.

Four computers comprised the ARPAnet in 1969. In the 1970s, it added the University of Hawaii’s ALOHAnet, London’s University College networks, and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway. In 1978, computer scientist Vinton Cerf developed “Transmission Control Protocol,” or TCP. It was the “handshake” that introduces all computers to one another.

In 1991, computer programmer Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web. Then in 1992, a group at the University of Illinois developed Mosaic, a user-friendly way to search the Web. Users could now see words and pictures on the same page and navigate using scroll bars and clickable links. That same year, Congress deemed the Web acceptable for commercial use, and many companies set up websites to sell products. Today, we use the Internet extensively; it is impractical to imagine life without it. Recently, social networking has provided an easy way to connect people of all ages for all purposes.


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