A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB AND THE INTERNET

Return to Contents
  arrow_next.gif (62 bytes)
Part 1
Packets
Packet-switched networks from Baran's 1963 paper, "On Distributed Communications Networks"

Today the Internet is changing the way people live their lives in dramatic ways. To understand how this came about it is useful to review its early history and the way it came into existence.

The origin of the Internet dates back to 1957 when, in the shadow of the former Soviet Union's Sputnik program the United States established the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Department of Defense. Four years later a Ph.D. student at MIT, Leonard Kleinrock, published the first paper on packet-switching theory. With packet switching a message that is sent from one computer to another is broken down into small packets of digital data. Each packet is given an address to travel to and is then routed to its destination. Packets can travel different routes to the point where they are reassembled into the complete message. In 1962 Paul Baran of the RAND Corporation published, "On Distributed Communication Networks" in which he formulated the concept of packet-switching networks having no single outage point. With these theoretical concepts in place, others could develop workable concepts. Two additional key elements, re-routing around outages and access by other networks, helped lay the necessary groundwork to create the theoretical basis for the inception of an Internet.

The underlying motive for developing this technology was to streamline communication between military command centers, remote missile bases and other installations in the event of a preemptive nuclear attack. DARPA funds for developing packet switching in the late 1960s accounted for 60% of the computer research done in the United States at that time. Much of the concern during this period of the cold war was based upon a study done by the RAND Corporation that cited the lines of communication as the most vulnerable portion of U.S. military command.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB AND THE INTERNET
Part 1 Part 5
Part 2 Part 6
Part 3
Part 4