Section 1: The Internet and Intranets-
A brief history of the Internet
The foundations of the Internet were formed when packet-switching networks came into operation in the 1960s. Transmitted data is broken up into small packets of data, sent to its destination, and reassembled at the other side. This means that a single signal can be routed to multiple users, and an interrupted packet may be re-sent without loss of transmission. Packets can be compressed for speed and encrypted for security.
Computers at the time were massive, primitive structures. The only type of network in operation before was made up of terminals that logged into mainframes. This is similar to the present-day client/server relationship we have with the modern Internet, except the computers are usually comparable in terms of power, and so the Internet is known as a peer-to-peer system.
ARPANET and onwards
Early packet-switching networks were set up in Europe. Development of a similar system began in America in 1968, and went into operation the year after in the US Defence Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The ARPANET used Network Control Protocol as its transmission protocol from 1969 to 1982, when NCP was replaced with the now-widespread TCP/IP.
Now that the technology was in place, strategies were put forth on what to do with it. Eventually, the first large-scale Internet was created — a set of interconnected US military computers. The idea was, if an attack was laid down on one part of the system, the rest of the system would still be operational enough to blow the hell out of whoever was attacking the country. Alternatively, losing the mainframe in a centralised system would spell disaster. This was during the height of the Cold War, and the inevitable nuclear war looked very close to happening.
Services like E-mail found their first usage through the ARPANET system, and its obvious benefits were lauded by all who participated. The popular bulletin-board system, Usenet was developed between the 70s and 80s. Around this stage all of the main universities in the US were connected to the network and used it for transmitting experimental data and educational resources. It was found to be an excellent method of sharing information. In 1973 the first international (and indeed intercontinental) connection was made to the University College of London in England.
The rise of USENET
USENET contributed more than anything else to the way the Internet began to take off. The spirit of information sharing and discussion that is the hallmark of the net was encapsulated in this system. Usenet is considered to have begun in 1979, and went through a few revisions. In an early triumph for freedom of speech, the restrictions on taboo subjects like recreational drugs were circumvented by independent people setting up their own servers and hosting discussions there instead of on the main ARPANET servers, where this was forbidden. New transmission methods were developed, the standard becoming NNTP (Net News Transfer Protocol), which is still in use today.
The introduction of personal computers in the late 70s brought a large new audience to the developing Internet. They used e-mail and participated in discussions on networks like Usenet, Bitnet and Fidonet, which eventually were all joined together. The Internet was growing exponentially. IRC (Internet Relay Chat) became available in 1988 and communities formed in rooms.
World-Wide Web unleashed
It was only in 1991 that what we now call the World-Wide Web was introduced, developed by Mr. » Tim Berners-Lee, with assistance from Robert Caillau (while both were working at » CERN. Tim's now a member of the » W3C). Tim saw the need for a standard linked information system accessible across the range of different computers in use. It had to be simple so that it could work on both dumb terminals and high-end graphical X-Window platforms. He got some pages up and was able to access them with his 'browser'.
Quickly researchers got interested and started designing web sites and browsers. In 1993 the first proper web-browser, Mosaic, took the Internet by storm; having been developed at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA). As soon as it was ported to PCs and Macs it immediately effected a boom in web usage.
Quickly services were set up for domain registration and sites began turning up on the web, running on very basic HTML. Even at this stage, malicious viruses and worms were infiltrating computers connected to the Internet. The web had an incredible 341, 634% annual growth rate. Important sites like the White House and Pizza Hut appeared. Online shopping sites showed up. The www was quickly the most popular service on the Internet. It was around 1995 when the first large ISPs like AOL and CompuServe began offering Internet access to the masses. Technology like Sun's Java and search engines are released. The somewhat legendary browser war was in full swing between Netscape and Microsoft, with new browser releases coming every month and the web becoming increasingly fragmented. Despite this, the public's enthusiasm for the Internet went unbridled.
Today, in whatever year this is, the web is still growing at an amazing rate. Technology has improved considerably, and the web is regarded as an indispensable tool for education, business and entertainment. There are billions of pages on the web, with thousands more being added every hour. The Internet is a system that is nigh-on impossible to destroy, and looks set to become an ever-larger influence on the world in the future.
"Al Gore never made that claim. His actual words were 'During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.'
Gore took the credit because he held the hearings, wrote and sponsored the legislation which expanded the Internet from the Arpanet of the 70's into the Internet of today. It was much the same way a politician takes credit for building a road or an airport without doing any of the physical labor.
Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, the acknowledged Fathers of the Internet, wrote,
'The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective. As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship.'
While the Vice President may have chosen his words poorly, he was instrumental in the creation of the Internet."