The day we invented the internet

16th July 2016, Tom Trevatt

The Guardian / Ben Tarnoff

40 years ago the internet was invented. Which seems like an odd statement, as it is so pervasive, ubiquitous and appears only in glimpses, it is almost impossible to imagine the internet’s invention. Starting life as a network of military computers developed by ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), the internet began as a fixed system between stationary computers. The military applications of this network required it to be mobile; it needed to be wireless and connected to the ARPA mainframe – otherwise known at the time as “internetworking”. This required getting networks to talk to one another, and is the problem the internet was invented to solve. Protocol written to solve this problem needed to be transferrable and updatable, to respond to changing environments and be universally applicable across different systems – “future proof”. This particular attribute meant that the internet could be potentially infinite, expanding and developing, ever shifting protocols to respond to the environments. What makes the internet so important, so widespread, is this flexibility. This ability to transform but remain the same, transferring bundles of data many millions of miles over many different types of infrastructure, whilst retaining the original message. This seemingly borderless space, cyberspace, was built to accommodate the types of uses the US Army would put it to, and as such mimics the way it understands its role in the world – to be everywhere.

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