The history of the Internet is long and complicated. When the idea began it was not supposed to be used by consumers, but instead by people of the “scientific and military fields” (Howe). There were many fundamental steps, spanning over 35 years, which played a crucial role in the development of the Internet.
It all began in 1957 when Russia, known as USSR back then, launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, into orbit. “The effect in the United States was electrifying” (Griffiths). For the first time the US felt vulnerable towards Russia and as a result the creation of a new Defence Department called ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) was their way of responding. Tensions between the US and Russia grew during the Cold War. The US Air Force wanted to create a network that would allow them “to maintain command and control over its missiles and bombers,” (Kristula) even after a nuclear attack. In 1966 the research in networking has advanced sufficiently to allow Lawrence Roberts to develop a plan for ARPANET, a computer network system that would later become the Internet.
The ARPANET would function on the idea of a packet switched network. This consists of data being broken down into parts or packets. Each packet was then labelled with an original and destination address, as well as with information that would keep track of each packet. “If a packet was lost during the transfer, the message could be resent by the originator” (Kristula). In 1969 the ARPANET was brought online for the first time. The network consisted of “four major computers at the following universities: UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah” (Howe). The experiment was such a success that by 1971 there were already 23 computers linked to the ARPANET network (Griffiths).
The next step in the evolution of the Internet was with the development of electronic email, or email for short. Ray Tomlinson created the first email program in 1971, which was actually a combination of two other programs. He later modified the program, incorporating the @ symbol to link the username and address as well as other useful additions and in the summer of 1972 the first practical email program was created for ARPANET. During this time the there would also be a huge network overhaul. The ARPANET was currently using the Network Control Protocol (NCP) to transfer data. This had limitations and as a result, in 1973, the development of the transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) began.