The Origins of the Internet



The internet was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers, and engineers who each developed new features and technologies that eventually merged to become the “information superhighway” we know today. Computer scientists developed the concept of “packet switching,” a method for effectively transmitting electronic data that would later become one of the major building blocks of the internet. Still, the first practical schematics for the internet would not arrive until the early 1960s, when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider popularized the idea of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers.

The technology continued to grow in the 1970s after scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a communications model that set standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks. ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there, researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. Nikola Tesla toyed with the idea of a “world wireless system” in the early 1900s, and visionary thinkers like Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush conceived of mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media in the 1930s and 1940s.

Long before the technology existed to build the internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks for information. The web helped popularize the internet among the public and served as a crucial step in developing the vast trove of information that most of us now access daily.