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The Evolution of the Internet

A Data Odyssey

The Evolution of the Internet - A Data Odyssey

Posted on November 9, 2016


Every great invention has a great story behind it - from the first messages between laboratories at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute, to millions of cat videos on YouTube, the evolution of the Internet is no different.

What’s especially interesting about our Internet story is how its purpose for communicating seems to have come full-circle - with more and more people using VoIP services to communicate, sometimes exclusively, innovations in Internet communications have reached a level of significance similar to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. In countless ways, the world truly has never been more connected than it is now.

This article is a (very) brief retrospective of how our beloved Internet got to where it is now.

The Early Days - ARPANET

ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), designed in the 1960s for the US Department of Defense, was the first network to use TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), the latter of which is more or less the same model that our modern Internet uses. The ARPANET operated by exchanging "packets" over a network, which are datagrams that can be sent to any terminal within that network.

This method differs from "circuit switching" - a method employed by the traditional telephone where each call is given a dedicated electronic connection. With packet switching, data can be sent from machine to machine, hence laying the foundations for our Internet today.

Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web

In the early 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee and a team of researchers at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland designed hypertext and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is the modern framework for data exchange over the World Wide Web network. In this system, idle "nodes" receive request-response transactions and transmit data stored in this hypertext through code, and represented on a web browser.

This development was significant because it widened the extent of computer networks across the world, and also gave birth to the modern web browser and web editor.

Today’s Internet and the Future

For all this development, the Internet sure has come a long way. Wired networks, exchanging data at astounding rates, have switched to wireless ones; we have miniature computers in our pockets; and the impact on global culture and commerce has been nothing short of astronomical. And this technological boom is showing no signs of slowing down.

In some ways, the Internet has both become the new telephone and it has also replaced it almost completely. The same way that the telephone made the telegram obsolete, the Internet is surely eclipsing the traditional telephone.

VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) has become a popular and affordable replacement for more traditional telephone and cellular communications, and is especially popular for travellers, students, and people living abroad.

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