A short History of the Internet
The Information superhighway (worldwide digital data networks) is an apt name for today’s computer communication systems for many reasons. One is historical. The superhighway’s primary component, the Internet, is an outgrowth of the Cold War.
In the 1950s President Dwight Eisenhower ordered a system of high-speed roads built. He based his vision on the German highway system which had allowed the Nazis to move their armies so effectively during World War 2. With the new superhighways in place, no matter where an enemy attacked the United States, the military could respond effectively and rapidly.
In 1962 the Air Force wanted another “highway,” one that would effectively and rapidly move information instead of armies. The military wanted to maintain the ability to transfer information, even under enemy attack. The resulting system was the beginning of what we now call the Internet, or the Net, a global network of interconnected computers that communicate freely and share and exchange information. Before we delve into the details of this network of computers, we should first consider the origin of computers themselves.
Developing of the Computer
Computers began with counting. Fingers, sticks and stones made way for the first calculator, the abacus – a counting device which was first used by the Egyptians around 460 B.C..
The title “Father of the Computer” goes to Englishman Charles Babbage. Lack of money and unavailability of the necessary technology stymied his plans to build an Analytical Engine, a steam-driven computer. But in 1836 Babbage did produce designs for a “computer” that could conduct algebraic computations using stored memory and punch cards for input and output. His work provided inspiration for those who would follow.
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Over the next 100 years a number of mechanical and electromechanical computers were attempted, some with success. But Colossus, developed by the British to break the German’s secret codes during World War 2, was the first electronic computer. It reduced information to a binary code. The first “full-service” electronic computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), was introduced by scientists John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert of the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. ENIAC hardly resembled the computers we know today: 18 feet tall, 80 feet long and weighing 60,000 pounds, it was composed of 17,500 vacuum tubes and 500 miles of electrical wire. At Remington they developed UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer), which became the first successful commercial computer.
The commercial computer explosion was ignited by IBM. Using its already well-entrenched organizational system of trained sales and service professionals, IBM helped businesses find their way in the early days of the computer revolution. One of its innovations was to sell rather than rent computers to customers. As a result of IBM’s success, by 1960 the computer industry could be described as “IBM and the Seven Dwarfs”.
The Personal Computer
A crucial part of the story of the Internet is the development and diffusion of personal computers. IBM was fantastically successful at exciting businesses, schools and universities and other organizations about computer. But IBM’s and other companies’ mainframe and mini-computers employed terminals, and these stations at which users worked were connected to larger, centralized machines. As a result, the Internet at first was the province of the people who worked in those settings.
When the semiconductor replaced the vacuum tube as the essential information processor in computers, its tiny size, absence of heat, and low cost made possible the design and production of small, affordable personal or micro computers (PCs).
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This definitely opened the Net to anyone, anywhere. In a New York Times story entitled “Out Damned Geek! The Typical Web User Is No Longer Packing a Pocket Protector”.
The leaders of the personal computer revolution were Bill Gates and the duo of Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. As a college freshman in 1975, Gates saw a magazine story about a small, low-powered computer, the MITS Altair 8800, that should be built from a kit and used to play simple games. Sensing that the future of computing was in these personal computers, and that the power of computers would reside not in their size but in the software that ran them, Gates dropped out of Harvard University and, with his friend Paul Allen, founded Microsoft Corporation. They licensed their operating system- the software that tells the computer how to work-to MITS With this advance, people no longer had to know sophisticated operating language like FORTRAN and COBOL to use computers. At nearly the same time, in 1977, Jobs and Wozniak, also college dropouts, perfected Apple 2, a low-cost, easy-to-use microcomputer designed specifically for personal rather than business use. It was immediately and hugely successful, especially in its development of multimedia capabilities-advanced sound and image applications.IBM, stung by its failure to enter the personal computer business, contracted with Microsoft to use the Microsoft operating system in its IBM PC, first introduced in 1981. All of the pieces were now in place for the home computer revolution.
The Internet Today
The Internet is most appropriately thought of as a “network of networks” that is growing at an incredibly rate. These networks consist of LANs (Local Area Networks), connecting two or more computers, usually within the same building, and WANs (Wide Area Networks), connecting several LANs in different locations. When people access the Internet from a computer in a university library they are most likely on a LAN. But when several universities (or businesses or organizations) link their computer systems, their users are part of a WAN.
Christopher L. Isaacs 1010 – Technical Writing Extended Definition 00 March 6th The “Internet” and “World Wide Web” Defined In recent years the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) have become more and more popular as an information resource. Many people believe that the WWW is the same as the Internet. This is untrue. The Internet was designed in the late 60’s as a way for a few military computers ...
