see. think. The History of the Net.




1) Introduction

2) The Internet

2.1) How does the Internet work?
2.2) The 1960s
2.3) The 1970s
2.4) The 1980s
2.5) The 1990s
2.6) The future

3) The World Wide Web

3.1) WWW - a side effect of particle physics
3.2) The father of WWW - Tim Berners-Lee
3.3) Hyper Text Markup Language - HTML
3.4) Browsers

4) Conclusion

5) My sources

6) Disclaimer

7) Glossary

1) Introduction

Welcome to a tour through the history of the Internet!
I suppose you know the history of the Net already a bit, but I'm sure you don't know enough, especially if you are a beginner! This page should help you to understand the Internet a bit better. Have fun! (You can mail me any comments you have!)

2) The Internet

2.1) How does the Internet work?

Before you're going to read something about the History of the Internet, I want you to know how it actually works.
The Internet is a packet-orientated network. That means that the data you transfer is divided in packets. This principle is not new, it was already used in the 1960s. So what happens when you transfer data across the Internet's various networks?
The networks are linked by special computers, the so-called Routers. A Router checks where your packet (your data) goes and decides in which direction to send it. Of course not every Router is linked with every other Router, they just decide on the direction your data takes.
So if the Routers know where the data is going, there must be some kind a address. Of course, there is an address, namely the IP - protocol. As I mentioned above, the data transferred with IP is divided in packets. This is handled by another protocol, the TCP.
It was soon discovered that the IP - addresses (that are, in fact, just numbers) are of course easy to handle for computers, but not for us humans. So the Domain Name System was introduced in 1984.
This was a brief description of how the Internet functions. If you want to read more, I strongly encourage you to check out the glossary information on DNS and TCP/IP

2.2) 1960s

You might not believe it, but the Net's roots are in the 1960s, the time of the Beatles, of Flower-Power and Hippies. But the 60s were also the time of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the USA. Both countries built more and more atomic weapons, and both of them had the power to wipe out whole cities or even countries.

So the RAND Corporation, America's foremost Cold War thinking machine, faced a strategic problem. How could the US authorities successfully communicate after a nuclear attack? If one computer of a network was destroyed, communication would be impossible. And if there was a central authority, it would surely be the first target for an atomic bomb. So RAND invented a new kind of network. In 1964, the RAND proposal was put forward. Written by Paul Baran, this proposal stated that the new network would have no central authority.

Besides, it would be designed to operate while in tatters. The principles of this network were: All the nodes would be equal in status, each could send and receive messages.

All the messages would be sent in packets, each with its own address. These packets would be sent at one node and would arrive at another one. This may seem rather obvious, but what was new was that the way the packets went through the net was not important. That means that if one node was destroyed, the rest of the nodes would still be able to communicate. This is of course inefficient and rather slow, but extremely reliable. The Internet still uses this method nowadays, and there has been only one collective crash so far.

The first test network built on these principles was installed in National Research Laboratory in Great Britain in 1968. Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) wanted to installed a more advanced network based on the same principles in the USA. The network consisted of four high speed computers. In 1969, the first node was installed in UCLA.

2.3) The 1970s

There were 23 nodes on ARPANET: The first node (1969) was in UCLA, other nodes were in the Stanford Research Institute, the University of Utah and the UCSB.

ARPANET was constructed because computer time was precious and expensive at that time and the ARPANET offered the scientists possibilities to share their computers using long distance computing. This is nearly unbelievable nowadays, for instance a normal PC has 16 Megabytes of RAM today. This is very sharp contrast to the University of Utah's computer. This Honeywell 516 mini computer had 12 Kilobytes of RAM!
1972 was a key year. Ray Tomlinson of BBN invented the first e-mail program. But why is this that important? Over the years, an odd fact became clear. Instead of using the ARPANET for long distance computing, the scientists used it for communicating with each other, of course for sharing results of their experiments or something, but also mainly for gossiping! (Each user had his/her own e-mail address.)
The first international nodes were set up. These were located in England and Norway. The growth of ARPANET was possible because you could use any platform to connect to it. (This is still the case with today's Internet.)
One year later Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn published "A protocol for Packet Network Internetworking" which specified the design of a TCP.
UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy) was released.
USENET was established using UUCP.

