History of Internet

A world-wide communications network whose cables spanned continents and oceans, it revolutionised business practice, gave rise to new forms of crime, and inundated its users with a deluge of information. Romances blossomed over the wires. Secret codes were devised by some users, and cracked by others. The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by its advocates, and dismissed by the sceptics. Governments and regulators tried and failed to control the new medium. Attitudes to everything from news gathering to diplomacy had to be completely rethought. Meanwhile, out on the wires, a technological subculture with its own customs and vocabulary was establishing itself.

The Victorian Internet was the electric telegraph.


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Driving development of the Internet was email, which in 1965 worked only within the computer system you were all using. ARPA funded the development of packet switching in 1965, making reliable computer networks possible via the physical phone network. In 1969, ARPANET was funded for network research. The first Request for Comment (RFC) was published. In 1971, Ray Tomlinson devised a way of sending email from one computer to another. 1972, the first international connection to ARPANET. In 1973, a group headed by Vint Cerf and Robert E Kahn devised Transmission Control Protocol for transport of data, and the Internet protocol for addresses (both known as TCP/IP). Ethernet wiring was developed in the same year, to transfer data packets between computers, without concern for what was in the packets.

Hobbes is a good timeline of the internet.

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Microsoft's usually astute Bill Gates totally missed the rise of the Internet in the early 1990's. If you wanted to connect your Windows computer you needed to install third party TCP/IP support. However when Microsoft realised the problem, they spent enough money to get competitive. It was not until Windows 95 that Microsoft provided Winsock.

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By November 1983 there were about 1000 computers on the internet. If you did not know their IP number, you could not find them. The Domain Name System (DNS) was devised in 1985, to provide in effect a phone book to reach computers. However the IP numbers are what computers use. In September 2011, the last IP numbers available will be handed out for use. In 2012, the Asia Pacific region runs out of IP numbers.

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World Wide Web

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In July 1945, the Atlantic Magazine printed the Vannevar Bush essay As We May Think, outlining the microfilm based Memex library, a machine for augmenting memory. There is an animated depiction of Memex on YouTube.

Ted Nelson devised the term Hypertext, indicating text that linked to other text.

Despite this, the earliest example of linked annotation is probably the Jewish Talmud.

Dr Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for the world wide web in 1989. He wanted it so scientists could communicate about their papers. It added hyperlinks to the internet. Berners-Lee wrote the first web server, the first web browser, which had an integrated WYSIWYG web editor also called WorldWideWeb, on a NeXTCube computer from Steve Job's then new company NeXT.

There is a decent history of the world wide web up to 1995.

The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) is how we provide a unique name for each item we want to point to.

While potentially even more use, Hyperwords, where all words in a text are links, are not as yet readily available in all web browsers.

Growth of World Wide Web

In 1995, around 16 million people had access to the Internet. By 2000 it was around 350 million people. Access passed a billion people in 2005. It passed two billion in October 2010. You can find world internet statistics here. In Australia, over 80% of households have internet access. Pretty soon, governments in Australia will assume everyone has internet access, just as they assume you have a home address, or a phone number.

Google's original index of the web had 26 million pages in 1998, and reached 1 billion in 2000. By 2008, it had reached a trillion web pages. Facebook, a social web site, has more than a half billion members.

Previous computers. Next peripherals.