As the popularity of the Internet has grown, so has the number of the Internet providers, companies that offer Internet connections at monthly rates depending on the kind and amount of access needed. Some of the better known providers include America Inline, Prodigy, and the wireless provider Ricochet.
Using the Internet
It is only a small overstatement to say that computers are rarely used for computing anymore because the Net has given the computer so much more versatility.
E-mail (Electronic Mail) With an Internet e-mail account, users can communicate with anyone else online, any place in the world, with no long distance fees. Most e-mail programs allow people to:
* List mail received and sent
* Read or delete an item from the list of documents received
* Print or save a document as a file
* Store frequently used names and addresses
* Automatically attach signatures at the end of letters
* Send replies, with portions of the original message in the reply
* Forward mail by simply readdressing it
* Attach other files to mail
* Send a document to any number of people at once
Each person online has unique e-mail address that works just like a telephone number. There are even “Yellow Pages” and “White Pages” to help users find other people by e-mail.
Millions of people are connected to the Internet, and you can send mail you one of the or to a lot of them. E-mail works on the client/server arrangement. To send and read e-mail, users must access another computer, where their mailbox resides. E-mail messages are not limited to text. Attachments, such as graphics or spreadsheets, can also be sent.
E-mail is usually fast, cheap and reliable. It is the most widely used Internet resource. In1997, more than a trillion e-mail messages moved through U. S.-based computers. By the year 2010, that number is probably tripled.
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E-mail can also be used to join mailing lists, bulletin boards, or discussion groups that cover a huge variety of subjects. Users simple subscribe to a group, and all mail posted to that group is automatically forwarded to them by the host computer.
Another way to accessing information files is on the Internet via the World Wide Web. The heart of the Web lies in the protocols that define its use. The World Wide Web (WWW) uses hypertext transfer protocols (HTTP) to transport files from one place to another. Hypertext Transfer was developed in early 1990s by England’s Tim Berners-Lee. What makes the World Wide Web unique is the striking appearance of the information when it gets to your computer. The Web presents color, images, sounds and videos. This makes the Web the most popular aspect of the Internet for the large majority of users.
Estimating the Number of Users
It is almost impossible to tell exactly how many users there are on the Internet. People who own computers are not necessarily linked to the Internet, and people need not own computers to use the Net. Some users access the Net through machines at school, the library, or work. Estimates range from 20 to 100 million Internet users. Computer graphics system developer and artist Simon Biggs (1996) set the number at “30,000,000 and doubling every six months”. One commercial forecasting company, the Yankee Group, projected 200 million users by the 2000. Bob Metcalf, founder of the computer networking company 3com, has argued in the pages of magazine InfoWorld that there are so many users that congestion will soon crash the Internet.
Existing research, however, does give some indication of contemporary Internet usage. The U.S federal government reported that in 1998 there were 35.5 million U.S. homes with personal computers. Twenty-five and a half million of those had modems (devices that translate digital computer information into an along form so it can be transmitted through telephone lines), suggesting they also have Internet access. January 1999 data generated by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press demonstrated that 41% of American adults were using the Internet. Commercial Web ratings companies such as Relevant Knowledge and Net Rating estimated that the number of Web users in 1998 ranged from 42 to 57 million.
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Online Advertising and Selling
Commerce has been part of the Internet almost from the start of its popular use. E-mail has long been seen as a way to deliver certain commercial services, for example, booking travel and hotel reservations, online banking, and ordering from online catalogues. But three developments have encouraged fuller commercial explanation of the Net.
The first was the increase in the number of people who were online. Naturally, this increase made Internet advertising and sales more profitable for businesses.
Online Information Services
Started back in the 1980s, on-line information services provide information and entertainment to their subscribers. As of late 1997, there were three major companies:
1. America Online (AOL)/CompuServe. The biggest online service, AOL absorbed CompuServe in late 1997, giving it about 13 million subscribers. AOL’s early plans indicated that they would let CompuServe continue its focus on business information while AOL concentrated on the general consumer market, concentrating on mass appeal and easy-to-use interface.
2. Microsoft Networks (MSN).
With about two million subscribers, MSN runs a distant second to AOL. It features the most up-to date and glitzy graphics and incorporates sound and video more than the other providers.
3. Prodigy. This company restructured itself in 1996 and now offers Prodigy Classic and Prodigy Internet, which offers subscribers Internet access. Prodigy is notable in that it presents advertising on nearly all of its pages. It has about one million customers.
All three companies are concerned about the future. Much of the content that used to be exclusive to the online companies has migrated to the Internet where people can access it directly. As a result, the online services have become less attractive. To keep their subscriber base growing, the online companies offer special entertainment content, specialized chat rooms, live online interviews with newsmakers and celebrities, games, e-mail, software libraries and access to the Internet. The online services are attractive to many parents because they offer controls over what content can be reached through their systems.
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