Internet History
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Silicon Valley News


History of the Internet: Timeline

By Dave Marshall

This section is a summary of some of the material contained in Hobbes' Internet Timeline and also contains sources from Pros Online - Internet History, What is the Internet? and History of Internet and WWW : View from Internet Valley and a variety of text books. Consult these source for more detailed information.

-- Telegraph. Cooke and Wheatstone patent it. Why is this relevant?


  • Revolutionised human (tele)communications.
  • Morse Code a series of dots and dashes used to communicate between humans. This is not a million miles away from how computers communicate via (binary 0/1) data today. Although it is much slower!!


-- Transatlantic cable. Allowed direct instantaneous communication across the atlantic. Why is this relevant?


  • Today, cables connect all continents and are still a main hub of telecommunications.


-- Telephone. Alexander Graham Bell Exhibits.

Why is this relevant?


  • Telephones exchanges provide the backbone of Internet connections today.
  • Modems provide Digital to Audio conversions to allow computers to connect over the telephone network.


-- USSR launches Sputnik, first artificial earth satellite. Why is this relevant?


  • The start of global telecommunications. Satellites play an important role in transmitting all sorts of data today.
  • In response, US forms the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish US lead in science and technology applicable to the military.


1962 - 1968
-- Packet-switching (PS) networks developed Why is this relevant?


  • As we will see later the Internet relies on packets to transfer data.
  • The origin is military : for utmost security in transferring information of networks (no single outage point).
  • Data is split into tiny packets that may take different routes to a destination.
  • Hard to eavesdrop on messages.
  • More than one route available -- if one route goes down another may be followed.
  • Networks can withstand large scale destruction (Nuclear attack - This was the time of the Cold War).


-- Birth of Internet

ARPANET commissioned by DoD for research into networking

Why is this relevant?


  • First node at UCLA (Los Angeles) closely followed by nodes at Stanford Research Institute, UCSB (Santa Barbara) and U of Utah (4 Nodes).


    -- People communicate over a network
  • 15 nodes (23 hosts) on ARPANET.
  • E-mail invented -- a program to send messages across a distributed network. Why is this relevant?


    • E-mail is still the main way of inter-person communication on the Internet today.
    • We will study how to use and send E-mail shortly in this course.
    • You will make extensive use of E-mail for the rest of your life.


-- Computers can connect more freely and easily
  • First public demonstration of ARPANET between 40 machines.
  • Internetworking Working Group (INWG) created to address need for establishing agreed upon protocols.

    Why is this relevant?


    • Telnet specification
    • Telnet is still a relevant means of inter-machine connection today.


-- Global Networking becomes a reality
  • First international connections to the ARPANET: University College of London (England) and Royal Radar Establishment (Norway)
  • Ethernet outlined -- this how local networks are basically connected today.
  • Internet ideas started.
  • Gateway architecture sketched on back of envelope in hotel lobby in San Francisco. Gateways define how large networks (maybe of different architecture) can be connected together.
  • File Transfer protocol specified -- how computers send and receive data.


-- Packets become mode of transfer
  • Transmission Control Program (TCP) specified. Packet network Intercommunication -- the basis of Internet Communication.
  • Telenet, a commercial version of ARPANET, opened -- the first public packet data service.


-- Networking comes to many
  • Queen Elizabeth sends out an e-mail.
  • UUCP (Unix-to-Unix CoPy) developed at AT&T Bell Labs and distributed with UNIX.

    Why is this relevant?


    • UNIX was and still is the main operating system used by universities and research establishments.
    • These machines could now ``talk'' over a network.
    • Networking exposed to many users worldwide.


-- E-mail takes off, Internet becomes a reality
  • Number of hosts breaks 100.
  • THEORYNET provides electronic mail to over 100 researchers in computer science (using a locally developed E-mail system and TELENET for access to server).
  • Mail specification
  • First demonstration of ARPANET/Packet Radio Net/SATNET operation of Internet protocols over gateways.



-- News Groups born
  • Computer Science Department research computer network established in USA.
  • USENET established using UUCP.

    Why is this relevant?


    • USENET still thrives today.
    • A collection of discussions groups, news groups.
    • 3 news groups established by the end of the year
    • Almost any topic now has a discussion group.


