How The Internet Began

It would appear that the world revolves around the internet and for many, they would be a bit lost without it. It has not been around for very long and has gone through many changes and developments since its inception and it really is quite amazing how we all just take it for granted. So where did it all begin? During the 1950s computers were in their infancy and were developed so that they could link with another in a different location, another room in those days. In the early stages of this linking, it worked a little bit like a telephone in that information could be sent from one computer to another. This continued until the late 1960s where experiments were run and packet switching was attempted. The packet switching was then passed through a shared network of computers. What you need to remember is that back then, the information in the packets was very basic, nothing like we have today.





In 1959 the Soviet Union launched the first man made satellite into space which shocked the US as the cold war was at its peak and each country was trying to out-advance its rival. This led to the development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency or ARPA which was created to find new technologies to give the United States an advantage. ARPA created a computer network which was known as ARPANET and it was not until 1969 that Robert Taylor initiated a collaboration with Larry Roberts from MIT to create a network between computers located in UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute on the 29th of October 1969. From there, the network grew and more computers located in universities across the USA were linked to the network. About the same time, NASA instigated their own network which had great success and who were also responsible for the TCP/IP which was able to connect scientists from around the globe. There were around 20,000 scientists from all over the world connected by 1989 and these networks were used to send simple messages to other computers. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research or CERN, went further and Englishman Tim Berners-Lee developed the network further and the internet was born in 1989.


In the early days of the internet, it was all very basic as were the computers, certainly by the standards we have today and all you could do was send simple binary messages. In France in Internet Background1991, CERN built the first website and this contained information relating to a project known as the ‘world wide web’. There was also limited information on things such as how to use a web browser. Within 5 years, advancements in personal computers and the development of the internet meant that the public were able to make use of the new technology and using dial up connections, get online. Since then both personal computers and the internet have advanced exponentially with billions of people having access at the click of a button or a mouse. Further advancements in technology mean that even away from home, we have access to the internet via our Smartphones, tablets and PDAs. Even the newest Smart TVs have internet access. Quite amazing that much of this started when the Russians launched Sputnik.


The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location. The Internet represents one of the most successful examples of the benefits of sustained investment and commitment to research and development of information infrastructure. Beginning with the early research in packet switching, the government, industry and academia have been partners in evolving and deploying this exciting new technology. Today, terms like “” and “” trip lightly off the tongue of the random person on the street. 1

This is intended to be a brief, necessarily cursory and incomplete history. Much material currently exists about the Internet, covering history, technology, and usage. A trip to almost any bookstore will find shelves of material written about the Internet. 2

In this paper,3 several of us involved in the development and evolution of the Internet share our views of its origins and history. This history revolves around four distinct aspects. There is the technological evolution that began with early research on packet switching and the ARPANET (and related technologies), and where current research continues to expand the horizons of the infrastructure along several dimensions, such as scale, performance, and higher-level functionality. There is the operations and management aspect of a global and complex operational infrastructure. There is the social aspect, which resulted in a broad community of Internauts working together to create and evolve the technology. And there is the commercialization aspect, resulting in an extremely effective transition of research results into a broadly deployed and available information infrastructure.

The Internet today is a widespread information infrastructure, the initial prototype of what is often called the National (or Global or Galactic) Information Infrastructure. Its history is complex and involves many aspects – technological, organizational, and community. And its influence reaches not only to the technical fields of computer communications but throughout society as we move toward increasing use of online tools to accomplish electronic commerce, information acquisition, and community operations.

Origins of the Internet

The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today. Licklider was the first head of the computer research program at DARPA,4 starting in October 1962. While at DARPA he convinced his successors at DARPA, Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts, of the importance of this networking concept.

Leonard Kleinrock at MIT published the first paper on packet switching theory in July 1961 and the first book on the subject in 1964. Kleinrock convinced Roberts of the theoretical feasibility of communications using packets rather than circuits, which was a major step along the path towards computer networking. The other key step was to make the computers talk together. To explore this, in 1965 working with Thomas Merrill, Roberts connected the TX-2 computer in Mass. to the Q-32 in California with a low speed dial-up telephone line creating the first (however small) wide-area computer network ever built. The result of this experiment was the realization that the time-shared computers could work well together, running programs and retrieving data as necessary on the remote machine, but that the circuit switched telephone system was totally inadequate for the job. Kleinrock’s conviction of the need for packet switching was confirmed.

In late 1966 Roberts went to DARPA to develop the computer network concept and quickly put together his plan for the “ARPANET”, publishing it in 1967. At the conference where he presented the paper, there was also a paper on a packet network concept from the UK by Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury of NPL. Scantlebury told Roberts about the NPL work as well as that of Paul Baran and others at RAND. The RAND group had written a paper on packet switching networks for secure voice in the military in 1964. It happened that the work at MIT (1961-1967), at RAND (1962-1965), and at NPL (1964-1967) had all proceeded in parallel without any of the researchers knowing about the other work. The word “packet” was adopted from the work at NPL and the proposed line speed to be used in the ARPANET design was upgraded from 2.4 kbps to 50 kbps. 5

Read more: