The Internet

The Invention of the Internet

As an idea, the internet is so vast and formless that it is difficult for one to imagine it being invented. Being so invisible to the naked eye and not malleable to human touch, it seems complex as something which is everywhere yet invisible must require technical sophistication to understand. But it doesn’t, in fact the internet is fundamentally simple which is why it is so successful.

Since the dawn of time, people have wanted to access a storehouse of knowledge where wisdom and facts from throughout the ages have been recorded. In earlier times, such a role might have been carried out by a wise old man who had learnt from their predecessors, passing on knowledge through word of mouth. As times progressed, and books became common, the next such storehouses were libraries. But still, many humans wanted to create a store of ideas and experiences that could be accessed by anyone anywhere at any time. And it is through this timeless pursuit that we finally arrived at… the Internet.

The Internet was invented through the efforts of experts from all over the world such as the French network Cyclades, Xerox, the University of Hawaii and England’s National Physical Laboratory. But the most important contributor to the development of the Internet was the US Defense Department’s richly funded research arm – Advanced Research Projects Agency or ARPA and its many contractors. (It later changed its name to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).)

The first working prototype of the internet was the ARPANET, created in the late 1960s by ARPA. It allowed several computers to operate on a single network which was created in order to bring computers to the front lines. The main problem faced by this prototype was that it wasn’t mobile – the computers used were gigantic by today’s standards and they only communicated through fixed mainframes.

The next problem that needed to be solved was the problem of getting two networks to interact with each other that is truly making the intranet into the internet. Thus, what was needed next was the formation of a common language in which data could be transmitted.

In the 1970s, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf together developed the protocol known as Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol or TCP/IP. This communications model was a new innovation in fast data transfer across networks. ARPANET adopted this model in 1983, and the formation of the what is now the modern ‘internet’ started in earnest.

To bring this to the public, however, there were still problems to be faced.

Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist, created ENQUIRE, a program to help scientists share information while he was at Oxford. Despite the obvious benefits of the program, he could not find anyone interested in developing the technology any further.

But he did not give up. In 1989, he created three further protocols, HTML, URI and HTTP. These names were not marketable to the public, so he and his partner Robert Cailliau came up with the name The World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee never patented his idea, but even today he serves as the Director of the W3C Consortium that governs the Web. Even as technology changes, he is still passionate about creating new standards for the Internet.

And that was how today’s most recognizable form of internet was formed.