50 years ago The Internet Was Born

On October 29, 1969, a small research group at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) managed, for the first time, to send a message from one computer to another. Fifty years later, back on five innovations that marked the evolution of the Internet.

1. Arpanet, the ancestor of the Internet

Arpanet is the first network that operates by packet switching, which is data that is cut to make it easier to connect from one point to another. It was developed in the United States under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a technology research agency of the US Department of Defense. Arpanet is the acronym for the ARPA network.

The invention of Arpanet stems from an association between military and academics. Since 1966, the US Department of Defense has funded a program to link universities contracted by the agency to the same network, relocated, to transfer files between computers.

It is important to distinguish between the Internet and its best-known heir, the World Wide Web (the global network or web), which is 20 years younger. The confusion is common, since the World Wide Web is really what allowed the Internet to explode, especially with the general public, but it is only one application of Internet among many others, like the electronic mail , instant messaging and peer-to-peer file sharing.

On October 29, 1969, at 10:30 pm, Leonard Kleinrock and his assistant programmer Charley Kline sent the first electronic message from the UCLA to the Arpanet Network to the Stanford Research Institute. The message originally had to include the word ” Login,” but only the first two letters “Lo” go to their destination before the system gets a bug. The whole word will only be transmitted an hour later.

Message transmission is made possible by the Message Processor Interface, the first generation of what is now called a router.

The first two “nodes” are then established, and Arpanet quickly connects to new universities. A node is an electronic device attached to a network and capable of creating, receiving or transmitting information through a communication channel. A server, workstation, router, printer, or fax machine can be a network node.

There are 23 knots in 1971, 111 in 1977, and the number of knots has increased exponentially over the years. In 1985, there are already nearly 4 million interconnected nodes, and more than 1,000 computers around the world are connected to it.

2. The email

The history of e-mail begins in 1965, a few years before the birth of Arpanet. The first computers being very expensive, we tried to use them efficiently by sharing them. It was during this period that the first informal mechanisms for the exchange of messages between people on private networks were set up to simplify communication between those who used a common computer.

However, email really takes off after the creation of Arpanet. Previously, messages could only be sent to users in the same domain and viewed, most often, on the same machine that was used to write and drop messages.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, who works for a firm hired by DARPA, was able to send a message through two computers side by side. He still had to find a way for the program to easily differentiate a local message from a network message.

He decides to use the @ (at) symbol to distinguish the username from the host name. It was one of the only characters that were not used in any proper name, and most importantly, in no company name.

Subsequently, the email will be widely used within the Arpanet network and will remain so throughout the history of the Internet.

3. The World Wide Web

In 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, which hosted scientists from around the world who wanted to use its particle accelerator. Mr. Berners-Lee notes that all of these teams are having trouble exchanging information.

Its solution: create a hypertext system distributed on the computer network so that employees can exchange information within CERN. In March 1989, he put his vision on paper in a document entitled Information Management: A Proposal .

At first, his boss is a little skeptical, but still lets him work on the project. As early as 1990, Berners-Lee developed the three technologies that will remain, until today, the foundations of the web, the HTML (the language of formatting for the web), the URI (also called URL, this kind unique address used to identify each resource on the web) and HTTP (which retrieves related resources across the web).

Tim Berners-Lee also creates the first web browser for the World Wide Web project itself, which is hosted on his personal computer.

At the end of 1990, the first web page was accessible on the Internet, and in 1991, people outside CERN were invited to join the new web community. Berners-Lee quickly realizes the potential of the web if it were democratized.

With others, he is starting to advocate for the democratization of the web and is pressuring CERN to offer the code as a free license, forever. CERN agrees, and the decision is announced in April 1993, triggering a worldwide wave of creation, collaboration and innovation unparalleled.

4. Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing

The peer-to-peer ( peer-to-peer or P2P) greatly marked the Internet, for better or for worse. It is an exchange model where each network entity is both a client and a server, unlike the client-server model. Several precursor programs have used this model, such as Usenet (1980) or Kermit (1981).

The model explodes with the introduction of Napster in 1999, developed by Shawn Fanning while he is still a freshman at the Northeastern Univeristy. The concept is simple and very effective: users download free software that looks for local hard drives from nearby computers for MP3 files, which can be downloaded from one computer to another.

In less than a year, Napster has more than 1 million members. Two years later, the Metallica Group sued the company, and in July 2001, Napster was closed, failing to become a paying and suffocating service under the legal documents.

After the closure of Napster, peer-to-peer file sharing is developing at breakneck speed, with new software shaking the legal and economic foundations of companies. Think of Bitorrent (2001), a nightmare for copyright, or Bitcoin (2009), a technology that banks and governments are taking more and more seriously.

5. YouTube, Facebook and social networks

In recent years, the web has taken a turn sharply marked by social networks. Today, it is impossible to imagine our lives without their influence, but we must not forget that these new actors are very recent in the great history of the Internet. Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube, in 2006, Instagram, in 2010 …

Today, as we celebrate 50 years of the Internet at UCLA, Leonard Kleinrock takes a half-hearted look at the universe that his experience of 1969 has created.

“I had not seen the “social networking” aspect at all. I thought to make people communicate with computers, or computers between them, but not people between them,” he told Agence France Presse recently.

“In a sense, it is a very democratic invention. But it also conceals a perfect formula for the dark side of humanity. […] There are so many things shouted online that moderate voices get drowned and extreme views are magnified, spreading hatred, misinformation and abuse.”

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