Who Invented the Internet?

Of all the technology I’m using constantly, the Internet has become the more useful to me. I’m using it to make a living (but not with cryptocurrency yet). When I discovered its existence in the ’90s, I was quite young and I dreamed of all the possibilities the computer magazines were presenting.

After I got my first 14k modem, I realized that it was quite slow, but it was another world, so who cared? I soon got a 28k modem after all! At that time, I was more interested in using it than in its origin. I never asked:

Who created the Internet?

The answer came anyway. In the computer mags I bought to find good URLs to explore, there were articles about the technology. I totally forgot what they said. Since then, I learned that the origin of technologies is often controversial.

Internet didn’t begin as “the Internet.” In the beginning, during the Cold War in the late 1950s, the US military needed to have its computers to communicate. In case of a Soviet nuclear attack, all information could not be found in one place. In fact, sharing was a serious need for researchers, and traveling great distances to access information was not practical. To find a solution, the Department of Defense-funded the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

The main goal of ARPA was to help American military technology stay ahead of its Russian counterpart. One of the projects the agency worked on was a large-scale computer network that was called ARPANET.


Who invented ARPANET?

More than one person. Lawrence Roberts (1937–2018) was the Chief scientist at ARPA. He was responsible for developing computer networks. He based his work on an idea by engineer Paul Baran (1926–2011) who submitted it in 1964 when he was working for the RAND Corporation, an American think tank tasked to research how the US Air Force could keep control of its fleet if a nuclear attack ever happened. His idea was a communication network with no central command point, a distributed network.

Robert worked on this with scientist Leonard Kleinrock (1934—) and, in 1965, they made two separate computers in different places (from UCLA to Stanford) communicate together for the first time with a telephone line and acoustically coupled modems. That’s how they transferred digital data using packets at the beginning. It took more than one try, but ARPANET was born and started to expand. At one point, rules needed to be set to control how data packets were exchanged.

Bob Kahn (1938—) and Vint Cerf (1943—) are the American computer scientists who invented the protocol that was needed at that time. It’s called the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, also known as TCP/IP – a protocol suite that provides end-to-end data communication specifying how data should be packetized, addressed, transmitted, routed, and received. It’s the key element that led to the Internet as we know it today. In fact, the first written use of the word “Internet” is credited to Vint Cerf—that’s probably why Cerf and Kahn are sometimes credited as the inventor of the Internet.

TCP/IP is the language computers used to talk to each other. DNS is the address book they use to know who to call. The Domain Name System is another crucial element of the Internet because keeping track of IP addresses (every computer connected to a network as one) is not an easy task, especially when you have thousands of computers to link together. In 1983, Paul Mockapetris (1948—) and Jon Postel (1943–98) who worked at the University of Southern California invented the DNS, also known as the “phone book of the Internet,” and it paved the way for the World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee

Who invented the World Wide Web?

What we call the Internet is mostly the World Wide Web, but it’s not the same. The World Wide Web is a way of accessing information through the Internet. At the end of the 1980s, there was a common language for computers to talk to each other, but humans needed their protocol to format the information in a way that made it readable to everybody. Working at the CERN (the international particle-research laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland), Tim Berners-Lee (1955—) introduced a new way of structuring and linking all the information available on CERN’s computer network. It was to make it easy to access.

Tim Berners-Lee’s idea was built around “hyperlinks” connecting the documents together. A hyperlink was written in what is called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and pointed to any other HTML page or file. In 1990, Berners-Lee also developed the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)—for computers to communicate HTML documents over the Internet—and the Universal Resource Identifier (URI) system—a unique address to find each document. All you need to present HTML documents in an easy-to-read format is a web server and web browser.

The Browser Wars – Netscape Vs Ms Internet Explorer

Who invented the Web Browsers?

Of course, the first web browser was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. This software had limited use because it was designed to only work on NeXT computers—the machine made by NeXT, Redwood City, was also the first web server. An English mathematician and information scientist named Nicola Pellow who worked alongside Berners-Lee in the WWW Project at CERN was tasked to create a browser and she wrote the first generic Line Mode Browser that could run on non-NeXT systems.

In 1992, Marc Andreessen (1971—) a student at the University of Illinois became familiar with Berners-Lee’s creation. With Eric Bina (1964—), he started working on Mosaic, a user-friendly browser with integrated graphics that would work on a wide range of computers. The Mosaic Web browser became the first killer application (software that is so necessary that it proves the core value of some larger technology) that popularized the Internet. In 1994 Andreesen formed Netscape Communications to create Netscape Navigator, the most-used Internet browser that at the time, the first web browser I used, like so many.

To run your web browser, you need an operating system! I wrote an article about the first ones.

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