A Brief History of The Internet

This week the United Nations announced that they believe that 2.7 billion will be connected to the internet by the end of 2013 — a startling figure!

During 2012, 250 million new users came online. With mobile cellular subscriptions (people connecting to the internet via smartphones and tablet devices) expected to reach 6.8 billion at the end of 2013, it is close to the amount of people there are on Earth.

It would be easy to take the internet for granted, but it is a relatively modern phenomenon and its history is contained within the past few decades. Time to have a look at how it all began!

In 1969 the computer world changed

The idea of a networked system of computers first came to mind in the 1960s. In December 1969 the forerunner of the internet came into being. It was known as ARPA, standing for Advanced Research Projects Agency, and it linked 4 US universities. The link-up was utilised for research and education, but it also provided a reliable communication network in the event of a military attack destroying all other communication channels.

In 1972, the first email was created. Ray Tomlinson was the man who came up with the @, the symbol used to separate the user name and the network name in the email address. In 1973, another major step for the internet occurred when Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was created. In 1983, this was to become the standard communication method between different computers. One of these protocols, the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), enabled users to log on to a computer that is located remotely, view the files available on the computer and then download these files on to their own computer.

Chat rooms were instrumental in online communication

Given one of the most important elements of the internet has been about communication, one of the most important steps forward came with the creation of the first chat system. This happened in Illinois back in 1974 and the system was called the Talkomatic. This chat room, like many of the other innovative internet elements, looked considerably different to what people know and love today, but it was instrumental in pushing the technology forward.

The first modem for a personal computer was invented a couple of years later in 1977, which laid the foundations for what we know as the internet today. However, the modem had been around in various forms since the 1950s. The first modem was used by the US army for transferring large amounts of data and modems became more popularly used by businesses in the 1960s.

A screenshot of a BBS

A screenshot of a BBS

The first publicly accessible bulletin board (following on from boards which were available in local areas) was created in 1978 in Chicago. This became the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS. Before the system was retired, it is claimed that over 250,000 callers were connected by it. The use of the bulletin board system grew in the 1980s and was hugely popular at the end of that decade and going into the 1990s. The bulletin board was at the forefront of connecting and communication on the internet, allowing people to chat freely in a way that had not been possible before. A big factor in the success of bulletin boards came around in 1985 when Quantum Computer Services (later to be known as America Online) launched offering email, news, information and bulletin board services.

The development and use of the internet was a concern and there were many parties working on ways to make a uniform and easy to use navigation system. In 1991, the Gopher system was created in the University of Minnesota. This system utilised a point and click navigation system and it received its name after the mascot of the school. This system became the most popular way to engage and interface for many years.  With a number of major firms launching internet dial up access service in 1995, the world was heading online. Later different sorts of internet access were introduced, such as broadband and cable internet. And then even later, internet came to our mobile phones, forever changing the way we use our phones.

We’ve come a long way, and can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. One thing is certain: we’re glad to be part of the 2.7 billion!