A Brief History of the Internet

Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicted in 1996 that “the Internet will become more and more popular until it is as popular as today’s telephones.” It has a development period of at least 30 years. The invention is due to many computer scientists who have repeatedly built on the discoveries of his predecessor.

The Cold War Inspired the Beginnings of the Internet

In the 1950s, the US government was in a nuclear Cold War with the Soviet Union. US officials have realized that they need a computerized communication system that can survive the actual nuclear war. Unfortunately, computers at the time were huge and complex machines housed in universities and laboratories. Those who wanted to use them had to be physically in the room with them. Scientists have found a way to share mainframe access with a small group of users, but each user can only use part of their computing power at a time. This tedious method highlighted the need for a slimmer and safer system.

Two Distant Computers “Talked” to Each Other for the First Time in 1965

In the 1960s, two Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, Leonard Kleinrock and Lawrence Roberts, devised the back-end of the early internet. Kleinrock developed the mathematical framework behind packet networks — basically, the ability to transmit small pieces (or packets) of data using a communication protocol.

Roberts experimented with this technology and, in 1965, created a simple network between two computers — one in Boston and one in California. He got them to “talk” to each other by exchanging packets over the network.

Billions Are Online Today

The internet’s commercial potential attracted a flood of investors and entrepreneurs in the late 1990s, leading to rampant market speculation. When many of the new tech companies and e-commerce sites failed to make a profit, the dot-com bubble burst. But from the wreckage of failed sites like Pets.com and Kozmo.com emerged the tech behemoths of today — Amazon, Google, eBay, Facebook — and thousands of smaller companies. Twenty-first-century technologies like smartphones, tablets, and apps have brought the internet to more users than ever before. The number of websites has grown from one in 1991 to 1.88 billion today. About 4.66 billion people are now connected to the internet, and nearly 93% of them access the web from mobile devices.

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