They say that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. More than three billion people use the Internet, with 640,000 new users every day. It is easy to call the Internet a stunning success.
But it is not easy to answer the question, "Who invented the Internet?". Internet history extends back more than fifty years. Government organizations and thousands of scientists were involved in its creation.
You must answer several questions before you can decide who the founder of the Internet is. When did the Internet begin? What was the World Wide Web?
Here is your quick guide to all the layers and the major players who invented the Internet.
Scientists have been tinkering with networks of information for decades. Nikola Tesla wrote about the idea of a "world wireless system" in the early 1900s. Writers and authours wrote stories about searchable storage systems for books and documents in the 1930s. Even the great British philosopher, Allen Watts made this speech about the future of a connected world and privacy.
Smart minds did not invent the first practical tools for the Internet until the 1960s. Computer scientists developed a concept called packet switching.
Before packets, scientists sent information in a continuous stream. This made information travel slowly and imprecisely.
Packet switching sends information through a network in small blocks. The system that receives the blocks assembles them into usable data. Information could travel at a fast speed.
The Department of Defense borrowed packet switching for themselves. They developed a network of computers called the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).
On October 29, 1969, ARPANET computers sent their first message to each other. But the computers crashed after two letters in the word "LOGIN" were sent. For the Internet to work, computers needed to be improved.
They noticed that the few computers spread across the country each had their own computing language. In 1973, they developed a universal set of rules for different languages. Their rules were called the Transmission Control Protocol.
They dictated that any packets lost through lines would have to be retransmitted. There would be no central administration between lines, allowing computers to communicate directly. All networks could connect without someone in between.
At the same time, private contractors for the government were focusing on ARPANET. A company called Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc (BBN) developed the Interface Message Processor. This distributes packages of data to different computers.
The Processor made transmissions amongst computers faster, to the point that the public could use computers. BBN decided to take their technology to the public.
In 1975, they started Telenet Inc. The company provided packet-switched computer networks to everyday Americans. It was the first Internet supplier to hit the market.
This is CSIRAC (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Automatic Computer), originally known as CSIR Mk 1, it was Australia's first digital computer, and the fifth stored program computer in the world. Things got much smaller after Apple launched the first mass-marketed personal computer the Apple II. The first units were shipped in 1977.
That same year, the first modem was released. This allowed home users to connect to a computer network.
Through the 1970s, computer scientists did not know how to describe what they were working on. Some people called their project "the internetwork." Others called it "the international."
In 1978, a paper on the Transmission Control Protocol was published. Scientists referred to it as "the Internet Protocol." This was the first common use of the word "Internet," and it became popular.
The success and innovations of ARPANET encouraged the government to continue its involvement. In 1981, the National Science Foundation started the Computer Science Network. The Network spread awareness of the Internet, encouraging Americans to use it.
Personal computing developed at a fast rate. IBM introduced its line of personal desktop computers in 1981.
But the Internet still was not commonplace. The Domain Name System was invented in 1983, which allowed people to visit online pages. The familiar extensions of .com and .org come from this system.
Companies began to develop their own Internet domains. The first companies were computer corporations. It wasn't until AOL debuted its Instant Messager Service in 1989 that average Americans began to use the Internet in their daily lives.
Tim Berners-Lee was a computer scientist with the European Organization for Nuclear Research. In the early 1980s, he developed a system for linking research documents together. He called it Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
The system worked well, and Berners-Lee became interested in taking it to the public. In 1991, he combined HTML with a new feature called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL specifies the location of a website on a computer network. Most people refer to it as a web address.
This combination of HTML and URL was the base for the World Wide Web. It was first published in 1991. Berners-Lee released the World Wide Web technology to the public domain in 1993, allowing users to develop it for free.
The Internet as we know it today soon emerged. 1995 saw the creation of several important services, including Windows 95 and Amazon.
Who invented the Internet? The answer is, it depends.
Department of Defense scientists developed the first major network of computers. Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf created the first universal Internet protocols. But the Internet didn't take shape until Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.
You can call Kahn, Cerf, and Berners-Lee the inventors of the Internet as we know it today. But the Internet was a collaborative project, with many layers of invetion and thousands of brilliant scientists involved in its creation. All of those scientists deserve recognition.
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