History of the Internet

Internet sources and links
Children stand in front of the blackboard in their Lancaster, Pa., school working on their arithmetic in this 1941 file photo. (AP/National Archives)
SAGE animation from Mitre
1963 modem, from SDCM
ARPANET 1971, from Atlas
1975 Altair, from SDCM - bg
NSFNET 1992, from Atlas
global MBone 1996, from Atlas
1843 - On March 3 Congress authorized construction of the first telegraph wire connecting Washington with Baltimore. Ezra Cornell was hired to lay the underground pipe for the wires using a trenching plow of his own design. When the pipe was found to be defective, Samuel Morse put the wires on overhead poles as Dyar had done in Long Island and Wheatstone in England. On May 24, 1844, the line was finished and Morse sent the code to Baltimore for "What hath God wrought!"

1876 - Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and began construction of a telephone line network.

1882 - Thomas Edison completed his power station on Pearl Street in New York to supply a grid network with electricity for home and business lighting systems.

1894 - Guglielmo Marconi invented his spark transmitter in Italy, and in 1897 formed his first Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company in Britain to begin a world-wide radio network of wireless transmitters and receivers

1945 - Vannevar Bush published one of the first descriptions of a hypertext network that he called Memex.

1954 - SAGE computer network started as air defense system

1957 - USSR launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite. In response, Eisenhower created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the following year.

1965 - Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie created UNIX at Bell Labs (in contrast to the previous MULTICS operating system project that became too expensive and large) on a small DEC PDP-7 (today's Palm has more computing power) writing the kernel with only 11,000 lines of code (Windows NT has 5.6m lines).

1969 - ARPANET commissioned by DOD for research into networking; UCLA is the first node connected September 2.

1970 - E-mail began at BBN: "The first machine-to-machine mail transfer took place in July, 1970, between two Digital computers in Bolt, Beranek and Newman's lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The guy who made it work - and the man who deserves to be remembered as the inventor of electronic mail - was a BBN hacker called Ray Tomlinson." E-mail and FTP were adopted in 1973 for ARPANET. "The Net was built on electronic mail. To ARPA's surprise, it proved to be the prime mover in the network's early growth and development." (Naughton pp. 147-150)

1974 - "was the annus mirabilis of personal computing. In January, Hewlett-Packard introduced its HP-65 programmable calculator. That summer Intel announced the 8080 microprocessor. In July, Radio-Electronics described the Mark-8. In late December, subscribers to Popular Mechanics received their January 1975 issue in the mail, with a prototype of the "Altair" minicomputer on the cover and an article describing how readers could obtain one for less than $400. This announcement ranks with IBM's announcement of the System/360 a decade earlier as one of the most significant in the history of computing." (Ceruzzi pp. 226) The Altair designed by H. Edward Roberts in Albuquerque at his company MITS, but Altair lost data when turned off. IBM had developed the 8-inch floppy disc drive for its own computers in 1971 but none was available for the small personal computer hobbyist. MITS designed a method to export data as audio tones to cassette. A user group in Kansas City established in late 1975 the "Kansas City Standard" for these audio tones so data could be shared by other computers. Another method exported data to a tape cartridge similar to 8-track tapes with endless loop. Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC compiler for the Altair, borrowing from Dartmouth BASIC and from DEC minicomputer software, distributing it on paper tape, or in ROM. Gary Kildall developed a DOS for the floppy disk in 1975, called PL/M for Intel 8080, and CP/M in 1976 and founded his company Digital Research.

1977 - Ward Christensen wrote MODEM program 1977 and XMODEM in 1979 that allowed the development of the CBBS (Computer Bulletin Board System) beginning in 1978.

1980 - Mike Lesk at Bell Labs in 1975 wrote UUCP (UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Program) and incorporated into UNIX 1979, and allowed the creation in 1980 of Usenet.

1983 - When the Pentagon decided to break up ARPANET into the military MILNET and the civilian network, it was decided then to switch to the TCP/IP on Jan. 1, 1983. Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn had designed TCP to replace NCP in 1973, and published in May 1974 a description of the "transmission-control-protocol" that used electronic envelopes, or "datagrams" sent and received by gateways, or routers, that replaced the machines called IMPs on the original ARPANET. The envelopes were like freight containers used on ships and railroads. Xerox PARC contributed to the development of TCP/IP. It had developed graphical displays and laser printer but needed a network to move the files. Bob Metcalfe invented ethernet 1973 to move data at 2.67 million bits per second. IP defined the name and address and routing of packets to host computers, and TCP divided data into packets and envelopes for transmission and reassembled the data and corrected errors. The first live demo of TCP took place in July 1977.

1986 - NSFNET was created with backbone speed of 56Kbps; NSF established 5 supercomputing centers at Princeton, Pittsburgh, UCSD, Illinois, Cornell; this allowed other universities to connect to the network (including the University of San Diego: see Media Milestones at USD)

1991 - World-Wide Web (WWW) developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN.

1993 - Mosaic created by student Marc Andreesen and programmer Eric Bina at NCSA in the first 3 months of 1993, used 9000 lines of code. The beta version 0.5 of X Mosaic for UNIX was released Jan. 23 1993 and was an instant success. The PC and Mac versions followed shortly. Mosaic was the first software to interpret a new IMG tag, and to display graphics along with text. Berners-Lee objected to the IMG tag, considered it frivolous (see Robert Reid, Architects of the Web).

1994 - Netscape Navigator 1.0 was released Dec. 1994, given away free, soon gained 75% of world browser market. Microsoft Explorer 3.0 was released summer 1996. The Web grew fast because infrastructure was already in place: the Internet, desktop PC, home modems connected to online services such as AOL and Compuserve.

1997 - George Dyson in his book Darwin among the Machines argued that the Internet was like Thomas Hobbes's portrayal of society as an intelligent Commonwealth, that is, "a self-organizing system possessed of a life and intelligence of its own."

1999 - IBM became the first corporate partner connected to Internet2, created by the very high speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS) linking supercomputing centers that began construction in 1995 funded by the NSF.


revised 4/12/04 by Schoenherr | Internet links