Although there was much hoopla last year proclaiming September 2 as the Internet’s 40th, Leonard Kleinrock begs to differ. The real birthday of the Internet is not until October 29. On Oct. 29, 1969, Kleinrock’s team transmitted a message from their computer at UCLA to Douglas Engelbart’s Stanford Research lab in Menlo Park, Calif.
The first word transmitted on the Internet was “lo.” This seems portentous and prescient, echoing the biblical “lo,” as in “lo and behold.” The funny thing, though, is that the transmission of “lo” was a serendipitous accident.
On his blog, Kleinrock provides the record from his log and explains how the transmission came about:
I was supervising the student/programmer Charley Kline (CSK) and we set up a message transmission to go from the UCLA SDS Sigma 7 Host computer to the SRI SDS 940 Host computer. The transmission itself was simply to “login” to SRI from UCLA. We succeeded in transmitting the “l” and the “o” and then the system crashed! Hence, the first message on the Internet was “lo”! We were able to do the full login about an hour later.
So what happened on September 2? Kleinrock’s team had managed to transmit meaningless data over the Internet’s predecessor, ARPANET.
And the World Wide Web as we know it? It wasn’t born until 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee proposed the great hypertext project that would make it possible for all of us to connect and share information the way we do.
Whether September 2 or October 29 gets title, here we are almost 41 years after the birth of, arguably, the major technological phenomenon of the past century. The Internet has transformed the way we live.
And lo, it is good. And bad. And all the things you’d expect from giving humans the potential to connect with anyone, anywhere.