A marriage of convenience
Once upon a time there were computers. They were big computers owned by governments, universities and big business. They were used for lofty matters like science, war and beating other countries to the moon.
There was also something called communications. Communications was things like mail, talking, fixed telephones, television, telegrams, newspapers and books.
Then in 1962 a scientist by the name of J.C.R. Licklider had a dream of computers and communications coming together so that people all over the world could access programs and data through a global network of computers. This idea was the proposal that became the internet.
Licklider worked for an organisation called ARPA (Advanced Research Programs Agency). ARPA was a branch of the US Defence Department, concerned with making sure that America stayed ahead in the technology race. In 1969 computers at four universities were connected together using existing telecommunications networks to form the ARPA-net.
As the years passed the ARPA-net grew bigger. By 1971 there were 14 nodes on the network. Other networks were developed by other groups such as CSnet, Usenet, Telenet and Bitnet. In the 60s, 70s and 80s many of the protocols and standards that make networking possible were being developed. Computers were also becoming smaller and more powerful.
In the early 1980s personal computers began to appear in homes.
Modems (devices that allow digital data from computers to travel along analogue telephone lines) also appeared and private individuals began dialling up their friends’ computers and communicating through Bulletin Board software.
In 1989 a scientist working for CERN by the name of Tim Berners Lee modified an existing publishing tool called mark-up language, combining it with something called hypertext.
He wrote the first browser (World Wide Web) that could interpret his new language which he called HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language).
HTML and World Wide Web enabled the sharing of information and pages by just clicking on a link, something which today we take for granted.
From there the internet grew at a tremendous rate. In 1993 there were 130 websites in the whole world. In 2016 that number is estimated by internetlivestats.com to be more than 1 billion.
In 2016, 3.4 billion people around the world have access to the Internet. If you compare that number to the world’s population of 7.3 billion you can see that there are still significant parts of the world left out.
It is not exactly the world-wide web just yet. But the child of the marriage between computers and communications is still growing rapidly, so who knows what the future holds.