From the Actrix Online Informer November 2010

A brief history of the net

by Rob Zorn

Can you remember what you were doing when Elvis died or when John Lennon was shot? What about the first time you heard about the incredible internet?

Some of us have grown up not knowing a world without the internet, but most of us can probably remember back to life before Google (and some of us doubted the whole interweb thing would catch on anyway, after all what practical uses did it have?).

But today, the world is dependent on the internet, and most of us would have to admit that we are as individuals too. We use it every day to check emails, play Farmville or bid on those limited edition AC/DC playing cards on TradeMe. But do we really know what the internet is, or why it was invented? Here is a brief overview of the history of the internet and some of the milestones that have made it what we know and love today.

1958 – In the beginning...

After the Soviet Union launched  the first artificial earth satellite Sputnik, the US Department of Defence formed an agency to determine how the United States could gain the lead in military science and technology. A problem the agency identified was the risk a nuclear strike would have on military communication, so they sought to solve the problem by creating a network whereby communication could continue should the United States ever get nuked. They began by creating a network between their research facility and a number of universities, which they called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). Eventually scientists and academics got in on the act and started publishing papers on how this network could be improved, and before long the ARPANET would become the internet we depend on today.

1972 – Its first words...

In light of the original purpose of the internet, to assist in communication, two computer engineers sought to find a way one computer could send a message in text-form to another computer. They took a program that existed for internal messaging and adapted it to be able to send messages to external sources. Little did they know they had just invented email. Within a year, over three quarters of all activity on the ARPANET was email.

1979 – Spam spam spam....

While it would have inevitably happened anyway, there is someone you can blame for all the annoying and unwanted spam emails your inbox collects. His name is Gary Thuerk, and he is credited with sending the internetís first spam email. At the time, he was an employee of Digital Equipment Corporation, who invented the minicomputer, and he sent an email to 400 other ARPANET users advertising the new range of minicomputers and inviting them to come see a product demonstration.

1986 – The internet grows to 5000 host computers.

1987 – The number of hosts doubles to 10,000.

1988 – Stomach bug...

Computer science student Robert Morris is credited with creating the first computer virus. Today itís referred to as the Morris Worm, and it infected more than 6000 computers, which at the time was nearly 10 percent of all internet users. It caused no physical damage, but did a good job of clogging up the net, costing users hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer time.

1989 – The internet arrives in Godzone...

The first commercial Internet Service Provider in New Zealand begins operating out of Wellington. It had started with some really clever chap mucking about with computers in his garage and creating a network for his friends and fellow students, but he developed it to the point where it could be offered as a paid service. He named it Actrix, based on the words "Active" and "Unix" – the operating system his network ran on.

1987 – The number of internet hosts reaches 100,000

1998 – Google

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two PhD students from California, knew there was a better way of searching for information on the internet. They developed Google, a search engine that ranked different websites according to their popularity, their number of pages, and their importance. They also started working out of a garage with no money or employees, and now own one of the biggest and richest companies in the world.

1999 – Yo ho me hearties...

At the tender age of 18, Shawn Fanning was infamously credited as the face of internet piracy when he developed Napster, a peer-to-peer software program that enabled users to swap Mp3 music files on their computers for free. Various record labels got fairly miffed over this and took Napster to court. In 2001, they were eventually successful in getting the site shut down. However, the whole ordeal threw music piracy into the public eye, and numerous copy-cat sites were launched, keeping music piracy alive and revolutionising the way the music industry looks at marketing and sales – the smart ones anyway.

2000 – There are 10 million websites on the internet in February, and 20 million by September.

2003 – Facebook

In 2003 while sitting in his dorm at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into the universityís server and stole the information he needed to create Facebook. He originally intended for it only to be available to students at Harvard, but as popularity and demand grew for Facebook, it was extended to a number of other universities before going international. Today, Facebook boasts over 500 million active users, half of which log on to the site at least once a day.

2006 – There are an estimated 92 million websites online.

2007 – At least a billion people use the Internet according to Internet World Stats.

2010 – The number of internet users world wide is just under 2 billion at 1,966,514,816 (or was that 1,966,514,817?).

So there you have it, a brief overview of some of the internetís more significant achievements. There are a number of others that missed the cut but we had to draw the line somewhere.



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