1979 (Cont)
  • First MUD (Multiuser Dungeon) -- interactive multiuser sites. Interactive adventure games, board games, rich and detailed databases.
  • ARPA establishes the Internet Configuration Control Board (ICCB).
  • Packet Radio Network (PRNET) experiment starts with ARPA funding. Most communications take place between mobile vans.



-- Things start to come together
  • BITNET, the "Because It's Time NETwork" Started as a cooperative network at the City University of New York, with the first connection to Yale


    • Provides electronic mail and listserv servers to distribute information, as well as file transfers
  • CSNET (Computer Science NETwork) established to provide networking services (specially E-mail) to university scientists with no access to ARPANET. CSNET later becomes known as the Computer and Science Network.


-- TCP/IP defines future communication
  • DCA and ARPA establishes the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), as the protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, for ARPANET.

    Why is this relevant?


    • Leads to one of the first definitions of an internet as a connected set of networks, specifically those using TCP/IP, and Internet as connected TCP/IP internets.


1982 (Cont)
  • EUnet (European UNIX Network) is created by EUUG to provide E-mail and USENET services. Original connections between the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and UK
  • External Gateway Protocol specification -- EGP is used for gateways between (different architecture) networks.



-- Internet gets bigger
  • Name server developed.

    Why is this relevant?


    • Large number of nodes.
    • Hard to remember exact paths
    • Use meaningful names instead.


  • Desktop workstations come into being.

    Why is this relevant?


    • Many with Berkeley UNIX which includes IP networking software.
    • Need switches from having a single, large time sharing computer connected to Internet per site, to connection of an entire local network.



1983 (Cont)
  • Internet Activities Board (IAB) established, replacing ICCB
  • Berkeley releases new version of UNIX 4.2BSD incorporating TCP/IP.
  • EARN (European Academic and Research Network) established on similar lines to BITNET


-- Growth of Internet Continues
  • Number of hosts breaks 1,000.
  • Domain Name Server (DNS) introduced.


    • instead of 123.456.789.10
    • it is easier to remember something like


      ( e.g.


  • JANET (Joint Academic Network) established in the UK
  • Moderated newsgroups introduced on USENET.


-- Power of Internet Realised
  • 5, 000 Hosts. 241 News groups.
  • NSFNET created (backbone speed of 56 Kbps)
  • NSF establishes 5 super-computing centers to provide high-computing power for all -- This allows an explosion of connections, especially from universities.
  • Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) designed to enhance Usenet news performance over TCP/IP.


-- Commercialisation of Internet Born


  • Number of hosts 28,000.
  • UUNET is founded with Usenix funds to provide commercial UUCP and Usenet access.


  • NSFNET backbone upgraded to T1 (1.544 Mbps)
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) developed


-- Large growth in Internet


  • Number of hosts breaks 100,000
  • First relays between a commercial electronic mail carrier and the Internet
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) comes into existence under the IAB



-- Expansion of Internet continues
  • 300,000 Hosts. 1,000 News groups
  • ARPANET ceases to exist
  • Archie released files can be searched and retrieved (FTP) by name.
  • The World comes on-line (, becoming the first commercial provider of Internet dial-up access.


-- Modernisation Begins
  • Commercial Internet eXchange (CIX) Association, Inc. formed after NSF lifts restrictions on the commercial use of the Net.
  • Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS) Why is relevant?


    • Provides a mechanism for indexing and accessing information on the Internet.
    • Large bodies of knowledge available: E-mail messages, text, electronic books, Usenet articles, computer code, image, graphics, sound files, databases etc..
    • These form the basis of the index of information we see on WWW today.
    • Powerful search techniques implemented. Keyword search.



1991 (cont)
-- Friendly User Interface to WWW established
  • Gopher released by Paul Lindner and Mark P. McCahill from the U of Minnesota. Why is relevant?


    • Text based, menu-driven interface to access internet resources.
    • No need to remember or even know complex computer command. User Friendly Interface (?).
    • Largely superseded by WWW, these days.


1991 (cont)
-- Most Important development to date
  • World-Wide Web (WWW) released by CERN; Tim Berners-Lee developer. Why is relevant?


    • Originally developed to provide a distributed hypermedia system.
    • Easy access to any form of information anywhere in the world.
    • Initially non-graphic (this came later, MOSAIC, 1993).
    • Revolutionised modern communications and even our, way of life (?).
  • NSFNET backbone upgraded to T3 (44.736 Mbps). NSFNET traffic passes 1 trillion bytes/month and 10 billion packets/month
  • Start of JANET IP Service (JIPS) using TCP/IP within the UK academic network.



