This week celebrates the 20 year anniversary of when the Internet was first created on April 30, 1993. Here at Digital Trike, we are proud of our history when it comes to technology. After all, we wouldn’t be where we are today without it!
The history of how the Internet came to be, however, dates back to the 60’s. Before there was the Internet, there was ARPANET, a project of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the federal government’s Department of Defense. The current Internet we use today grew out of the technology developed for ARPA.
Where did ARPANET come from?
In the mid-60′s, Paul Baran of the RAND Institute was commissioned by the Air Force to study how to maintain command and control after a nuclear attack. The solution that Baran suggested involved a technology called “packet switching,” which would allow a message on a network to find its destination via any route available. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) believed that Baran’s theory would work and that such a network would not only fulfill the Air Force’s original missions, but would also answer the agency’s need for sharing information between its many research institutions. In 1969, ARPANET was born.
What did ARPANET do?
The first four computers with interface messages processors (IMB) connected in ARPANET were located at UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah (Go Utes!).
With these four computers, there were three things that users could do: log into a remote computer, print to a remote printer, and transfer files between computers. Even with this limited set of capabilities, the network was an instant success and more and more institutions clamored for connection.
During its first decade, ARPANET truly lived up to its billing as an “experimental network.” New applications and network protocols were constantly developed, tested, and deployed. In 1971, Ray Tomlinson of Bolt, Beranek, and Newman wrote the first email program and the ARPANET community adopted it immediately. Soon after the appearance of email came the “mailing list,” an email format that created virtual discussion groups. One of the first such lists was SF-LOVERS, dedicated to fans of science fiction.
Perhaps the most significant development to come out of ARPANET was TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol. This set of network standards would not only replace ARPANET’s original Network Control Protocol (NCP), but would also serve as the basis for the “network of networks” that was to follow and eventually render ARPANET obsolete.
What happened to ARPANET?
As ARPANET aged, it grew at a steady pace, constantly connecting more computers and institutions, and adding new technologies along the way. In 1983, ARPANET converted its old NCP to the newer and more universal TCP/IP. This created what is known today as the Internet, since it allowed different networks (ARPANET, NSFNET, CSNET, BITNET) to be interconnected. The TCP/IP protocol is still used today.
In 1990, a mere 21 years after its creation, ARPANET, with its slow data transmission lines, was disbanded by the Department of Defense. The other networks that had come together around ARPANET could handle the traffic more quickly and efficiently. ARPANET’s disappearance caused almost no disruption in network traffic. And while it wasn’t a nuclear missile that ended ARPANET, in the end, Paul Baran’s theory of a decentralized network had faced reality and proved itself a success.
ARPANET in Utah
In 1969, Ivan Sutherland, a professor researching computer systems and graphics at the U of U, was in control of one of the four original IMBs used in ARPANET. As a professor at U of U from 1968 to 1974, Sutherland’s students included Alan Key, inventor of the Smalltalk language, Henri Gouraud, who devised the Gouraud shading technique, Frank Crow, who went on to develop anti aliasing methods and Edwin Catmull, computer graphics scientist, co-founder of Pixar and now President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
During 1968, Sutherland co-founded Evans and Sutherland with his friend and colleague David C. Evans. The company has done pioneering work in the field of real-time hardware, accelerated 3D computer graphics and printer languages. Former employees of Evans and Sutherland include the founders of Adobe (John Warnock) and Silicon Graphics (Jim Clark).
After spending time at the U of U, In 1988, Sutherland created a computer program called Sketchpad, which made it possible to create graphic images directly on a display screen by using a hand-held object such as a lightpen. It was the first program that allowed the creation of graphic images directly on a display screen rather than by entering codes and formulas into the computer through a keyboard. Sketchpad provided the foundation for what would become the Graphical User Interface, which is ubiquitous today, having brought to large numbers of discretionary uses the power and utility of the desktop computer.
From ARPANET to the Internet
During 1991, from the advances made by ARPANET, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) proceeded to develop a basic browser, one that could run on any system or computer. Complete with software, library and functions that allowed other developers to modify the browser according to their needs, the new WWW system was quickly implemented by various schools and research centers. On April 30, 1993, CERN made the decision to make the Web protocol and code available for everyone to use, partly to stop some institutions’ plans to charge for it in the future.
Utah’s role in technology today
As you have now learned, Utah was home to one of the original IMB computers used in ARPANET, which led the way to the Internet and other advances in technology we use today. Those technological advances are still being used and developed here in Utah. Despite not being as famous for technology compared to other places such as Silicon Valley, Utah has a long history when it comes to technology. From the hard work of men such as Ivan Sutherland, other people along with many of Utah’s universities have been and continue to be big supporters of various types of technology and innovation initiatives.
Digital Trike appreciates the tech history created and discovered in Utah, especially in the Salt Lake area where we reside. This history has enabled us to be the technology/software/Internet company we are today. We strive to not only make the best sites, tools and apps using the most up-to-date advances, we also take part in keeping the technological history founded here alive. It’s a tradition we plan on continuing for years to come.