"The internet--like rock 'n' roll, hollywood, and the atomic bomb--was born in the U.S.A."' Alix Christie, Montieth Illingworth, & Larry Lange, One World. (Information Week, Oct. 2, 1995.)
The purpose for this SIR Introduction to the InterNet is to provide a very basic framework for understanding the new revolutionary digital world called the InterNet that we have entered. To begin, what we call the InterNet is simply a very large number of computers all connected together, mostly by wires. Every computer (also called a machine) on the InterNet is part of a unique address called a "dotted quad" IP address. For example, the computers on a given campus or in any business company have a subnet number to the IP address. There are two primary reasons to connect computers. The first and most common reason computers are connected is so they can share information, just like you can share information when you connect to someone using a telephone. The almost instantaneous sharing of information using the InterNet has provided unprecedented advances and learning opportunities. Today you can take any of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of courses using the InterNet, or purchase any new book using your credit card without ever leaving your home. The second reason for connecting computers is that, like humans, two heads are better than one. Some problems are so complex that it takes two or more computers working simultaneously on the same problem to solve it.
Digital Communication: If computers are used to let people communicate to each other, they need their own language. And early on, it was decided to give computers a numerical language--digits. More precisely, zeros and ones. Every computer uses a very large number of zeros (0) and ones (1) to communicate or calculate or solve problems, etc. Each letter or number on this page requires a unique combination of eight 0s and 1s. In fact, this page was printed on your screen using 0s and 1s before they were converted into words and colors. For example, the phrase "San Diego" is represented by the following combinations [San = 0101-0011 0110-0001 0110-1110 and Diego = 0100-0100 0110-1001 0110-0101 0110-0111 0110-1111]. More detail about this topic would be inappropriate at this time, but it is important to understand that all computers use long series of 0s and 1s to communicate. So, the computer revolution came first, then when computers were connected the InterNet revolution began, leading to both digital communication, such as e-mail, and digital content (e.g., reports like this one).
Digital Content: The other "half" of the InterNet is content, such as documents, books, files, news, dictionaries, glossaries, encyclopedias, and more recently, newspapers, magazines, music and movies. How much information is on the InterNet? No one knows, but according to an April 1998 report, "A new statistical survey estimates that the World Wide Web contains at least 320 million pages — far more than previously thought" (Steve Lawrence and C. Lee Giles of the NEC Research Institute). Finding any particular piece of information is one of two problems associated with the InterNet. In the early days of information search, new tools called "search engines" were invaluable because they actually roam the InterNet and then index what they found--much like a librarian does. Today, given that an estimated 1.5 million pages are added to the InterNet daily (see statistics below), the InterNet is too big and growing too rapidly for any one search tool to manage all that growth. Thus, search "zones" are required. One of the first search zones is the InterNet Search Zone, a useful starting place for finding just about anything on the InterNet. The other content issue is information quality. The InterNet is the first forum for self-expression and communication that is open to absolutely everyone. All previous methods of broadcast communication such as the newspapers, books, radio, movies, and TV had trained people who made decisions about both what information was communicated and how it was presented. No longer. Today, the InterNet hosts some of the best and worst of human ability and failings. Finding a safe passage through that complexity is worthy of your time.
InterNet Search: When the InterNet was born in 1969, it belonged to the U.S. Government, and was used primarily by the military and a very few universities. As more universities learned the advantages of sharing information digitally, they joined the InterNet. Before there was a World Wide Web, searches on the InterNet involved tools such as gopher, ftp, and telnet—the original organized content sites of the InterNet. For example, when Adam Gaffin with Jörg Heitkötter published their Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet in January 1994, there was no search category in the Table of Contents, because the whole purpose of those sites was to store information. Eventually commercial organizations grew whose whole purpose was to provide information or search capability over the InterNet. DIALOG is a good example but such services were expensive and generally suited toward business interests. All that changed with the advent of the World Wide Web in June, 1993. The WWW made searching for information much easier because it used a graphical interface. Most people do not have the skills or patience for gopher or telnet. Thus, when graphical browsers like Mosaic (1993) and Netscape (1994) arrived, they opened the door to the greatest revolution in information exchange since the printing press was invented in 1450. You are part of that digital revolution.
