At the beginning
The Internet began to evolve when packet-switching networks came into operation in the 1960s. When transmitted, data is broken up into small packets, sent to its destination and then reassembled. In this way a single signal can be sent to multiple users. Packets can be compressed for speed and encrypted for
ARPANET moves it forward
Early packet-switching networks were set up in Europe. In 1968, a similar system was developed in the USA which went into operation at the US Defence Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1969. ARPA, also called ARPANET, used Network Control Protocol (NCP) as its transmission protocol from 1969 to 1982, when NCP was replaced with the now widespread TCP-IP (Transmission Control Protocol - Internet Protocol).
With the technology in place, the question was what to do with it! A number of interconnected US military computers formed the first sizable Internet for defence use. E-mail developed through ARPANET as did the bulletin-board system, Usenet in the 1970s/80s. During this period all major universities in the USA were connected to the network. This was found to be the ideal method of sharing experimental and educational data. 1973 saw the first intercontinental connection when the University College of London, England, joined the Internet.
USENET spurs it on
USENET contributed enormously to the Internet’s rapid expansion and is considered to have begun in 1979. Its spirit of information sharing and discussion was the hallmark of its system and was reflected in the Internet as a whole.
When personal computers were introduced in the late 1970s, a huge new and ever-expanding computer population was introduced to the Internet. E-mails was increasingly used, network discussions took place and in the 1980s, communities formed chat rooms.
The World Wide Web widens its horizons
1991 saw the introduction of what we now call the World Wide Web, the brainchild of Englishman Tim Berners-Lee. He saw the need for a standard linked information system which could be accessed by all the various types of computers in use.
In 1993 the first properly developed web-browser, Mosaic, took the Internet by storm. Developed at the National Centre for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA), it gave birth to a huge boom in Web usage.
What is the Internet?
Today, the Internet is an enormous network of millions of computers allowing constant communication throughout the world. It includes: the World Wide Web, electronic mail (e-mail), File transfer Protocol (FTP), Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and USENET (news service)
The World Wide Web
is the part of the Internet that most users see and use and which has made it so popular. The web continues to grow at an absolutely incredible rate. Technology has improved to such an extent that the web is now considered to be indispensable for education, business and entertainment. There are billions of pages on the web and thousands more are added every hour.
Anyone can apply for an e-mail address and send and receive messages from their computer. The main benefit is the almost instantaneous delivery of messages. An e-mail to the other side of the world takes a
few seconds. You can also sign up to automatically receive newsletters and other information, delivered directly to your computer.
File Transfer Protocol
Web pages are transferred between computers using the HTTP protocol, with other types of files sent using FTP. Users can share files, such as music and videos between themselves and the rest of the world by uploading them to a server and then allowing others to download them to their own computers.
Internet Relay Chat
IRC is a service allowing you to connect to your chosen channel and talk to others with the same interests. By downloading an appropriate programme, you can start chatting right away.
USENET (Unix User Network) is a system of bulletin boards whereby messages and points of view can be posted to be read and replied to. Similar to IRC, all sorts of topics are discussed and a wide range of groups take part.
There is no doubt that the Internet will have an increasing influence on the world in future.