The funny thing about the Internet is that it has been around for a lot longer than you probably realize. Most people would tell you the Internet came into being some time during the Nineties and, indeed, that is when it first started to reach the general public and become the all-pervading force we know it as today. However, the history of the Internet dates back a lot further -- in fact, all the way back to the 1960s when mainframes were still relatively new. These days, terminal emulation software such as3270 emulation is needed to access mainframes, and the Internet is stronger than ever.
If we want to get technical, we could tell you the roots of the Internet date all the way back to the 19th century, when cables were first laid across the Atlantic Ocean. Whereas, previously, communication across continents could only happen through messages carried via ships (and even then it could take weeks), the cable meant messages could be transmitted in a matter of minutes.
From Russia with love
So who really got the ball rolling? Surprisingly enough, it was the Russians. Sure, the bulk of the Internet's development took place in the United States, but if it weren't for America's Cold War foes, who knows when we'd have been enjoying the wonders of Google and YouTube?
In 1957, the then-Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first ever artificial Earth satellite. Not to be outdone, the US brought together the greatest scientific minds in the country to form the Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as ARPA, in order to regain the scientific advantage over its enemies. Nothing like a war to drive technological advancement!
Around 1962, the US air force began research with the aim of discovering ways to maintain command and control over its weapons in the event of a nuclear attack, in order to launch a counter-strike. ARPA, which had moved on from the space race for the time being, was put in charge of this project. From there, studies began exploring basic models of networking and, importantly, developed 'packet switching', the central technology behind the Internet.
Packet switching breaks information up into little 'packets' of data and sends them around a network. This way, if one part of the network is destroyed, the information at the other points in the network remains unharmed. And while decentralising the data would help achieve America's goal of maintaining control over its weapons, it also paved the way for what we now know as the Internet.
By the time the 1990s rolled around, a lot had changed in the IT world. Mainframes, for example, were no longer accessed by terminals, instead requiring a terminal emulator to get the job done. As far as the Internet went, though, some pretty solid foundations had already been laid -- it was purely the domain of information technology experts.
As more and more personal computers began to appear in homes, however, the commercial potential of the Internet was realized. Internet service providers began offering Internet connections to the general public and functions such as email, web surfing and instant messaging shot to popularity.
These days, the Internet is an inextricable part of our everyday lives, and its applications and uses have gone beyond anything that could have been imagined when it all began several decades ago. We now use the Internet as a major source of information -- in a matter of seconds, we can find the answers to questions that would otherwise go unanswered. Our kids can use the Internet to study for exams and assignments. We can read the news, check the train timetables, search for a job and even find a new home. The possibilities are seemingly endless.