Editor’s Note: This month, Jan Macom from POST Computers takes a look at how the Internet went from a science fiction idea - like the computers on Star Trek - to the point where the click of a mouse has Amazon bringing anything we want to our door.
By Jan Macon at POST Computers
It’s 1957. Elvis is king, cars have huge fins, and the USSR launches a small satellite named Sputnik. Welcome to the beginning of the Internet. Yes, the Internet goes that far back, and yes, Sputnik was the impetus. The development of the Internet was spearheaded by the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA (which was later changed to ARPANET). The military wanted another way to communicate across the country just in case the country came under attack, but it took years to figure out how to get computers to talk to each other. How long? In 1965 Star Trek introduced us to a vision of the future. Space flight, transporters and talking computers. However, in real life, to get information to the average person, it was a bus ride to the library.
So, through the 1950s and the early 60s, DARPA/ARPA figured out how to get computers to talk to each other. The first message sent across the network - “Login” - crashed the network when the “g” was typed. So, lots of bugs needed to be sorted out before the Internet could hit prime time. Back to the bus…
A slow start
Part of the problem was that all communication had to go over phone lines. As we know phone lines were (and are!) slow. To compensate, package switching was developed, a means to break up messages into parts that are sent independently and reassembled at the destination.
By 1969, ARPANET linked four university networks together. By 1970 there were 19 networks linked with more being added.
In the 1970s various independent networks were developed both here and around the world, but with no way to talk to each other. Enter TCP/IP. This protocol allowed any computer to talk to any other computer regardless of the network it was attached to. This is when the word “Internet” was introduced. This is also when email was developed using the @ symbol to connect the username with its host domain. In fact, email was 75 percent of all ARPANET activity.
However, at that time, email was being used pretty exclusively for universities, government, and military uses. Still on the bus…
PCs and modems, oh my!
At this time, computers were mainly massive machines weighing several tons, but there was a growing market of personal computers. In 1977 the Apple II, Commodore and the Radio Shack TRS-80 were introduced as home PCs. Nineteen seventy-seven is also the year the computer modem was invented. So that by 1978, computers could connect to the Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that were started. These systems allowed you to dial in with your newly acquired modem and download files using DOS commands. No Windows on this bus yet!!
Then came the domain
In 1983, the Domain Name System (DNS) sets up the familiar .edu, .gov, .com, .mil, .org, and .net system for naming websites. This was easier to remember than the previous IP designation for websites, such as 123.456.789.10.
In 1984, the development and control of the Internet was given to another agency. The National Science Foundation (NSF) created NSFnet which was designed to connect computers specifically in government and academic facilities. In 1985 the first website, symbolics.com, was registered to the Symbolics Computer Corp. in Massachusetts.
Believe it or not, the site still exists.
HTML and URLS
In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee wrote the code for the World Wide Web, based on his proposal from the year before, along with the standards for HTML, HTTP, and URLs. By this time, the Internet had over 30,000 hosts. The NSF allowed commercial enterprises to use the Internet for the first time in 1991.
In the early 1990s CompuServe, America Online and Prodigy started offering Internet access.
The first browser was called WorldWideWeb, also developed by Tim Berners-Lee. The first commercial browser was Mosaic. The browser that most people think was first, Netscape, was released a year after Mosaic. Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer in Windows 95.
The growth of ‘online’
By 1996 the Internet as we know it had been established. No more bus rides.
The commercial side of the Internet took off running. As broadband communications took over from dial-up, things that were impossible only a few years before were now possible. As Spock would say…“Fascinating!”
Here’s the list:
And it isn’t done growing.
POST Computer Systems has been serving the Western Mass. community since 1992. Started in a basement in Wilbraham, the company continues to grow year after year thanks to the strength of their service department and the continued support from the local community.
If you have any questions or concerns, or to request a future Prime article topic, please reach out to the crew at POST Computer Systems by emailing: email@example.com