Galaxynet :: About the Internet
The Internet was started in 1969 under a contract led by the Advanced
Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which connected four major computers at
universities in the southwestern US
Stanford Research Institute,
UCSB, and the
University of Utah).
The contract was carried out by
Systems Development Corp (SDC) in Santa Monica, California were
added. By January 1971,
MIT's Lincoln Labs,
Case-Western Reserve University were added.
In months to come,
RAND, and the
Univerity of Illinois plugged in. After
that, there were far too many to keep listing here.
The Internet was designed to provide a communications network that would
work even if some of the sites were destroyed by nuclear attack. If the most
direct route was not available, routers would direct traffic around the
network via alternate routes.
The early Internet was used by computer experts, engineers, and
scientists. There was nothing friendly about it. There were no home or
office personal computers in those days, and anyone who used it, whether a
computer professional or an engineer or scientist, had to learn to use a
very complex system.
The Internet matured in the 70's as a result of the TCP/IP architecture
first proposed by Bob Kahn at BBN and further developed by Kahn and Vint
Cerf at Stanford and others throughout the 70's. It was adopted by the
Defense Department in 1980 and universally adopted by 1983.
The Unix to Unix Copy Protocol (UUCP) was invented in 1978 at
Usenet was started in 1979 based on UUCP. Newsgroups, which are discussion
groups focusing on a topic, followed, providing a means of exchanging
information throughout the world . While Usenet is not considered as part of
the Internet, since it does not share the use of TCP/IP, it linked unix
systems around the world, and many Internet sites took advantage of the
availability of newsgroups. It was a significant part of the community
building that took place on the networks.
Similarly, BITNET (Because It's Time Network) connected IBM mainframes
around the educational community and the world to provide mail services
beginning in 1981. Listserv software was developed for this network and
later others. Gateways were developed to connect BITNET with the Internet
and allowed exchange of e-mail, particularly for e-mail discussion lists.
These listservs and other forms of e-mail discussion lists formed another
major element in the community building that was taking place.
As the commands for e-mail, FTP, and telnet were standardized, it became
a lot easier for non-technical people to learn to use these networks. It was
not easy by today's standards by any means, but it did open up use of the
Internet to many more people in universities, in particular. Other
departments besides the computer, physics, and engineering departments found
ways to make good use of the networks--to communicate with colleagues around
the world and to share files and resources. Libraries, which had been
automating their catalogs went a step further and made their automated
catalogs available to the world.
While the number of sites on the Internet was small, it was fairly easy
to keep track of the resources of interest that were available. But as more
and more universities and organizations connected, the Internet became
harder and harder to track. There was more and more need for tools to index
the resources that were available.
The first effort to index the Internet was created in 1989, as Peter
Deutsch and his crew at
in Montreal, created an archiver
for FTP sites, which they named "Archie." This software would periodically
reach out to all known openly available FTP sites, list their files, and
build a searchable index of the software. The commands to search Archie were
Unix commands, and it took some knowledge of Unix to use it to its full
At about the same time, Brewster Kahle, then at Thinking Machines, Corp.
developed his Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), which would index the
full text of files in a database and allow searches of the files. There were
several versions with varying degrees of complexity and capability
developed, but the simplest of these were made available to everyone on the
networks. At its peak, Thinking Machines maintained pointers to over 600
databases around the world which had been indexed by WAIS. They included
such things as the full set of Usenet Frequently Asked Questions files, the
full documentation of working papers by those developing the Internet's
standards, and much more. Like Archie, its interface was far from intuitive,
and it took some effort to learn to use it well.
In 1991, the first friendly interface to the Internet was developed at
University of Minnesota. The
University wanted to develop a simple menu
system to access files and information on campus through their local
network. A debate followed between mainframe adherents and those who
believed in smaller systems with client-server architecture. The mainframe
adherents "won" the debate initially, but since the client-server advocates
said they could put up a prototype very quickly, they were given the
go-ahead to do a demonstration system. The demonstration system was called a
gopher after the U of Minnesota mascot--the golden gopher. The gopher proved
to be very prolific, and within a few years there were over 10,000 gophers
around the world. It takes no knowledge of unix or computer architecture to
use. In a gopher system, you type or click on a number to select the menu
selection you want. You can use the University of Minnesota gopher today to
pick gophers from all over the World.
Gopher's usability was enhanced much more when the
University of Nevada at Reno
developed the VERONICA searchable index of gopher menus. It was
purported to be an acronym for Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Netwide Index to
Computerized Archives. A spider crawled gopher menus around the world,
collecting links and retrieving them for the index. It was so popular that
it was very hard to connect to, even though a number of other VERONICA sites
were developed to ease the load. Similar indexing software was developed for
single sites, called JUGHEAD (Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation
In 1989 another significant event took place in making the networks
easier to use. Tim Berners-Lee and others at the European Laboratory for
Particle Physics, more popularly known as CERN, proposed a new protocol for
information distribution. This protocol, which became the World Wide Web in
1991, was based on hypertext -- a system of embedding links in text to link
to other text, which you have been using every time you selected a text link
while reading these pages. Although started before gopher, it was slower to
develop. The development in 1993 of the graphical browser Mosaic by Marc
Andreeson and his team at the
National Center For
Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)
gave the protocol its big boost. Later, Andreeson became
the brains behind
Netscape Corp., which
produced one of the most successful graphical browsers the Internet has
Since the Internet was initially funded by the government, it was
originally limited to research, education, and government uses. Commercial
uses were prohibited unless they directly served the goals of research and
education. This policy continued until the early 90's, when independent
commercial networks began to grow. It then became possible to route traffic
across the country from one commercial site to another without passing
through the government funded Internet backbone.
Delphi was the first national commercial online service to offer Internet
access to its subscribers. It opened up an email connection in July 1992 and
full Internet service in November 1992. All pretenses of limitations on
commercial use disappeared in May 1995 when the National Science Foundation
(NSF) ended its sponsorship of the Internet backbone, and all traffic relied
on commercial networks.
CompuServe came online, followed
by many small Internet service providers. Galaxynet came online in November
of 1995, only 6 months after commercial limitations were lifted. Since
commercial usage was so widespread by this time and educational institutions
had been paying their own way for some time, the loss of NSF funding had no
appreciable effect on costs.
Today, nearly everyone knows what the Internet is. It's become an
indispensable tool for communication, research, business, and entertainment.
As of January 2000, there was an estimated 242 million users on the
Internet; in the United States, an estimated 52% of all US households have
some form fo Internet connectivity.