Computers are, and always will be complex animals, willing to be tamed only by those with a strong enough motivation to endure failure over and over just for a small victory. The Internet was born of such a beast, and proudly dons these characteristics like a badge. It seems the further you delve into the murky depths of the Internet, you dig up more and more of its uncertain upbringing.
The birth of the Internet is a curious story. Some people might say the Internet is a decommissioned piece of military equipment. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But before the Internet came into being, somebody had to come up with the idea. Who could have envisioned a global network of computers, connected by nearly 200 different types of telephone and data circuits? During the summer break at MIT, a psychologist named JCR Licklider posted a series of memos to the “Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network”.
This set of papers held the prophetic vision of thirty years in the future. Licklider laid out a plan of globally interconnected computers networked together where scientists, researchers and government officials could talk and share programs from any site across the world. Sound familiar? Dr. Licklider was rushed to head the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, where he proposed his ideas and innovations to Lawrence Roberts, a researcher at MIT. Roberts then published a brief summary of their work in his “Plan for the ARPANET” in 1967.
The ARPANET was still in the development stages simply because nobody had a clue on how to transfer information back and forth between computers. Another scientist at MIT, named Leonard Kleinrock, had published a book in 1964 about the feasibility of computers communicating in bursts of data called packets, instead of direct-wired circuits. This scientist contacted Roberts with his theories and the ARPANET became an achievable goal.
The ARPANET project came together in September, 1969 when the first host computer was connected in Kleinrock’s lab at UCLA. One month later, Stanford Research Institute (SRI) became the second, and the first host-to-host message was received from UCLA.
Electronic mail was not far off. In July 1972, Lawrence Roberts, now active head of the ARPANET, wrote the first email program that would selectively read and forward multiple email messages to another person on the network.
A decade later, electronic mail programs were still the largest network application in use on computers.
By 1985, the Internet was seen by the research communities as an important, and growing way of communicating ideas and information across remote areas without the need for costly travel expenses or high-priced shipping methods.
The 1990’s have seen the introduction of several new Internet technologies. The first, most prominent, is the World Wide Web. Not necessarily a new protocol as much as a new data type, the WWW is, at its roots, transferring files from one computer to another. This transfer is done almost entirely out of sight of the end-user. That simple fact makes this new resource extremely popular to the average citizen, thus, the growth of the Internet into modern homes.

Barry Leiner, a consultant, writes that the Internet “was conceived in the era of time-sharing, but has survived into the era of personal computers. Most important, it started out as the creation of a small band of dedicated researchers, and has grown to be a commercial success with billions of dollars of annual investment.”

What does the future hold for the Internet and our current way of life? That question can be asked of anyone on this planet, but answered only in speculation.
The Internet will encounter its resistance in many forms; Y2K, IP v.6, Telecommunications Laws, Telephone Company Tariffs, etc. Even with all this opposition, the Internet will remain a strong and imposing part of life on this planet. As people continue to access it from home and public sites around the world, the Internet will continue to bind our civilization closer to each other in a way never before envisioned by that crew of researchers back in the 1960’s.