The Internet, or Super Information Highway, links “distant computers together” and allows the transport of anything electronic from computer to computer. (Winston, 1998, p. 321) This massive form of communication has an extensive history that dates back to the 1940s when its theory emerged from the existence of telecommunications networks that date as far back as the 19th century. The basic theory that evolved into our current highway of electronic communication was built upon the foundation of Norbert Wiener’s “best selling popular outline of these concepts, The Human Use of Human Beings” that appeared in 1954, where the author spoke of Cybernetics. (Winston, 1998, p. 321)
This author went on to publish yet another book on his cybernetics theory titled Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine in 1961, which “spoke to its continued currency.” (Winston, 1998, p. 321-322) The Cybernetics and Information Theory were significant to the creation of the Internet because Information Theory “commoditizes information, draining it of semantic content.” (Winston, 1998, p. 322)
Cybernetics, defined as content that is electronically coded without a specific meaning, lead to prototype activities. George Stibitz created the first prototype which connected a single computer by a telephone wire. This computer would be labeled as the IBM Model 1 and was created in the 1940s. This model would evolve into yet another prototype created in 1960 where GE and a specialized firm Tymeshare, “sold systems allowing for remote access to computers via telephone links.” (Winston, 1998, p. 322) These computers went through a process titled time sharing, which consisted of programming a computer in such a manner that it allowed the computer to deal with a number of activities without the user being aware of any delay in processing. (Winston, 1998, p. 321)
In July 1945, Vannevar Bush published an article based upon the ideology behind associative databanks that “envisaged a machine which, in essence, allows for the entire compendium of human knowledge to be accessed or searched in an associative manner.” (Winston, 1998, p. 322) Prominent researchers developing the use of computers suddenly became frightened at the machine’s evolution because the image of all human knowledge placed in an electronic devise seemed unusual. However, the publication of this article was the first articulation of the idea that would later evolve into the World Wide Web. (Winston, 1998, p. 322)
Bush continued his research and out of his work he conceived his idea of the Memex, a “microfilm/audio recording device, which would allow ‘selection by association rather than by indexing.” (Winston, 1998, p. 322) The Memex was a sort of “multi-screened microfilm reader” that was operated with a keyboard that allowed users to scan a complete personal library and notes, letters and other communication. Users could also create notes and comments with photo imaging or sound using systems that were built in. Bush declared that “All this is conventional except for the projection forward of present-day mechanisms and gadgetry.” (Winston, 1998, p. 323)
Later, in the 1960s, Paul Baran was working with the United States Air force and focusing on the military’s communication systems should a nuclear attack occur. He published a paper in 1964 where he proposed “breaking up all messages within the system into what he called ‘message blocks.’” (Winston, 1998, p. 324) This particular theory again was based upon Bush’s Information Theory however Baran expanded this theory into “a more even flow of data through the entire network.” (Winston, 1998, p. 324)
Watt Davies, yet another researcher significant to the evolution of the Internet, was “inspired by a quite different sort of supervening social necessity.” (Winston, 1998, p. 324) His idea was to explore the possibility of connecting several computers and envision what might happen if such a concept was feasible. (Winston, 1998, p. 324)
The military played a significant role in the Internet we use today, as they created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1957. Joseph Licklider, who was appointed the director of this agency and the idea of graphics, war-games, other programming languages and time sharing was born in the 1960s. He was quoted as saying, “Consider the situation in which several different centres are netted together, each centre being highly individualistic and having its own special language.” (Winston, 1998, p. 326) This particular theory was responsible for the evolution of computer programming.
The concept of the internet continued to evolve and ARPA was transformed into ARPANET. ARPANET’s concept led to the connection of three networks located in California to one located in Utah. These networks communicated with each other through a process called Internet Protocol (IP). In 1972 this concept was communicated to the public and at that time had grown to approximately 50 universities and research facilities that held defense contracts. Within a year this network was expanded to create the first international connection with England and Norway. (“Internet, The,” 2004)
As time passed the ideology behind the concept of contemporary World Wide Web continued to evolve. In 1982 the Internet Protocol was enhanced with a “set of protocols” that would be titled the Transmission Control Program/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). (“Internet, The,” 2004) The TCP/IP supported local and wide-area networks. Shortly after this creation the National Science Foundation created the NSFnet that connected five “supercomputer centers” that when paired with the TCP/IP established ARPANET as the foundation of the Internet. (“Internet, The,” 2004)
In 1995, the Internet became the property of the public sector and suddenly began gaining popularity. People worldwide became fascinated by email and the World Wide Web, introduced in 1991. The internet became a significant factor in “the stock market and commerce” during the second half of the 21st Century. In the year 2000 it was estimated that over 100 million people in the United States were connected to the internet and that number continues to grow today.
Internet, The. (2004). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved February 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=101250904
Winston, B. (1998). Media Technology and Society: A History from the Telegraph to the Internet. London, UK: Routledge. Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://shop.ebrary.com/Doc?id=10055945&ppg=336