Looking at the history of the internet is a lot like reviewing a timeline of Major League Baseball. At least for someone like me who was born in the 80’s. Let me explain.
I can see when franchises were started, when franchises moved, when franchises changed names. I can see when home-run records were created, when the game was integrated. Although I wasn’t alive in the 1940’s, I can see the Splendid Splinter Ted Williams hitting .406 in 1941 before flying fighter jets in World War 2. I can see Shoeless Joe gambling against his own team, Jackie Robinson being in the right place at the right time and Joe Dimaggio lacing his 56th consecutive hit. I can go decade by decade and a story is told. And while I wasn’t alive to see all of it, I know how much the game has progressed: from a stick and a rock, to now playing under retractable roofs which provide shade for outdoor Jacuzzis and man-made waterfalls.
Do I know who invented the simple game? Not really, much like how we don’t know exactly who invented the internet, just the events that accompany it.
From Al Gore, to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to Leonard Kleinrock, who wrote about ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet, there’s always healthy discussion for who truly deserves credit. But for the sake of this post, we can use Kleinrock as a foundation, as he wrote a paper in 1961 titled “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets” that many credit with providing the basis for file-sharing, communication and cat videos that are now shared online every day. What we tend to forget, however, is that there were multiple moves made prior to Kleinrock’s paper that made this thing we call the “internet” possible. Let’s have a look:
In 1965, two computers at MIT Lincoln Lab communicated with each other.
In 1972, BBN’s Ray Tomlinson introduced network email.
In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II hits the “send button” on her first email.
In 1987, Cisco ships its first router.
In 1998, the Google search engine is born, changing the way users engage with the internet. How do I know this? I Googled it.
In 2004, Facebook goes online and social networking begins.
While that’s a quick overview, and there were obviously many other factors that led to Facebook recently being valued at $100 billion dollars, we can look back and remember events, and see how entire industries were created from an idea that centered around information flow and communication. We don’t have to have lived through the events that shaped our world, we just need to appreciate them.
The internet, like baseball, will continue to evolve and grow. It will create a new world we once never imagined, and open doors we wouldn’t dare dream. While some view baseball as an old, traditional, boring game, others might argue it’s come a long way, from the days of a rock and a stick.