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The year is 1968 and it is the height of the Cold War. Most of the Pentagon’s confidential information is by now already stored on computers. These computers were housed at strategic locations throughout the US. An idea is mounted to have these computers connected by some means so that even in the event of what was thought by many at that time as an eminent nuclear attack, the information from all the remaining functioning computers could still be obtained from any one of the other. The project was code named Arpanet short for Advanced Research Project Agency Network. In 1969, Arpanet connected four computers in four different universities throughout western United States. Housed separately at the Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Utah, these four computers are the earliest predecessors of the Internet.

In Arpanet, the burden of information transfer and communication was put solely on the computers that made it up. This meant that each computer was responsible in packaging the information as well as making sure it reached its intended destination. The wires that made the network connection only served as conduit and nothing more. In order to facilitate communication between computers, a computer protocol was established. This protocol was eventually called the Transfer Control Protocol and Internet Protocol or TCP/IP for short. To this day, TCP/IP is the most widely used protocol on the Internet (and in many private networks or Intranets as well).

The years after 1969 saw many computers linking up to Arpanet and adding to its information database. As the Cold War subsided, many more educational, private and commercial networks joined in. The years between 1971 and 1993 were a period of intense innovation in which almost all of the tools of the Internet, which we take for granted today, were invented. Among them were the e-mail (1971), FTP (used for file downloads, 1973), USENET (premier discussion channel, 1979), IRC (the famous Internet Relay Chat, 1988) and last but not least the WWW (or the World Wide Web, 1991). All these inventions served to add functionality to the Internet and were directly responsible for its growing acceptance among users.

But the Internet still remained in the realms of scientific and educational usage. Something was missing. Something that would make it instantaneously acceptable even to the novice computer user. That much awaited something was provided by Mosaic, the first Word Wide Web browser in 1993. A computer software, Mosaic revolutionized the way information was stored, presented and searched on the Internet. The effects were astounding. In the six years since the release of Mosaic, an additional 72 million host were connected to the Internet, a 103-fold increase from the year before the release (source: Internet Software Consortium)! Truly Mosaic and its later successors such as Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer were directly responsible in the blossoming forth of the Internet.

But things did not stop there. The year 1995 saw the first search engines created the following years more innovations like the Internet Phone, Video Conferencing, JavaScript, Multimedia enhancements and Web TV blurred the distinction between the TV and computer. At present the Internet is not only a premier source of knowledge and information, but is increasingly becoming a major player in the field of entertainment as well.

Today, there aren’t many countries on earth that do not have some sort of Internet connection. Although the Internet has come a long way, it is important to remember that it is still in its infancy and will continue to grow, change and affect our lives like never before.