Window on WANs

Sep 3 2009   8:30PM GMT

Birth of a networked nation and WAN world

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

If former U.S. vice president Al Gore noticed his mailbox was a bit fuller than usual, he shouldn’t be too surprised since this week marked the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Internet.

About a decade ago, if you recall, Mr. Gore reportedly took some credit for inventing the Internet, or so the press reported and later George Bush sarcastically promoted during his campaign for U.S. president. In reality, Gore never did say he invented the Internet, but did maintain he had some influence in its growth when as senator he promoted the use of the Internet and supported its development. In any case, we at least think Mr. Gore is deserving of a few birthday cards and perhaps a small piece of IP cake.

Looking back over the years, the Internet has evolved from a klugey and clunky messaging and file sharing pipeline into being the networking backbone for most of what is happening and will continue to happen in enterprise computing today. The evolution of the Internet has sparked a major revolution in computing, creating new business models in collaborative messaging, software as a service (SaaS), cloud computing, unified communications, and managed network services.

As a result of the increased activity on the Internet, networking architectures are changing dramatically resulting in more robust wired and wireless structures and more capable and higher-performance WANs.

But, like everything in life, the longest and most remarkable journeys begin with the first step, and the development and launch of the Internet is no exception.  Most people agree (including, we are sure, Al Gore) the Internet was born on Sept. 2, 1969 when two computers at the University of California, Los Angeles  exchanged small snippets of meaningless data in a first test of the Arpanet, an experimental military network.  The first connection between two sites happened almost two months later when the  computers at UCLA “talked” with those at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA (although the network crashed after the entering the first two letters of the word “logon”).

Subsequent key events over the years included:

– The development of TCP by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn in 1974, allowing multiple networks to communicate;

– Creation of the domain naming system in 1983, bringing to life such now common appendages as .com, .gov, and .net.

– The creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, first developed to remotely control computers at CERN;

– The development of the Mosaic Web browser by Marc Andreessen and colleagues at University of Illinois in 1993, the first Internet platform to combine graphics and text on a single page.

More important dates in the evolution of the Internet, from its birth to current state, are available in an  Associated Press dispatch on Google News.:

Happy birthday, big guy, and best wishes for many more to come!

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