The History of the Internet: From ARPANET to What Lies Ahead

The internet these days isn’t just a luxury but an absolute necessity, with many countries around the world declaring it a utility. Well over 90 percent of people in developed countries use the internet on a daily basis, many of whom do it for work or school purposes with countless others using it as a form of receiving news or consuming entertainment. Simply put, it’s hard to imagine life without the internet these days.

There are plenty of things that a majority of the world uses today that we know the history of, including automobiles and airplanes. However, there aren’t too many people who are privy to the history of the internet and how it became a utility. Let’s take a look at that history today, which is truly a fascinating development that happened incredibly quickly.

Early Developments

By the time the 1950s came along, communication had been done almost exclusively through telephone, radio, or telegraph. Sure, there were computing systems, but there weren’t standard desktop computers like we see today. Still, the idea came along that the massive supercomputers could somehow be connected to one another. In the late 1950s, it seemed like a pipedream, but one that had been researched by professors around the globe.

Christopher Strachey was one of the godfathers of what would become the Internet as he filed a patent for the time-sharing of central processing units prior to his time at Oxford University. Throughout the 1960s, this idea was expanded upon to the point it became a priority for the United States military. With that, the next big development was made and changed computer communications forever.

The ARPANET Project

ARPANET was founded in 1969 thanks to massive funding and allowed resource sharing between computers across the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Norway. The first message ever sent on ARPANET between two computers happened between Menlo Park and Los Angeles, California. They were able to type the word “LOG” to each other before the system crashed, but it was a monumental message.

While ARPANET was obviously limited at first, the technology improved to the point where it became a reliable system for communication. By the end of the 1970s, there were more than 200 hosts on ARPANET. The 1980s saw more uses for the internet, including CSNET between universities as well as TCP and IP suites, opening the door for the internet to make its way into homes around the world.

Emergence of ISPs

In the middle of the 1980s, the first domain was established on the internet and the public started to gain access through NSFNET. While private internet service providers were non-existent by the end of the 1980s, that would change when The World became the first internet service provider in 1991.

This was the same year in which CERN developed HTML technology that’s still in use today and began the World Wide Web. At first, it seemed like a phase to some, but over the course of the next few years, access to the internet became easier and we saw the emergence of internet providers including AOL and CompuServe.

Search Engines and Social Media

The rest of the 1990s saw an explosion in public internet usage as many were able to do things that they could never do before including shopping online, sending instant messages, and much more. Sites like eBay and MSN became staples for households that had the internet, and things really kicked off when search engines made things much easier to find instead of simply typing the website’s name into a browser.

Google and Yahoo were in stiff competition during the early days of search engines, with Ask Jeeves, Lycos, and AltaVista not far behind. Google emerged as the clear winner in the war, becoming perhaps the most important website in internet history. During the 2000s, the internet saw the first foray into social media, and websites including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all dominated peoples’ time and attention.

Future of the Internet

The internet has seen a lot of changes over the years, and it seemed to all happen very fast. We went from being able to type one word to each other in the same state and calling it “revolutionary” to being able to play realistic video games in virtual reality with someone around the globe while typing as much as humanly possible. With that said, what will the internet look like in the next half-century or so?

Some have theorized that information will process so quickly on the internet in the future that typing won’t even be a necessity. Others have said that your brain will be able to connect to the internet through a microchip that can process all of your thoughts to help you access information at the speed of light. While nothing is certain, one thing is for sure, and it’s that the future will likely be startling for some.

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