- 1969: The original Department of Defense ARPANET contract. The first node (a node is a computer workstation or file server or bridge, or any other device that has an address on a network.) at UCLA, and after that nodes were established at the Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah. These are the first four computers on the InterNet. Three are linked at 50 Kbps circuits (UCLA, SRI and UCSB). UNIX is born.
- 1971: The InterNet has 15 nodes (23 hosts = central computer, usually attached to the InterNet): UCLA, SRI, UCSB, U of Utah, BBN, MIT, RAND, SDC, Harvard, Lincoln Lab, Stanford, UIU(C), CWRU, CMU, and NASA/Ames. Ray Tomlinson sends first e-mail message.
- 1981: In August, there are 231 hosts (linked computers) on the InterNet, almost all of them belong to either the U.S. military or major U.S. universities.
- 1982: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and InterNet Protocol (IP) are established.
- 1983: On January 1st the crossover from NCP to TCP/IP takes place--The InterNet is now a distinct place. Name server is developed at the University of Wisconsin.
- 1984: Domain Name Server (DNS) is introduced, no longer requiring users to know the exact path to other computer systems. The number of hosts is about 1,000.
- 1986: The NSFNET backbone is created and it moves data at 56 Kbps.
- 1988: November - An InterNet "worm" (small computer program) burrows through the Net, affecting about 6,000 of the 60,000 hosts on the InterNet. The NSFNET backbone upgraded to T1 (1.544Mbps) speed, and CERFnet (California Education and Research Federation network) is founded by Susan Estrada. InterNet Relay Chat (IRC) is developed by Jarkko Oikarinen.
- 1990: In October there are 313,000 InterNet hosts mostly using telnet and ftp. Tim Berners-Lee writes the first GUI browser, and called it "WorldWideWeb." Here is a comment by Tim about that time.
- 1991: The NSFNET backbone is upgraded to 44.736 Mbps and the World-Wide Web (WWW) is created.
- 1992: In December, there are 7,000 domain names (.com, .net, and .org) registered with InterNic.
- 1993: NCSA releases Mosaic (first widely used browser) and it takes the InterNet by storm as WWW traffic grows 341,634% in one year.
- 1996: MCI upgrades the InterNet backbone to 622 Mbps.
- 1997: March 6 at 12:07;51 p.m., the InterNic registers the one millionth active domain name. By the end of 1997 there will be 1,541,000.
- 1998: September 11 is the InterNet's busiest day (Starr report) at 340,000 hits / minute.
- 1999: On May 29th, the InterNet had reached 5 million active domain names, about 85% of which were .com sites. In addition, there are about 6,000 .edu domain names.
- 2000: Seventy-eight percent of the online fraud is associated with Online Auctions, followed by General Merchandise Sales (10%), and Internet Access Services (3%).
- 2001: Nielsen/NetRatings "estimated that more than 176 million Americans, or 62 percent of the population, had access to the World Wide Web. That's a jump from 156 million, or 57 percent, a year ago."
- 2002: As of May, NUA estimates that there are 580.78 million people world wide on the Internet.
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This SIR Introduction to the InterNet is only a starting juncture into understanding a new era in communication and learning--as well as an invitation to learn more. In that regard, the following links may prove useful. Questions or comment can be addressed to the digital or postal addresses at the bottom of this page.
Recommended InterNet Glossary Links:
Recommended InterNet History Links:
Advanced InterNet Topics:
- Paul Baran's Vision: He articulated the birth of a network ahead of his time.
- The Faces: People who have contributed to the Internet in a positive or negative manner.
- Download: your own copy of an InterNet History.