-- Multimedia changes the face of the Internet
  • Number of hosts breaks 1 Million. News groups 4,000
  • Internet Society (ISOC) is chartered.
  • First MBONE audio multicast (March) and video multicast (November).
  • The term "Surfing the Internet" is coined by Jean Armour Polly.


-- The WWW Revolution truly begins
  • Number of Hosts 2 Million. 600 WWW sites.
  • InterNIC created by NSF to provide specific Internet services
    • directory and database services
    • registration services
    • information services
  • Business and Media really take notice of the Internet.
  • US White House and United Nations (UN) comes on-line.
  • Mosaic takes the Internet by storm. Why is this relevant?


    • User Friendly Graphical Front End to the World Wide Web.
    • Develops into Netscape -- most popular WWW browser to date.
    • WWW proliferates at a 341,634


-- Commercialisation begins
  • Number of Hosts 3 Million. 10,000 WWW sites. 10,000 News groups.
  • ARPANET/Internet celebrates 25th anniversary
  • Local communities begin to be wired up directly to the Internet (Lexington and Cambridge, Mass., USA)
  • US Senate and House provide information servers
  • Shopping malls, banks arrive on the Internet
    • A new way of life
    • You can now order pizza from the Hut online in the US.
    • First Virtual, the first cyberbank, open up for business
  • NSFNET traffic passes 10 trillion bytes/month
  • WWW edges out telnet to become 2nd most popular service on the Net (behind ftp-data) based on % of packets and bytes traffic distribution on NSFNET
  • UK's HM Treasury on-line (



-- Commercialisation continues apace
  • 6.5 Million Hosts, 100,000 WWW Sites.
  • NSFNET reverts back to a research network. Main US backbone traffic now routed through interconnected network providers
  • WWW surpasses ftp-data in March as the service with greatest traffic on NSFNet based on packet count, and in April based on byte count
  • Traditional online dial-up systems (Compuserve, America Online, Prodigy) begin to provide Internet access
  • A number of Net related companies go public, with Netscape leading the pack.
  • Registration of domain names is no longer free.
  • Technologies of the Year: WWW, Search engines (WAIS development).
  • New WWW technologies Emerge Technologies


    • Mobile code (JAVA, JAVAscript, ActiveX),
    • Virtual environments (VRML),
    • Collaborative tools (CU-SeeMe)


-- Microsoft enter
  • 12.8 Million Hosts, 0.5 Million WWW Sites.
  • Internet phones catch the attention of US telecommunication companies who ask the US Congress to ban the technology (which has been around for years)
  • The WWW browser war begins , fought primarily between Netscape and Microsoft, has rushed in a new age in software development, whereby new releases are made quarterly with the help of Internet users eager to test upcoming (beta) versions.


-- What Next?
  • 19.5 Million Hosts, 1 Million WWW sites, 71,618 Newsgroups.






The Roads and Crossroads of Internet History.  By Gregory Gromov

1. Internet Before World Wide Web
The First 130 Years: Atlantic cable, Sputnick, ARPANET,"Information Superhighway", ...
2. World Wide Web as a Side Effect of Particle Physics Experiments.
World Wide Web was born in CERN ...
3. Next Crossroad of World Wide Web History
World Wide Web as a NextStep of PC Revolution ... from Steven P. Jobs to Tim Berners-Lee
4. Birth of the World Wide Web, Browser Wars, ...
Tim Berners-Lee, R. Cailliau, Marc Andreessen, Browser Wars, ...
5. Early History of Hypertext
Hypertext Foundation of the World Wide Web: Vannevar Bush's hyperlink concept, Ted Nelson coins the word Hypertext, ...
6. "Living History" of Hypertext.
Hypertext Saga of Theodor Holm Nelson: The Fate of Thinking Person in Silicon Valley ...
7. "Xanadu" Plan
The Nelson's Xanadu Plan to build a better World Wide Web
8. Growth of the Internet: Statistics
Statistics of the Internet & World Wide Web: Hosts, Domains, WebSites, Traffic, ...
9. Conclusion
What is the nature of World Wide Web?
10 Prehistory of the Internet
Ancient Roads of  the Telecommunications & Computers
11 They said it ...
People Wrote About This Book