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An Internet History Timeline

written by: Keith Elliott•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 5/24/2011

The Internet has changed drastically over the years with the combination of many technologies. It has changed the ways in which humans interact and receive their knowledge and entertainment. This article seeks to briefly explain the history of the Internet and how it all came together.

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    In The Beginning, The Telegraph

    The history of the internet can be traced all the way back to 1836 when the Telegraph was invented to the present. The invention of the Telephone, Television, and Radio also played a significant role in laying the ground-work for the internet. These technologies combined together to form the internet as we know it today.

    In 1836 Cooke and Wheatstone patented the Telegraph which revolutionized the way humans communicate and is the beginning of telecommunications in general. It used Morse code which is a series of dots and dashes used to communicate. Morse code is very similar in how computers use binary 1’s and 0’s to communicate at a much faster speed. Between 1858 and 1866 a cable was laid across the Atlantic Ocean allowing communication by Telegraph between the United States to Europe. Cables eventually connected all continents in this very same manner, and this laid down the ground work for the massive cables that transfer data between continents today. Telegraph 

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    Rapid Development of Worldwide Communications

    In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell developed the Telephone which is important in the history of the Internet since telephone public exchanges laid the groundwork and backbone for Internet connections today, although most of today's modern broadband technology has switched to cable or fiber-optic technology instead.

    Another significant time in the history of the Internet is when the USSR launched Sputnik into space in 1957. Sputnik was the first artificial earth satellite. This was the start of global telecommunications and in a response the United States formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (aka ARPA). Satellites and cable between continents make worldwide communication possible. 

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    Birth of the Internet

    Later in 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT wrote a series of articles discussing his vision of globally networked computers. Leonard Kleinrock published the first book on packet switching technology in 1964 in which he convinced other important visionaries of his success in using packet switching technology rather than phone circuit switching to transmit data. Packet switching allowed for the data to be split up into packets which could take different routes to their destination. This meant that entire sites to be down and the network would remain functional. J. C. R. Licklider 

    In 1965 two computers were connected together across the Unites States using packet-switching technology over a telephone line at a speed of 2.4Kbps. This was the first Wide-Area Network developed. By 1966, an internet visionary named Lawrence G. Roberts published his plan for ARPANET upgrading the speed to 50Kbps. By 1969 Lickland’s server was the first node on the ARPANET. Stanford Research Institute’s Doug Englebart added the second node during his research [the] "Augmentation of Human Intellect". At the end of 1969 four computers were online with ARPANET and by 1971 programmers could finally begin developing application for this network. Lawrence G. Roberts 

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    Global Networking and the Internet Explosion

    In 1973 global networking became a reality when computer nodes in England and Norway were added. In 1974 the Transport Control Protocol or TCP was specified and Telnet was open to the public. Telnet was the first commercially available public packet data service on ARPANET. In 1976 Kleinrock published the first book on the Arpanet which specified the importance of packet switching technology to world-wide audience. This same year Queen Elizabeth sent out an email and by 1977 email is in use by 100 researchers using Telnet and a regionally specific email system.

    In 1982 TCP/IP was fully developed and adopted by the U.S. military as its protocol to be used in their computer networking. Today TCP/IP is still used as the main protocol for communication of data from computer to computer. By 1984 there were over 1000 nodes on the Internet and the Domain internet hosts1990 Name Service (DNS) was introduced. This allowed a user to type a name of a computer on the network and a hosting service would determine the IP address of that computer. It allowed users to have something easier to remember than the IP address of a computer which would be a string of numbers. 5000 nodes were online in 1986 and the power of the Internet was realized. In 1988 the backbone of the Internet was upgraded to T1 speed which is 1.54Mbps. By 1989 100,000 computers were online, and by 1992 this number had reached 300,000.

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    World-Wide Web Evolution

    In 1991 the Internet backbone was upgraded to T3 which offers speeds of about 44.74Mbps and the World-Wide Web was released to the public, providing easy access to information from anywhere in the world. By 1993 there were over 2 million hosts or computers and 600 WWW pages. In 1994 commercialization of the Internet truly began with banks, business, malls, and more coming online to provide services for their customers. This rapidly grew to over 6.5 million hosts and 100,000 WWW sites by 1995 and the basic dial up services most of us remember such as Compuserve,Microsoft and CompuServe  America Online, and Prodigy emerged to provide cheap internet access. This is also the year that JAVA, JAVA script and ActiveX were developed bringing new technologies to the Internet. In 1996 there were already 12.5 million hosts and half a million WWW sites.

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    The Internet Continues to Grow

    The internet has changed drastically over the past few decades but it has provided the ground-work for a network of computers which is independent of the hosts or sites on the network. It has allowed social networking such as Facebook and MySpace to evolve and change the way in which many humans online-presence around the world communicate with email, instant messaging, and voice over IP. The Internet will continue to change and shape our world as we know it.