The Internet (1969- ) is the worldwide public computer network. It started in America but it has grown to take over the world. It is called “inter” because it is “between” all the other smaller computer networks which it joins together into one great network. The Internet provides services such as email and the Web.
Things that are on the Internet are said to be online. Everything else is offline.
The Internet started in 1969 in California, connecting a computer at Stanford to one at UCLA. It was called the ARPANET back then. It was not the only network, but it was the one which grew and grew, gathering other networks into its fold, until it covered the whole world. Even so, it was not until about 1994 that it was fast enough and large enough for general use by the public. And it was not until about that time that web browsers and search engines were good enough to make the Internet usable by ordinary people.
Each computer on the Internet has a number called an IP address, such as 184.108.40.206. Some also have a network name called a domain name, such as blogspot.com. A domain name can be readily translated into an IP address. To be on the Internet a computer must not only have an IP address and be connected to the network itself but it must also know how to talk to the other computers by using a protocol or set of rules called TCP/IP.
There are three beautiful things about TCP/IP:
- It allows a computer to talk to any other computer on the network once it knows its IP address.
- It allows completely different networks to be joined together into a larger network. Before then computers on different networks could only talk to each other, if at all, with great difficulty.
- Being originally designed as a military network, it allows the network to keep working even if part of it (or even most of it) has been destroyed.
Vint Cerf with the help of others invented TCP/IP from 1973 to 1977. If there is a Father of the Internet, it is he.
It was because of these qualities of TCP/IP that ARPANET was able to take over. The other computer networks were good, but they were not a work of genius like Cerf’s network.
Things like email and the Web are not the Internet itself but services that the Internet provides. They are built on top of the Internet.
Because the nature of computers and the Internet are so general and open-ended, the Internet still has a long long ways to go before it runs out of new things it can do. We have only seen the bare beginnings.