I am going to consider all sorts of things as the "start" of the Internet.
Some people won't agree.
They would say the start of the Internet was 1969 (Arpanet)
or even 1983 (TCP/IP).
The "start" of the Internet - 1753
This letter is arguably the start of the Internet.
A letter to The Scots Magazine in 1753,
first suggesting using
electrical properties to transmit communications along a wire.
It was not until
the following century
that working long-distance systems were built.
The Scots Magazine.
If we consider this letter as the start of the Internet (if only as an idea),
then the Internet is
"Internet no.1" - The telegraph system, 1843 onwards
(morse code-type communication on copper wires).
First ever global communications network.
The telephone system:
When the telephone system started in 1876,
it was like (a). Each phone needs link to each other.
Soon replaced by (b). Switching office sets up
temporary circuit between
caller and callee for a call.
Switching office can only cover limited number of local phones.
To make long-distance calls (between phones served by different switching offices),
model in (c). 2nd level switching office.
Eventually 5 levels.
Letterhead from the London office of my family's business in 1888.
Note telephone number.
"Internet no.3" - The Internet, 1969 onwards
The Internet has been running since 1969
(a) Phone network.
Failure (or destruction) of a few key nodes can fragment network into a number of
(b) Proposed distributed network,
Each node also acts as a router.
Myth: The Internet grew
out of the military's
nuclear war communications network.
What happened was there were military-inspired studies
in the early 1960s
of how to built a robust network that could survive attack
- notably first-strike nuclear attack.
The answer is to decentralise everything,
including addressing and routing, to have no essential HQ,
and also to have
Major US academic research centres (including military research bases
with links to academia)
took this idea in the late 1960s
and built the Arpanet network that eventually evolved
into the Internet. It was full of scientists and
from the start.
Growth of Arpanet from (a) 1969
to (e) 1972.
The modern US military/intelligence/diplomatic branches
have a number of
private global networks, including:
The Internet was originally set up not for email,
not for sharing papers, documents or programs,
not really for user communication at all in fact,
but rather to allow sharing of expensive
hardware (run programs remotely on someone else's
expensive federally-funded computer).
was a surprise when it took off on Arpanet
in the early 1970s.
Later, email discussion lists started, and the
decentralised discussion-group system,
File sharing would be done between sites when they worked together
on a project.
Later came the concept of a permanent
archive of files
that anyone on the network could access at any time.
Archives of programs were set up, and later archives of
documents of all sorts.
It was not until the mid-1980s that it became clear
that an embryonic electronic "library" of documents was starting to be
built up online.
Now, of course, the library has billions of documents.
Internet had steady growth and usefulness through 1970s, 1980s,
and early 1990s,
but did not really take off until Web
As late as 1993, there was (almost) no business
and (almost) no home civilian users on the Internet.
It was still dominated by the academic, scientific, non-commercial users
that had always dominated it.
But the infrastructure was in place for an explosion in both business and civilian use.
Web invented as a system running on the Internet 1989
(Tim Berners-Lee, CERN).
But did not take off until had a mouse-driven interface
- Mosaic, 1993
(Marc Andreessen, NCSA).
Web explodes. Internet explodes.
Every programmer should see this movie.
This movie will make you want to stop talking about your idea
and just code it!
And how much fun is it to see a movie that features
perhaps the most realistic hacking scene in the history of movies.
Look out for
Mark Zuckerberg explains what is wrong with the movie -
its strange claim that he wrote Facebook to get into "clubs".
He says the movie frames it
"as if the whole reason for making Facebook .. was because I wanted to get girls or wanted to get into some sort of social institution.
I think it's such a big disconnect from the way people who make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley ..
They just can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things."