2.4) The 1980s

The TCP/IP protocol was established for ARPANET. This protocol became standard (instead of NCP) on 1st January 1983. The name "Internet" was first used.
ARPANET split into ARPANET and the military segment, MILNET. MILNET became integrated with the Defense Data Network created the previous year. The new protocol standard and even more the split-up were important cut-overs for ARPANET, keeping in mind that it was originally created for military purposes.
Thanks to TCP/IP and its decentralised structure, ARPANET grew and grew during the early eighties.
The Name Server was developed at the University of Wisconsin.
The number of hosts broke 1.000.
The Domain Name System (DNS) was introduced.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) wanted to make supercomputers useable for research projects, so they decided to link five super-computing centres. First they wanted to use ARPANET for connecting the computers, but ARPANET's bureaucracy and shortage of staff kept NSF from using this solution.

So they built their own network using the IP-protocol of ARPANET. NSF linked the five centres. (56 kps). But apparently they could not link the universities with this network, simply because they didn't have enough money for building cables to every university.

The solution: The schools and universities of one region were linked together and this network was linked to one of the supercomputers.
The "traffic" in this network increased steadily and so the computers and the lines were soon to slow to handle the massive amount of data.
NSF signed a contract with Merit Networks to increase the performance of the network. The computing centres and lines have been upgraded ever since.
-- 10.000 hosts --
-- 100.000 hosts --

2.5) The 1990s

ARPANET ceased to exist, but its users scarcely noticed that because ARPANET's functions were continued.
WAIS and Gopher were released.
WWW was released by CERN and the number of hosts broke 1.000.000.
One year later, the first browser, Mosaic, was released. The growth rate of Internet was an incredible 341% and it stills grows and grows now.
It is a valuable source of information for anyone and on any topic, and also a new, exciting way of communicating with people thousands of kilometres away.

2.6) present and future

What can you say about the future of the Internet? One can only guess what it will look like in ten years. What is important that speed is enhanced greatly. If you ever tried to download a big file from a èserver in the USA (using a PC located in Austria), you know what I mean.
Mass media is showing interest in the Net know and you can find articles on it nearly in every magazine out there. This sounds good, but it isn't indeed. How many articles are there about nazi or porno material on the Net, and how many columnists do cry out for censorship?
I won't write about the censorship discussion here, as this document covers the history of the Internet, but I suggest you take a look at the homepage of the Blue Ribbon campaign and read their arguments.

3) The WWW

3.1) WWW - a side effect of particle physics

This heading is no joke. The WWW was invented at CERN, an institute for particle physics situated in Switzerland. Originally, WWW was developed only for high energy physics (for world-wide communication).

Files were available for download on four newsgroups (alt.hypertext,, comp.text.sgml and comp.mail.multi-media)
There were mailing lists, namely and
On 15th , the first line mode browser was available by anonymous FTP.
The WWW measured 0.1% of the NSFNET backbone traffic.
Now the WWW measured 1% of the NSF backbone traffic! In December, the WWW won the IMA award and the New York Times wrote an article about it.
From 25th - 27th, there was the first International WWW Conference, also known as "The Woodstock of the Web". VRML was conceived there.
The IW3C2 (International WWW Conference Committee) was founded by NCSA and CERN in Boston.
The European Commission and CERN propose the WebCore project. This is for the development of the Web core technology in Europe.
In Chicago, there was the Second International WWW conference titled "Mosaic and the Web".
On 14th, the first W3 Consortium meeting was held in Cambridge (USA). On 16th, CERN decides not to continue WWW development due to budget conditions and transfers the WebCore project to INRIA (Institut National pour la Recherche en Informatique et Automatique, France).
The Third International WWW Conference "Tools and Applications" took place in Darmstadt (Germany) and was hosted by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
The Web Society was founded in Graz (Austria) by the Technical University of Graz, CERN, the University of Minnesota and INRIA.


Growth summary of the HTTP - servers from 1992 - 1994


HTTP - Servers
January 1992
January 1993


October 1993
May 1994

3.2) The father of WWW - Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee Tim BL was the driving force behind the development of the WWW. He wrote the first WWW client and the first WWW server and defined standards such as URL, HTML and HTTP while working at CERN.
Prior to that, he was a founding director of Image Computer Systems and a principal engineer with Plessey Telecommunications in Poole, England.
He has graduated from Oxford University. Tim has a wife and two children.

