Who Invented The Internet and How Old is it?

With the rapid growth of technology, every day we learn more and more about our history, who inventors are and where their ideas originated from. As more evidence is learned, inventors may still keep their patents but was their invention already thought of by someone else beforehand? For example the world's first computer may be credited to Arma Corporation (now American Bosch Arma) when in 1943 they invented the Torpedo Data Computer (TDC) for the United States Navy. It was designed to fire a torpedo at a target from a submarine.


Before that in 1822 English Mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage created an design called "The Difference Engine" with the capability to process polynomial functions. He was never able to complete his project do to lack of funding but in 1991 the British Science Museum decided to create it using Charles' original plans. It took 6 years to build and guess what? It worked!


In 1901 an artifact, believed as the world's first analog computer, was discovered from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera The artifact classified as a hand powered orrery and has been dated between the years 205 BC and 87 BC. What is an orrery (now that's a lot of r's!)? An orrery is a mechanical model of the Solar System that shows positions and motions of the planets and moons. "The Antikythera mechanism" had 37 meshing bronze gears which allowed it to follow the movements of the Sun and the Moon in order to predict ellipses and other astronomical events. The Antikythera mechanism is often referred to as the first analog computer.


Computer model of the mechanism’s gears. Photograph: UCL


Was the first computer created by Ancient Greece in the second century BC? Charles Babbage in 1822?  American Bosch Arma in 1943?  Will another discovery, such as another orrery be made that will then claim the title of the first computer? The answer is some inventions are the work of one person with it's first idea while others are the work of years of concepts, designs and ideas from multiple visionaries.


We wouldn't have the Internet without the invention of the computer. So who invented the Internet and is it even an invention? We can't touch it. It can be argued that an invention is when you come up with a new idea that hadn't been thought of before and you get it patented. But how can we say no one ever thought of an invention before it was invented? We can't know every single person thoughts and ideas.


The Internet was a combination of many people's work and ideas over some odd 40-50 years. American computer scientist Vint Cerf is credited with the first written use of the word "Internet" in 1974. So that's a good starting point. How can we say anyone invented it before that if the word didn't exist? Can it be renamed? For example before the word "Internet" maybe the Internet could have been called "an interconnected network of computers" or "a network of networks".  That's what it is isn't it?


There is no doubt that the inventions of the telephone, the television and then later the computer sparked the concept that would later lead to the creation of the Internet. The invention of the telephone and the ideas behind its concept by it's inventor and other visionaries with similar ideas started a movement of connecting people to family, friends and the rest of the world to each other from the privacy of their own home and just making life easier. No more horses or messengers to carry letters just to say "hello, how have you been?"


Today we now have social media such as Facebook, email, text messaging and video calling and allows us to connect with anyone around the globe in seconds. But who is credited with inventing the Internet? It's creation is often credited to British scientist Tim Berners-Lee who in 1989 created the "World Wide Web". Do you know how much he made from his invention? You guessed it, a whopping $0! He visioned that such a powerful concept could only be given free. 26 years later he was awarded with the 2016 Turing award which included a $1 Million prize from Google. So he was eventually paid!


Why was the Internet created?  There are theories.  One theory is, in the 1950's during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both had nuclear weapons and the United States decided that they needed a network of communication that couldn't be destroyed by a nuclear attack. In 1959 Engineer Paul Baran joined the RAND corporation and was assigned the task of how the US Air Force could still maintain control of it's fleet if a nuclear attack ever happened. The RAND corporation was an American think tank that concentrated on cold war related military issues.  In 1964 Baran created a "distributed network" which would allow the network to stay intact even if one or more of it's parts were destroyed.




Then in 1966 Larry Roberts was hired by the U.S. Department of Defense to create a computer network called "The Arpanet",  Arpanet was funded by a branch of the U.S. department of Defense with it's initial purpose to link computers at Pentagon-funded research facilities over telephone lines.  He used the new concept of "packet-switching" as the foundation of the network which is the core of how the modern Internet works today


So was Arpanet created to connect research facilities or to prevent a total communication failure in case of a nuclear attack or both?


