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February 7, 1958 was the day Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy signed Department of Defense Directive

5105.15. His signature launched the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), now known as the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The creation of the agency is an important
moment in science history because it led to the creation of the internet we recognize today.

The Cold War was in full swing in the 1950s, and the US was worried about the Soviet Union’s growing
scientific prowess. Because of Sputnik 1, launched in 1957, the US military was concerned about the
Soviet Union attacking from space and destroying the US long-distance communications network.

The existing national defense network relied on telephone lines and wires that were susceptible to
damage. In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider, a scientist from ARPA and MIT, suggested connecting computers to keep
a communications network active in the US in the event of a nuclear attack.

This network came to be known as the ARPA Network, or ARPAnet. Packet switching made data
transmission possible in 1965, and by 1969, military contractor Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN)
developed an early form of routing devices known as interface message processors (IMPs), which
revolutionized data transmission.


The Stanford University Network was the first local area network connecting distant workstations. In
1981, the NSF expanded ARPAnet to national computer science researchers when it funded the
Computer Science Network (CSNET). BBN assumed CSNET operation management in 1984.

ARPAnet adopted the transmission control protocol (TCP) in1983 and separated out the military network
(MILnet), assigning a subset for public research. Launched formally as the National Science Foundation
Network (NSFNET) in 1985, engineers designed it to connect university computer science departments
iacross the US.

Interface message processor

"ARPAnet's transition to the open networking protocols TCP and IP in 1983 accelerated the already
burgeoning spread of internetworking technology," says Stephen Wolff, principal scientist with Internet2.
"When NSF's fledgling NSFNET adopted the same protocols, ARPAnet technology spread rapidly not only
to university campuses across the USA to support the higher education community, but also to emergent
Internet Service Providers to support commerce and industry."
The NSFNET eventually became a linked resource for the five supercomputing centers across the US,
connecting researchers to regional networks, and then on to nearly 200 subsidiary networks. NSFNET
took on the role of internet backbone across the US, with ARPAnet gradually phased out in 1990.

World-wide web

1989 saw a major step forward in internet communications. Tim Berners-Lee of the European
Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) created the hypertext transfer protocol (http), a
standardization that gave diverse computer platforms the ability to access the same internet sites. For
this reason, Berners-Lee is widely regarded as the father of the world wide web (www).

The Mosaic web browser, created in 1993 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
(NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was a key development that emerged from the
NSFNET. Mosaic was the first to show images in line with text, and it offered many other graphical user
interface norms we’ve come to expect today (like the browser’s URL address bar and
back/forward/reload options for viewing webpages.)


Eventually the NSFNET modified its acceptable use policy for commercial use, and by 1995, it was
decommissioned. Soon, the internet provider model created network access points that allowed the for-
profit, commercial side of the internet to be developed.

The internet went from being an obscure research idea to a technology that is used by over 3.2 billion
people in less than sixty years.

Computer science has moved fast, but hold on tight, you can be sure it’s not done evolving.


The Internet is a worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that use the TCP/IP set of
network protocols to reach billions of users. The Internet began as a U.S Department of Defense network
to link scientists and university professors around the world.
A network of networks, today, the Internet serves as a global data communications system that links
millions of private, public, academic and business networks via an international telecommunications
backbone that consists of various electronic and optical networking technologies.

Decentralized by design, no one owns the Internet and it has no central governing authority. As a
creation of the Defense Department for sharing research data, this lack of centralization was intentional
to make it less vulnerable to wartime or terrorist attacks.

The terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are often used interchangeably; however, the Internet and
World Wide Web are not one and the same.

The Internet is a vast hardware and software infrastructure that enables computer interconnectivity. The
Web, on the other hand, is a massive hypermedia database - a myriad collection of documents and other
resources interconnected by hyperlinks. Imagine the World Wide Web as the platform which allows one
to navigate the Internet with the use of a browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Follow the Internet Timeline below to see how the Internet has evolved over the years and take a glance
at what lies ahead in the future as the Internet continues to change the world we live in.