The Internet goes live under nuclear threat

Today, we know the Internet as a global system of interconnected networks, but the Internet did not exist until the late 1960s.

As a matter of fact, when it was invented in 1969, the Internet was not for public use at all. The Internet was initially a military project!

The invention of the Internet was driven by the fear of the Soviet Nuclear threat. It was invented so that researchers could share data in systems that were less vulnerable to nuclear attacks.

In 1963, the U.S Defense Department’s ARPA unit, or the Advanced Research Project Agency unit began to build a computer ‘network’. The primary goal was to link computer at different locations, so researchers could share data electronically.

A Diagram of the ARPANET by one of it’s most important architects, Larry Roberts. Notice UCLA and UCSB, where the first internet connections were made.

The idea was to convert Data into telephone signals using a Modulator-demodulator, also known as ‘modem’. The modem was developed at AT&T in the late 1950s.

In the 1960s, several important advances were made including ‘packet switching’- proposed by Paul Baran.

Packet Switching is the system of packaging, labeling, and routing data that enables it to be delivered across the network between machines.

The concept was to break data into small chunks, package and label them and route them to the computer requiring that data.

These small chunks would be fired in the network, which would then route (“switch”) the various pieces.

As the small chunks reach the receiving computer, it is decoded and reassembled, hence reproducing the original data that was transmitted.

In the process of routing, the “switch” is very important. For example, if chunks of a message were traveling from LA to New York via Dallas, but Dallas suddenly went offline, the network would automatically route via another online route – like Denver instead.

Different parts of the message, also called packets of the message would go by different routes. They would then be reassembled back into the original message at their destination. This would happen even if the packets arrived in the wrong order.

Paul Baran published his concept in 1964. It took five years for this project to go live. It was called ARPANET

Eventually, the threat of nuclear war receded in the early 1970s, ARPANET was renamed as the ‘Internet’ and effectively opened to all users.

Since then, several new developments have taken place – like the development of e-mail and the creation of the World Wide Web. Also, browser technology has enabled the internet to become a rich communications facility.

Read: World Wide Web


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