Our Wired World: Origins of the Internet

There are conflicting ideas about the true origin of the internet. Arguments over its origin lie predominantly in two camps: one insists that worldwide connectivity had its beginnings at the behest of the Pentagon in 1969, when the Cold War was at its most intense, as a defense mechanism that could protect important information in the event of a Russian nuclear attack. Another maintains that it this was not the case. Rather, development of the internet began because the USA wished to sustain a technological edge over the Russians.

There is conjecture that the work carried out by the Advanced Research Project Agency Network (Arpanet/ARPANET) in the 1960s did not actually constitute development of an electronic connection between several different networks that served to connect people. Rather, what they developed was a variation of the concept of packet switching. Even then, packet switching had already been carried out in the United Kingdom prior to this. Therefore, the popular theory of the origin of the internet may actually be erroneous.

It is also entirely possible that network-to-network connectivity and communication arose as a result of the combined results from research that had been carried out by separate interested parties. For instance, there is the transmission control protocol-internet protocol (TCP/IP) developed by researchers who were previously involved in ARPANETs research. TCP/IP is hailed by some as the protocol that forms the backbone of internet connections as we know them today. However, proponents of this theory do not take into account inter-network communication that took place without use of the protocol.

Despite the debunking of popular theories, the origin of the internet is not completely free of ARPANET involvement. Bob Taylor, the head of ARPANET itself, has been quoted as saying that such a connection was made around 1975, when the Ethernet was connected to ARPANET via the PARC Universal Protocol (PUP), which some consider to be the first complete and operational set of internet protocols. PUP is also considered an instrumental factor in the later definition of TCP. This is actually more plausible than the other theories that abound, which makes the World Wide Web approximately 24 years old in 2009.

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