The Evolution of the Internet – Stories of Adapting and Change

By Vint Cerf

“The story of the Internet continues to this day, evolving and adapting to new technologies, spawning new applications and companies to provide them.”

The 40 Maps that Explain the Internet and the accompanying commentary are largely accurate in their description of the evolution of the Internet from its early experimental phase as the ARPANET that used an experimental host-host protocol call NCP (variously Network Control Program and Network Control Protocol). Along with remote timesharing access via the TELNET protocol and file sharing using File Transfer Protocol, the ARPANET users quickly developed electronic mail that adopted the “@” sign to separate the mailbox identification from the name of the host computer. UCLA led the Network Working Group that developed these protocols with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Several score other students at a dozen universities helped to design, test and implement the protocols of the ARPANET. Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) developed the packet switches of the ARPANET, called Interface Message Processors.

In 1972, ARPA started the Internetting research project to work on the design of a network of networks that eventually became known as the Internet. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) were developed during the period from 1973-1980. The Network Working Group expanded to become the International Network Working Group and many of its members contributed to internetworking concepts. The participants in ARPA’s Internet Activities Board further developed TCP/IP and many other protocols associated with the Internet, eventually morphing into the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Engineering Task Force.

On November 22, 1977 the first three networks of the Internet (ARPANET, Packet Radio Net and Packet Satellite Net) were shown to work with the TCP/IP protocols. (see attached).

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In 1982, NSF supported the creation of CSNET to link computers in use in computers science research. Meanwhile, the ARPANET and associated ARPA-sponsored networks converted to TCP/IP on January 1, 1983. NSF began another initiative to interconnect the NSF-sponsored supercomputers together in a widely accessible network called the NSFNET in 1985. The leadership of the supercomputer network project chose the TCP/IP protocols of the nascent Internet. A useful summary of these events through 1996 can be found at https://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet.

The story of the Internet continues to this day, evolving and adapting to new technologies, spawning new applications and companies to provide them.

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