The Fruits of Civilization (11-2) The Internet

The Internet

A network that’s going to change mankind. ~ American Internet pioneer Steve Crocker

On 4 October 1957 Russia announced it had launched an artificial satellite into space. This instantly shattered the sense of technical superiority the US had felt until that day.

In response, President Eisenhower announced on 7 January 1958 a new organization – ARPA – tasked with overseeing and advancing the government’s technology work. (ARPA is an acronym for Advanced Research Projects Agency.) The top priority was winning the “space race.”

In 1966, Bob Taylor was in charge of ARPA’s computer projects. Taylor told his boss: “we’ve got a problem. We’re throwing money away. We’re paying different people all over the USA to do exactly the same work.”

Taylor’s solution to the problem was “to build a network of computers.” On 29 October 1969, the first successful message was sent over Arpanet. Then the computer that sent the message crashed, having transmitted only the first 2 letters of the word login.

Arpanet was declared operational 6 years later (1975). In 1977, an experimental Internet started.

By that time, computer networks of all sorts had proliferated. Their interconnection became possible only by using the same protocol (tcp/ip), developed under government guidance. On 1 January 1983, arpanet was split in 2: the military milnet and the civilian Internet.

The Internet did nothing but grow, covering the globe in computer interconnectedness. During the 2010s, the Internet grew so economically important as to become a focus of global investment while monies to build facilities not associated with computing lulled.

As of 2017, nearly half of the world’s population uses the Internet. Unsurprisingly, penetration is lowest in Africa, where only 30% of the people have Internet access.