3.3) Hyper Text Markup Language - HTML

All WWW pages are written in HTML. While some files may have different file extensions (such as .cfm or .asp), their core is still HTML.
HTML is no real language such as C++ or Pascal, it is just a system for describing documents. A WWW browser interprets the HTML - code and displays it.
HTML is a special version of SGML (is used by big companies for exchange of data) focused on Hypertext. HTML code is written in ASCII - format. This is a big advantage, because ASCII can be read by about any platform (IBM, Macintosh, UNIX,...) thus making the WWW usable for any platform as long as viewer programs, the browsers, exist.
The current standard defined by he W3 Consortium is HTML 4.

It all started with HTML 1.0. This was no offifcial standard. HTML 1.0 is just what the first real popular browsr, Mosaic, could do. The first official version of HTML was 2.0. This is till the most basic standard when it comes to web pages. If you want a page to be readable by any browser, use HTML 2.0. A more senisble and newer standard is HTML 3.2. HTML 3.0 was refined because it was not widely accepted.
With the advent of Cascading Stylesheets and HTML 4.0, HTML returns (at least, this is intended by the W3 Consortium) to its real foudations. By its very nature, HTML is strutural language ,not a formatting language. There are tags for formatting text, like <font> or <b>, but these elements were declared "deprecated" by the W3C. The elements not included in the offical standard are called "obsolete" elements.

3.4) Browsers

What are browsers?
Browsers are programs for displaying HTML-code. They are used for "browsing" the WWW, but also for FTP, USENET or e-mail. Chances are you're using one right now!

History The first browsers, Viola and Midas, were released in January 1993 for the X - Window system (Unix). At the same time, a Macintosh browser was released as an ALPHA - version.
www, a line mode browser, was available for the public on 15th January 1992 via telnet.
The first popular browser was NCSA Mosaic. It supported only HTML 1.0. (First ALPHA - version was released in February 1993 [Mosaic for X]).
It was released for all common platforms (X, PC/Windows, Macintosh) in September 1993.

When Marc Andreessen, the mastermind of Mosaic, founded his own company, Mosaic Communications Corp. (now called Netscape), and released a browser, the Netscape Navigator 1.0 [download: win95], he soon controlled 70% of the browser market.
Microsoft saw this gigantic success and soon released its own browser, the MS Internet Explorer, for free.
Currently, there is version 4.6 (Communicator) of Netscape Navigator and version 5 of the Microsoft Internet Explorer.

When the Internet Explorer 2.0 came out, it did support a few things the Navigator didn't, for example the Marquee - function (scrolling text). Netscape, on the other hand, did not sleep, and they also had a few things Microsoft's program couldn't do. These was for instance the Frame - function, which allows splitting up the browser windows in different sections and the Tables function for Tables.
The new versions both support most of the HTML - elements. Also, both new browser support already part of the HTML 4 standard.

4) Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed reading this work as much as I did writing it. The Internet is a fascinating world to explore and certainly offers new methods of communication. When you see it that way, the Internet is the best thing that could have happened to us. Have I said that before? Surely I have, but it deserves being mentioned twice.

David Mayr

5) My sources

Maxwell, Christine:
Internet Yellow Pages: das Adreßbuch für jeden Datenreisenden
Dt. überarbeitete Ausg., Haar bei München: Markt und Technik, Buch- und Softwareverlag, 1995
ISBN 3-87791-699-6

Krol, Ed:
Die Welt des Internet, Handbuch und Übersicht
Dt. Ausgabe, Bonn: O'Reilly / International Thomson - Verlag, 1995
ISBN 3-930673-01-0

PC sources:
Internet - Glosssar
Supplied with SPRY-Mosaic - CompuServe edition

WWW sources:
The W3 Consortium Web page
CERN Web page
Internet Valley

Due to a computer crash, I lost my bookmark file and so I don't know where I downloaded the rest of my WWW information. Sorry again that I can't mention all the WWW pages, but I would like to thank all the individual authors who wrote this pages.

6) Disclaimer

[This applies to ANY version or format of this document]
You may NOT use this document, "The History of the Internet and the WWW", or parts of this document for ANY commercial purposes without explicit permission from the author, David Mayr. You MAY, however, use this document or part of this document for any non-commercial purposes as long as you clearly mark as not being your own material.

Possible (registered) trademarks are marked according to my knowledge, but the missing of such signs doesn't automatically suggest that the (product) name isn't a (registered) trademark. In addition, no kind of liability can be taken for the correctness of the content of this document.




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