Who invented the internet?

By John Anderson
Info Guru,

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Many scientists over the years have contributed to our internet technology.
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The creation of a wartime communication network

It's a fact of history that often the most technical advances are precipitated by times of war. To rapidly take technology to the next level requires many smart minds congregating to concentrate on one project. Such organization requires the money and resources only a government can provide.

The answer to the question of 'who invented the internet' is not a single man or company, but instead the involvement of many experts from various fields pooling their knowledge towards a common goal.

The catalyst for the burst of innovation that would ultimately create the internet was the launch of the Soviet Union's first satellite in 1957. The thought of Sputnik I and other Communist craft, hovering over US airspace was enough to alarm President Eisenhower to plough funds into developing the US's technical capability.

Paul Baran of RAND, a government think tank, was assigned the task of creating a communication network that could survive a nuclear attack, and enable the US to launch their own counter strike. This meant decentralising control of America's warheads and military with a network which could rapidly exchange data between locations spread all other the country.

The communication network was designed to utilise the principle of 'packet switching' data technology, published in a paper by Leonard Kleinrock in 1961. Packet switching meant that millions of data messages could be routed along the same physical line from one place to another. Previously, data transfer systems had relied on a single connection between two points, such as those created by telephone exchanges, for rerouting every message in a 'circuit switching' system.

The advances in data transfer technology enabled the creation of a functioning long distance computer network. Larry G. Roberts could be labelled as one of the people who invented the internet because he built its first links: between the University of California and Stanford Research Institute in 1969. Known as ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Networks), the network was gradually expanded to link military, scientific and educational institutions all over the country.

In 1972, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to allow diverse computer networks to interconnect and communicate. Scientists, the military and researchers could now collaborate and share information with colleagues from all over America on the rapidly growing internet network.

The internet started to spread globally in 1976 when the network became linked to Europe. The internet's capabilities as a communication tool were further enhanced three years later when IBM introduced a 'store and forward' network, now known as email.

It wasn't until 1990 that the internet became available for public usage and stopped being the preserve of the government and research institutions. The development of HTML during this year meant that graphical websites started appearing and the world-wide-web started taking form into how we know it today.

So, the person who invented the internet wasn't a single individual but a whole community of scientists, physicists and the brightest minds in the country. They were motivated not only to provide the military with a decentralised control system, but to create a communication network enabling people to collaborate and share information with others all over the world.

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