Part One: Context and historical background
A brief history of the internet
The Internet, as is the case with many of today's most commercial technologies, was first developed for military purposes, in 1969 when it was known as ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Net ). Its purpose was to allow researchers at major universities to communicate and share data via a network of interconnected computers. The data was sent via a protocol known as packet switching, i.e. fragmented into small packets of data, each of which was encoded with a destination and sent to that destination instantaneously. The file was then re-assembled at the destination end using the information encoded with each packet.
The ARPANET network was initially only accessible to researchers and American defence employees, until the system was split into the military-exclusive MILNET and a general network that became known as the ARPA Internet .
In 1983, the ARPA Internet combined with IBM 's (International Business Machine) own BITNET, and in 1986 the National Science Foundation's NSFNET became the physical backbone to the network. The NSFNET backbone was a series of high-powered computer nodes linked by high-speed, fibre-optic T-3 lines that could transfer data at a rate of 45Megabits per second. This resulting supernetwork became known simply as Internet.
By the late 1980s, the price of personal computers had begun to drop, as they became more accessible to the general public. As computer technology improved, allowing greater disk storage, faster, more powerful processors, and icon-based operating systems such as Windows 3.1 and NT, computers became more user-friendly, which encouraged the Internet to flourish. Another development which facilitated the growth of the Internet was easier accessibility to the modem, which dropped in price and increased in speed, allowing individual, non-networked computers to communicate with the Internet. Today, the Ethernet (or World Wide Web ) has become the dominant network technology, while the desktop computer (mainly the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh ) have become the dominant computers.
The development of TCP /IP (Transfer Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) in the 1970s greatly improved the technology which allowed computer data to be more successfully transmitted across networks without danger of lost data disabling communications. Data that was not successfully transmitted to its destination could not be returned to its source and re-transmitted.
TCP and IP also allowed multi-platform interfacing so that information stored on one kind of computer or operating system could be retrieved by another without compatibility problems. Black boxes were developed, which later became known as gateways or routers, and allowed information to be transmitted between various networks, and out of small area networks into the Ethernet. These transfer protocols were intended for the more advanced computer systems of academia and the military, but research groups such as those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proved that a simpler implementation of TCP was possible for the desktop computer.