"[The ARPAnet] came out of our frustration that there were only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the country, and that many research investigators who should have access to them were geographically separated from them." -- Charles Herzfeld, former director of ARPA
Birth of the Internet
The First Connections: 1970
Computers cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1960s. What's more, they took up a lot of space. That meant there weren't many powerful computers to go around for the military personnel and scientists who needed them.
To solve the problem, the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) decided to try to connect a handful of large computers so they could share software, research information, or even storage space across whole states.
Spreading the powerful computers out like this was also a form of protection -- geographically removed computers meant it would be much harder for an enemy to take out the military's computer information in one blow.
They established a system called ARPAnet, which had four main hubs: the Universities of California in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, the University of Utah, and SRI International. Once connected, a researcher could sit down at a computer at one hub and pull anything off a computer at another hub.
Getting A Boost: 1985
Over time, the connections between army bases, universities, and science centers grew, creating an ever-expanding web of computers. In 1985, the National Science Foundation improved the system when it funded the NSFNET. This had a backbone of five supercomputer centers to serve as highways for all the data traffic. The centers were Princeton University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of California in San Diego, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Cornell University.
This first Internet system could send data at 56 kilobits per second -- which is slower than some of today's modems. Today, the system has been upgraded to cables which can transmit information nearly 30 times that quickly.
In 1991, NSF first allowed commercial use of the Internet. In 1995, NSF removed its funding completely, leaving the Internet a self-supporting industry.
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