History of the Internet

The Internet and the World Wide Web


Many people who should know better, often confuse the Internet with the World Wide Web. The Internet is a physical collection of inter-connected computers, spread all over the world. The world wide web is a collection of files on a lot of those computers.

The Internet

The Internet dates back to 1962, when three links terminated in an office, each with its own terminal. Not only that, but to achieve the same effect on each terminal, three different commands had to be typed in! The answer was obvious and the concept of ARPANET was born. The requirements were that academic institutions could readily communicate with each other and that the Military had a computer communications system would not fail in the face of an atomic attack.

The subsequent history of the internet was one of sorting out the essential details how it should work. The main application of the early internet was the transmission of e-mails. In fact, e-mails had been a feature of computer networks before they joined up to become the internet.

Before computers had a need to communicate a form of electric typewriter called a teleprinter had been doing so for many years. They used a primitive form of digital communication based on a five-hole paper tape. Speeds of 110 bits per second were common. The equipment used to connect to the telephone system was known as a modem (modulator-demodulator). Like other aspects, the maximum speeds increased over the years.

When speeds reached 9600 bits/sec in about 1980, it was assumed that they could not be faster due to the physical limitations of telephone lines. By ingenious trickery, this barrier was broken and top speeds over a telephone circuit topped out at 56 kilobits/sec.

Nowadays we have broadband and there is talk of super broadband speeds of the order of 100 Mega bits per second.

The World Wide Web

In the late 1980s, the demand for information was taking up too much of peoples' time. A British scientist at CERN on the Franco-Swiss border, Tim Berners-Lee, had the idea of making information generally available. This could be done by adding a markup to the text. This became known as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). The 'W3C' (World Wide Web Consortium) was formed to oversee HTML and associated standards. Sir Tim still a member of W3C.

Over time, the use of HTML was stretched to do things that it was never intended to. Styling was added to the web designer's armoury.

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