A Simple History Of The Internet
A Simple History Of The Internet
Today, digital technology and the internet is a part of our everyday lives. We depend on it for entertainment, information, and even work and education.
Being that it has become such a vital part of our world, it has led most of us to wonder (at some point or another) how did it all come to be?
Let’s take a look at the simple history of the internet.
The Initial Purpose of the Internet
When it all began, contrary to popular belief, the internet was not constructed as part of a nuclear survival plan. It wasn’t even intended to function as a communication network.
Rather, the simple history of the internet began at the Pentagon with a project called Arpanet in 1969. Arpanet was all about time-sharing, which was an attempt to allow research institutions to share the processing power of computers located at other institutions.
Arpanet’s project was supported by the successful development of the “packet switching” technique. Packet switching allowed computers to communicate with one another and allowed people to utilize processing time on computers at other locations.
Through Arpanet, developers made significant discoveries that eventually led to today’s internet, such as email developments, packet switching implementations, and the development of the Transport Control Protocol – Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).
Even though this work was started in 1969, the internet as we know it today wouldn’t emerge until the 1990’s.
The First Commercial Website
The Global Network Navigator, or GNN, was the first commercial website to hit the internet in August 1993.
It was an internet-based information center made by O’Reilly & Associates as part of the World Wide Web.
The simple homepage, displaying the illustration of a hot air balloon, linked to five pages: GNN news, GNN Magazine, The Whole Internet Catalog, GNN Marketplace, and the Navigator’s Forum.
While this was an exciting time for those involved, the internet hadn’t really gained any popularity yet.
In fact, this launch came two years after the World Wide Web had officially gone public–an announcement that was hardly shared anywhere, with newspapers and the general public paying no mind to the innovation that was occurring.
The Internet’s Take-Off
It’s hard to believe that, less than 30 years ago, hardly anyone was using the internet. However, there was a select group of individuals who saw the internet’s potential back in 1993: undergraduates.
Dial-up internet connections started to be installed in universities across the country in 1991. While the great majority of the world lacked the service, those at universities began to recognize its power and potential.
However, dial-up came with some drawbacks.
Even though about 9.4 million Americans still have it today, dial-up lacks speed and reliability. Most dial-up connections only get a speed of around 0.053 megabits a second.
Compared to today’s typical broadband internet speed of 55 megabits per second, this is more than 1000x faster. Additionally, using a dial-up connection ties up the home’s landline.
Furthermore, DSL requires a special connection to get it going, which means paying a setup fee. Even for people willing to do that, dial-up is only available to people near the company’s central office.
You generally have to be within 18,000 feet (3.4 miles) to be able to get the service. As you get further away, the speeds get even more painfully slow.
The Modern Internet
Clearly, we couldn’t have gotten where we are today based on those slow speeds. As the internet gained popularity, more people (and companies) began investing in its potential. Companies began popping up with new ideas of how we could bring the internet to people’s homes and places of businesses with faster speeds.
WiFi was introduced in 1991 for use in cashier systems, but it wasn’t ready for home use until 1997. In 1999, Apply introduced a WiFi option for its new iBook computers using the name AirPort. This move is what completely changed the course of in-home internet use. With the world’s most popular computer being available to home users with the option of WiFi built right in, Apple played a huge role in growing the internet’s popularity.
But, everything is always being innovated.
While WiFi was a huge deal just a decade ago, we are now getting into even faster and more capable internet infrastructure with Fiber Optics.
While adventurous undergrads in the early 1990s were enjoying speeds of around .05 megabits a second, people across the country today are enjoying speeds as fast as 1 gigabit (1,024 megabits a second). That means we’re now enjoying speeds around 19,300x faster than the “internet pioneers” of a few decades back.
The Internet Is Always Growing
Considering that 1990’s undergraduates were happily enjoying speeds that were around 19,300x slower than our internet speeds today, many people are wondering: Do we really need to go any faster?
The answer is a likely yes, and it’s not just because we’re always trying to do things faster.
You see, while internet connections have definitely improved in speed, there is also more data that needs to be transfered.
Take GNN, for example. If you look at the saved version of the first commercial website today, it’s a sorry excuse for a site. Modern websites are much larger in size than the old GNN site.
Modern Data Usage
The internet had a lot less data in years past. Today, it is growing by the second.
In fact, every minute on the internet:
- 216,000 photos are shared on Instagram
- $83,000 sales take place on Amazon
- 8 million likes are given on Facebook
- Three days’ worth of video content is uploaded to YouTube
- 70 new domains are registered
- 571 new websites are created
That’s a lot of data, and analyzing it is quickly becoming an industry in itself.
So, even though we might eventually find a way to get internet to everyone at an agreeable speed, we’ll always have to continue solving the hurdles caused by our on-going and ever-growing usage of the internet itself.
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