Tue, Jan 23, 2018 08:13 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
This n' That
What did we do before the Internet?
by Tony Fyffe

I have a question that I hope someone out there can answer: What did we do before the Internet was invented?

If you think about it, the Internet is one of those things that started out as a curiosity and has transformed into a necessity. Much like the computer on which it makes its home, the Internet was foreign to most Americans until suddenly, out of no where, every household had to have it. Students used to use encyclopedias, other books and magazines to do research for a school paper; now, they have the information they need with one click of a computer mouse. We newspaper people even use the ’Net to get information we need for a story.

So, how did this thing known as the Information Super Highway come to be? For the answer, I went, of course, to the Internet itself and found some pretty interesting information.

Here’s a quick history:

— The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today.

— The Internet was devised from the ARPANET, which was unveiled in August 1972. It was also in 1972 that the initial “hot” application, electronic mail, was introduced. In March, Ray Tomlinson wrote the basic email message send and read software, motivated by the need of the ARPANET developers for an easy coordination mechanism. In July, Roberts expanded its utility by writing the first email utility program to list, selectively read, file, forward, and respond to messages. From there email took off as the largest network application for over a decade. This was a harbinger of the kind of activity we see on the World Wide Web today, namely, the enormous growth of all kinds of “people-to-people” traffic.The original ARPANET grew into the Internet.

— Internet was based on the idea that there would be multiple independent networks of rather arbitrary design, beginning with the ARPANET as the pioneering packet switching network, but soon to include packet satellite networks, ground-based packet radio networks and other networks. The Internet as we now know it embodies a key underlying technical idea, namely that of open architecture networking. In this approach, the choice of any individual network technology was not dictated by a particular network architecture but rather could be selected freely by a provider and made to interwork with the other networks through a meta-level “Internetworking Architecture.”

— By 1985, Internet was already well established as a technology supporting a broad community of researchers and developers, and was beginning to be used by other communities for daily computer communications. Electronic mail was being used broadly across several communities, often with different systems, but interconnection between different mail systems was demonstrating the utility of broad based electronic communications between people.

— In 1994, a report titled “Realizing The Information Future: The Internet and Beyond” was released. This report, commissioned by NSF, was the document in which a blueprint for the evolution of the information superhighway was articulated and which has had a lasting effect on the way to think about its evolution. It anticipated the critical issues of intellectual property rights, ethics, pricing, education, architecture and regulation for the Internet.

— On October 24, 1995, the FNC unanimously passed a resolution defining the term Internet. This definition was developed in consultation with members of the internet and intellectual property rights communities. RESOLUTION: The Federal Networking Council (FNC) agrees that the following language reflects our definition of the term “Internet.” “Internet” refers to the global information system that — (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.

So, the Internet has been around a lot longer than we thought. I still can’t remember what we did before it became a household device.

Whatever it was, I know it wasn’t as easy and convenient as the Internet.

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