In the case of the internet, and various internet technologies, they were not conceptualized in a single invention or event, but have evolved over time as the result of many events. The creation of the internet is the work of many visionaries that we discuss here at Geek History.
If you study the history of the United States in the 1960s, you will see the unlikely cold war partnership that created the internet as ground breaking as the technology they were creating. On one hand you had the California universities full of college students organizing demonstrations protesting against the Vietnam war. You would not think the universities would see the military as their friend. But on the other hand you have various projects funded by ARPA (the Department of Defense) using these same universities to research the concepts that would create the framework for the ARPAnet.
There are many facets of the internet that were unprecedented. University geeks using Department of Defense money to create a world wide communications network, with parts and accessories being built by American companies. The creation of the internet shows what is possible when the government, the academic world, and business, join forces and work together. It brought together very different people to work for one common mission.
The concept of a "world wide web" to be built upon the internet was not the improvement on any existing idea, because anything world wide was pretty non existent the 1950s.
When was internet invented?
To answer the question when was internet invented we need to put the question into perspective. Many people use the term internet interchangeably with "the web" or world wide web. The internet is the information super highway, the infrastructure on which we travel. HTML and Web browsers make up the world wide web, the vehicle we use to travel on the highway.
The Internet we know today was not developed from a single network that simply grew and grew, it was an evolution of many different communications and technology tools coming together.
In the 1960s the ARPAnet went from one man's vision to a functional computer network that would grow into the internet as we know it today. In the 1980s internet protocols became the universal language of computers that the internet currently uses. The development of HTML and web browsers in the 1990s led to the system we now call the world wide web.
Who invented the internet?
There are many key players in this evolution of many different communications and technology tools coming together, to give any single person credit for inventing the internet does not do justice to the many contributions that all were so significant.
There are so many urban legends and so much folklore surrounding the internet. Often a story is told regarding the birth of the internet implying it was created by a single event or a single person's vision.
In the 1960s the vision of a worldwide network of computers by Dr. J.C.R. Licklider would lead to the ARPANET. In the paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” published in 1960, Licklider provided a guide for decades of computer research to follow. Larry Roberts, the principal architect of the ARPANET, would give credit to Licklider's vision.
One of the key differences between communications before the internet to the way information flowed with the new standards known as Internet Protocol is the concept of packet switching. In the 1960s, Paul Baran and the RAND Corporation's "On Distributed Communications" defined the concept of packet switching as an integral part of the new technology that would become the internet. Baran's concept of packet switching allowed for a system that could route traffic around an area if there was a problem, packets would simply be routed around it.
The next phase in the evolution of the Internet would be the work of Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf during the 1970s to create TCP/IP. This new standard set of rules would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences.
The creation of the internet is the work of many visionaries that we we discuss here at Geek History. In the stories that follow, Geek History explores who invented the internet and the many technology pioneers that are responsible for this vast telecommunications system.
Thoughts from a true visionary Jules Verne, 1865:
"In spite of the opinions of certain narrow-minded people who would shut up the human race upon this globe, we shall one day travel to the moon, the planets, and the stars with the same facility, rapidity and certainty as we now make the ocean voyage from Liverpool to New York."