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The Internet and the World Wide Web: A History

The year 1957 was a remarkable year for mankind. On the 4th day of October, the USSR launched the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit. Sending the Sputnik 1 in space was a great milestone for the Soviet Union, beating the USA in space race. Triggered by this lost, US President Dwight Eisenhower asked its Department of Defense to form the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) – an organization that would research and develop advance ideas for science and technology. But, who would have thought that these series of events would lead to the invention of a modern technology that the whole world is enjoying now?

From a notion of global network of computers to a mathematical theory of transmitting data, the visionary concept that began in as early as 1940s has transformed the computer system into a revolutionized tool for communication and information.

The Origins of the Internet

The idea of Vannevar Bush about an automated library system called ‘memex’ (Vannevar Bush; As We May Think; Atlantic Monthly; July 1945); Norbert Wiener’s invention of the field of cybernetics that inspired future scientists to “think of computer technology as a means to extend human capabilities” (Wiener, Norbert; Cybernetics; 1948); and the 1956 Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference that gave birth to the field of AI and creation of thinking machines, were the conceptual underpinnings that influenced several people behind the development of the Internet, most notably the American computer scientist Joseph Carl Robnett “Lick” Licklider.

In March 1960, Licklider conveyed his idea of ‘Man-Computer Symbiosis,’ it is defined as a subclass of man-machine systems. In his thesis, he visualized a “cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers” (Licklider, 1960). Furthermore, he also expressed his idea of a “thinking center” that has the “functions of present-day libraries with advanced information storage and retrieval,” which are actually similar to the functions of the Internet today. In August 1962, he discussed the concept of “a globally interconnected set of computer through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site” (Internet Society, Brief History of the Internet), the revolutionary idea was called ‘Intergalactic Computer Network.’ Licklider used this term in his April 1963 memo, addressing his colleagues as ‘Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network.’ In October 1962, he was assigned as the first director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of the ARPA (now called as DARPA) in search for the improvement of US military’s use of computer technology. While in ARPA, Licklider influenced his successor at IPTO, Ivan Sutherland about the potential benefits of networking concept.

In February 1965, Lawrence Roberts was hired by Sutherland to implement Licklider’s idea of country-wide communications network. The idea of packet switching invented by Paul Baran at Research and Development (RAND), and later by Donald Davies at the UK National Physical Laboratory, was the basis of the development of the network. Later on, the project was called ‘ARPANET’ and they created a special computer called ‘Interface Message Processor (IMP)’ for the development of ARPANET’s design. In September 1969, Leonard Kleinrock’s Network Measurement Center at UCLA became the first node of the ARPANET. And on October 29, 1969, a history was made. The first message was transmitted over the ARPANET from Kleinrock’s research center at UCLA to Douglas Engelbart’s center at the Stanford Research Institute. Since then, ARPANET has been developed and improved into a very rich source of information and useful tool for communication- now called the “Internet.”

Timeline for the Development of World Wide Web

1960’s- Douglas Engelbart developed an elaborate hypermedia-groupware system called NLS (oNLine System), the first working hypertext system. He also invented the mouse and the graphical user interface (GUI). On the other hand, the term “hypertext” was first coined by Ted Nelson in 1963. And in his book Literary Machines, he popularized the hypertext concept which is the “implementation of a ‘docuverse’ where all data was stored once, there were no deletions, and all information was accessible by a link from anywhere else.”

1980- Tim Berners-Lee, a consultant software engineer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), wrote “a program for keeping track of software” called as ‘Enquire.’

March 1989- Based from his ‘Enquire’ concept, Berners-Lee discussed the basic principles of the World Wide Web and proposed a hypertext project in his ‘Information Management: A Proposal’ paper.

1990- In September, Mike Sendall, the boss of Berners-Lee, approved the purchase of a NeXT cube so that Tim could start his hypertext project. In October, Berners-Lee used the NeXTStep software development system to write a “hypertext GUI browser+editor.” The program’s initial names were Information Mesh, Mine of Information and Information Mine. But later on, Tim came out with the term ‘WorldWideWeb’ but changed to ‘World Wide Web’ after. It is the world’s first web browser as well as editor. Robert Cailliau joined Tim, and they co-authored the new version of the proposal called “WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a Hypertext Project” and published it on November 12, 1990. The first trials of the World Wide Web took place on December 25 at the CERN laboratories, wherein Tim and Robert were “communicating with the world’s first web server at info.cern.ch.”

In 1991, the web server and browser software became available to the public. Since then, other servers from around the world have been increasing, rapidly. And in 1992, there were already 26 servers in the world.

Conclusion

The invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web did actually change the world that we are living in. Gone are the days of limited access to information. Through the Internet and World Wide Web, we can get hundreds or even thousands of information in just a single click. Interacting with people in the different parts of the globe is now made easy. Moreover, they did open different opportunities for education, work and business. And one of these is the web design and web development industry. For our next article, we will look back how this industry began.

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