Master of your domain

Like a lot of our modern technology, you can trace the birth of the Internet to the military industrial complex, a cold war that spanned more than four decades of paranoia, and an almost pointless space race.

When the Russians launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, the United States was shocked to realize that somehow they had fallen behind the game – today a beeping tin ball, tomorrow a platform to drop nukes on the White House. They created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the department of defence to re-establish America’s lead in military science and technology.

One of ARPA’s missions was to find a secure method of communicating between the Department of Defence and its auxiliaries, e.g. a missile silo somewhere in Backwater, Nebraska.

Crude computers emerged in the early 1960s, and it wasn’t long before ARPA looked for ways to connect computers. In 1965, they linked a Texas Instruments computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a System Development Corporation computer in Santa Monica, California, through a dedicated 1200 bits per second phone line. Another Digital Equipment Corporation computer was added to the mix to create the first experimental network. Later this network would become known as the ARPANET.

Since most of the research and development was conducted by university professors and scientists working within universities, it didn’t take long for the ARPANET technology to find its way into the research community. By 1971 there were 23 hosts on the network. Also in 1973, a man by the name of Ray Tomlinson invented the first e-mail program to send messages across the network. Around 1973, the name "Internet" was coined.

From there, the whole Internet concept evolved, diverging, converging, going through countless generations as the hardware, software and level of knowledge increases.

Remember Gopher? How about TelNet? These were the different kinds of Internets available, and while they relied on a basic protocol, they were not exactly compatible.

Enter the World Wide Web by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Contrary to what you may believe, the Web is not a concept, it’s a product. Different domains are available for use on the Web, including .com, .ca, and .org. These days the World Wide Web and the Internet are virtually synonymous, although the Web is still only one kind of Internet.

All of these domains are similar, and all are based on the same Web protocols. Since these protocols evolved so rapidly, and in such a patchwork, they are far from perfect.

The first computer virus shut down ARPANET in 1980. The first computer hacking took place soon afterwards and gave rise to new concerns about national security – the movie War Games was taken very seriously at the time because even the experts of the day believed the premise to be plausible if the nuclear arsenal was placed under the control of computers.

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