The first Internet connection between two computers coincided with the first moon landing. The landing of man on the surface of the moon in 1969 was an event that overshadowed, of course, any other development and news from the field of science. Although the economic and political consequences of internet use are probably much greater and multifaceted than the Americans’ victory in the battle of space.
The birth of the internet started with a crash. On October 29, 1969 the computer science student Charles Klein attempted to send a message from a computer from the University of California, LOS Angeles (UCLA) to a PC -that was in distance 500 and more km- at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Klein wanted to send the word ”LOGIN”, but after just two letters, the system collapsed. An hour later the word finally reached its destination. By that time only computers of the same design could communicate with each other.
”50 years ago it became possible for the first time to exchange information computers with different operating systems also“,
explains Professor Christoph Meinel, director of Potsdam’s Hasso-Plattner Institute, praising the historical importance of evolution.
”So the 29th of october 1969 is considered the date of birth of the internet.”
”We didn’t know how important the event was”
And while the landing was broadcast live on TV, the first online connection of UCLA was almost unnoticed. Even the scientists involved did not realise the importance of the step.
”We knew that we were developing an important new technology because we expected that it would be useful for part of the population. But we did not know how important the event was”,
later said Klein’s boss, Leonard Kleinrock.
Of course it took many more years for the Internet to penetrate into people’s everyday lives. When users were able to send e-mail messages for the first time in 1971, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) measured only 15 nodes. Two years later the first connections to computers outside the US were made in Oslo and London.
It took another ten years to the next major milestone in internet history which brought the improved quality of connections. In 1983 the so-called Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol, known as TCP / IP, was introduced. It is the communication protocol that essentially transfers data to date.
The role of the Army
The requirements of the Army have played an important role in the design of the Internet. The American Pentagon wanted to build a highly resistant to any nuclear attacks communication network and thus created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA). The importance of the army’s role in the evolution of the Internet should not, however, be overestimated, Professor Meynell commented.
”DARPA was a service that could finance projects that it considered important, without bureaucratic obstacles.”
The fact that the motion initiative belonged more to scientists than to the military confirms a “congenital error”: The communication protocol has no built-in security functions.
”Essentially, the principle is that one trusts the other on the Internet”,
explains Grant Blank from the British Oxford Internet Institute. This error follows the internet until today and allows or facilitates crime and espionage as well as misinformation.
By the early 1990s the developments in the Internet were dictated by the Americans. The next big step has, however, been made in Europe. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee laid the foundations of the “World Wide Web” at the CERN Research Center. With the first “browser” a few years later the system was simplified and no longer needed complex commands to navigate the Internet.
This is how the first Internet giants like Google and Amazon were born. Since then, the developments are even more rapid. Smartphones and especially the launch of the iPhone in 2007 made the Internet more accessible and easy to use for the masses.