In 1972 Arpanet was successful and was demonstrated by American Electrical Engineer Bob Kahn but it was still in need of a packet-switching protocol that would enable computers to interact even though they have different hardware configurations. Kahn asked Vinton Cerf to help implement it and on January 1, 1983 TCP/IP was officially completed and migrated from Arpanet. Several years later in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in order to merge the evolving technologies of computers and data networks into one easy to use global information system.


So when was the Internet invented and who deserves the title as it's inventor?  There are also theories.  One is in 1965.  In 1965 British computer scientist Donald Davies designed and built the local-area network where he was employed at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the United Kingdom to demonstrate his developed technology of "packet-switching".  which is how the Internet functions today.


Around the same time Polish-American engineer Paul Baran had been working on the same concept which he called at the time, "message blocking".   Later Davies coined "packet-switching" would be kept as the standard name for the technology.


On October 29th, 1969 the first electronic message was sent and received by Arpanet and many consider this as the birthday of the Internet.  The letters LO were sent from a computer at UCLA and successfully received at another computer, 352 miles away at Stanford Research Institute.  The word LOGIN was the intended word to send but the network crashed after the first 2 letters.


Over the years that followed scientists and developers made advances and the technology evolved. In 1973 American computer scientists Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf began to create TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is a suite of communication protocols used to interconnect network devices. This evolved into the Internet we use today.


So the first message was sent in 1969 by Arpanet, in 1965 Donald Davies coined the term packet-switching and proposed a commercial national network and around that same time Paul Baran was also introducing the same concept which he called "message blocking" and in 1964 created a "distributed network".  But when did the idea of the Internet start? It can't be known exactly - we can't know every single person's current or previous thoughts or ideas. Maybe someone had the idea but never shared it with anyone.


In 1898 as the telephone started to appear in households, writer Mark Twain published a science fiction short story titled "From the London Times in 1904". In the story he refers to a device called a "telelectroscope" that connects with the phone lines of the whole world which, as Twain says, made the "daily doings" of the world visible to everyone and audible too. That sounds like the Internet doesn't it? Some homes nowadays get their Internet through the phone line. Today technology allows us to get satellite Internet through satellite's in space. So was it Mark Twain's idea and the invention of the telephone that started the concept of the Internet? When does Twain refer to about people being able to see the "daily doings" of others?  Is he referring to something more like a television or the Internet?


In the early 1900s Nikola Tesla envisioned a world wireless system called "The World System". In 1909 Tesla's predictions of the future were published by the New York Times, and the journal Popular Mechanics in the article "Wireless of the Future" where Tesla talks about how it will soon be possible to carry a "small inexpensive device" allowing one to hear from anywhere for thousands of miles. That sounds like a call phone. Tesla further says, a song, a speech, a sermon, a lecture may be delivered to an audience scattered all over the world. That sounds like the Internet.


Did the invention of the telephone by connecting audio through a network of phone lines bring about the idea of the Internet? Was it Twain's idea with the electroscope? What about Tesla's predictions? It's all possible.


Is the Internet considered an invention? We have it. It was created. So it has to have been invented right? Tim Berners-Lee is awarded with the invention of the World Wide Web.  The World Wide Web and the Internet are sometimes used interchangeably but they are two different things..  The World Wide Web is an application that we use through the Internet.


It is debated whether Arpanet was originally created in order to protect communication from being cut off in the case of a nuclear attack or for connecting research facilities with each other allowing them to connect with another computer that might complete a task quicker.


The inventor of the Internet is widely given credit to Bob Kahn, who is often referred to as, "the father of the Internet". There were many people involved over the years with it's creation and evolution. 4 main people are considered "the fathers of the Internet".  They are:: Bob (Robert) Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Larry Roberts and Tim Berners-Lee.


So there you have it!  Many people helped with the invention and evolution of the Internet while 4 main contributors are mainly given credit.  The age of the Internet as we use it today (the World Wide Web) is 31 years old as of the year 2022.  If we could give the Internet an age before it was called the Internet, for example, an interconnected network of computers or Arpanet, that would put the Internet somewhere round 53 years old as of the year 2022.

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