Who invented the Internet ?

Who invented the Internet ?

The Internet we use today is the result of a continuous research and development effort. This began as early as the 1960s and still a work in progress today and will probably continue for many years to come. As for the origin of the Internet, different theories coexist.

The Packet Switching Theory

This theory situates the origins of the Internet with the first packet switching exchange on October 29 1969 between UCLA and Stanford Research Institute, as part of the Advanced Research Project Agency’s Network ARPANET project.

ARPANET 1969-1977. Wikipedia.org

The TCP Theory

This other theory links the introduction of the Internet with the development of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) in December 1974 by the Stanford research team became known as the International Networking Group, formed in 1973 and led by Vinton Cerf.

TCP was as a method to unify the already existing but disparate networking protocols. Its specification contains the first attested use of the term internet, as shorthand for inter-networking. Between 1976 and 1977, Yogen Dalal (graduate student in the International Networking Group) proposed the separation of the TCP’s routing and transmission control functions into two discrete layers, which led to the splitting of TCP into the TCP and Internet Protocol (IP), and the development of TCP/IP Model.

TCP/IP Model. Commons.Wikimedia.org

The AT&T Bell Labs Theory

A less popular theory considers that the early hardware and software solutions provided by Telecommunication Companies to allow sending data between disparate networks several years prior to the ARPANET project represent the first building blocks of the Internet. Even though the focus was on voice data, companies like AT&T Bell Labs accomplished the first digital data transmission and switching in 1962.

Researchers at AT&T Bell Labs also developed several software tools like Unix which was the operating system behind the early Internet and the C programming language basic to much of Internet softwares and protocols. All of which were key elements in the later ARPANET project and important points of origin of the Internet as we know it today.

AT&T Labs
AT&T Labs. Wikipedia.org

The Applications Theory

A more contemporary theory relates the origin of the Internet to the history of developments at the applications level. These includes but not limited to : the development of email and the progression from proprietary databases like Gopher and Wais to the World Wide Web, and from NewsGroups and conferencing (eg. BITnet and Usenet) to mailing lists and blogs. Some of which did not even use TCP/IP for data transport but other protocols. Later on, as TCP/IP won what is called ‘the protocol wars on costs and simplicity of adoption’ and soon after, the World Wide Web appeared.

This theory explains clearly the reasons why people started to use the Internet and creates a more popular understanding of what became essentially a popular phenomenon.

USENET/Internet/WWW. asist.org

The Xerox PARC Theory

This additional theory is advanced by the person who headed the ARPANET project itself, Bob Taylor. Bob Taylor believes that the first Internet was created at Xerox PARC around 1975. Quoting Bob:

Starting around 1974, Xerox PARC designed and deployed an internet architecture called PARC Universal Protocol PUP; it was up and running on multiple machines and networks when TCP was just a design for byte stream protocols. Input from Xerox’ operational experience helped convince the TCP working group to add the IP packet layer!.

 ARPANET interface for Xerox PARC’s PDP
ARPANET interface for Xerox PARC’s PDP-10. ComputerHistory.org

These various theories and opinions prove that no institution, organization or individual may lay claim to some proprietary ownership of the Internet. Further, the origin of the Internet is better understood as part of the history of an era than that of a protocol or technology.


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