History of the Internet and Web

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants.
- Isaac Newton

© 1996-2007 - Anthony Anderberg (anthony@anderbergfamily.net)

700 BC
Homing pigeons carry messages in ancient Greece.

May 4th
In a letter Florentine merchant Francesco Lapi uses the @ sign for the first time in recorded history.

Galileo Galilei discovers the moon's terrain and Jupiter's four largest moons. His view of the heavens as a place started a scientific revolution, and would forever change how we view the universe around us.

Danish physicist Hans Christian Orsted discovers that a wire carrying an electric current creates a field that deflects a magnetic needle, a discovery that would eventually lead to the creation of the telegraph.

William F. Cooke and Charles Wheatstone install the first railway telegraph in England.

May 24th
Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated a magnetic telegraph using his Morse Code to send the message 'What hath God wrought' from Baltimore to Washington.

The first transatlantic cable is installed between Ireland and Canada. Unfortunately the signal was so weak and indistinguishable from background noise that it took hours to send a few words. The owners tried to fix the situation by boosting the voltage from 600 to 2000 volts, melting the cable's insulation and leaving it dead in the water. Later cables installed in 1866 were successful and remained in use for almost 100 years.

April 3rd
The Pony Express opens for business, pledging to 'deliver the goods in 10 days or less'. Its first route carries mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco, California.

The last Pony Express run is made as the telegraph takes over.

Giovanni Caselli receives U.S. patent for a fax machine called the 'pantelegraph' based on Alexander Bain's 1840 idea of synchronized pendulums. Service between Paris and Lyons France begins between 1865-1870, ending with the Franco-Prussian War.

March 7th
Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent on a device which transmitted speech electronically. Three days later he spoke the famous words 'Mr. Watson, come here, I want you' to his assistant after spilling some acid in their workshop.

The first commercial telephone is introduced and the first telephone line is installed between Charlie William's electrical shop on Court Street, Boston and his home about three miles away.

Joseph John Thomson discovers electrons.

John Ambrose Fleming patents the first practical electron tube known as the 'Fleming Valve', based on Thomas Edison's patented 'Edison Effect'. In 1906 Lee DeForest creates the more advanced three-element AUDION (what we now called a TRIODE.)

January 25th
Researchers complete the first transcontinental call from New York to San Francisco as Alexander Graham Bell, in New York, speaks to Tom Watson in San Francisco, repeating the first complete sentence transmitted by telephone... 'Mr. Watson - come here - I want you'.

Karel Capek coins the term 'robot'.

May 19th
Bell System engineers demonstrate the first transmission of pictures over telephone wires.

AT&T establishes commercial transatlantic telephone service to London using two-way radio. Calls cost $75 for five minutes.

July 1st
The Communications Act of 1934 becomes law, it is the first effort to regulate the telephone industry by the Federal Communications Commission instead of the Interstate Commerce Commission.


Vannevar Bush publishes As We May Think in The Atlantic Monthly. In it he proposes memex, a machine that could store vast amounts of information. Users would have the ability to create information trails which could be stored and used for future reference.

John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain invent the transistor while at Bell Labs. They received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 for their work.

The first commercially available computer (The Ferranti Mark 1), is delivered to Thomas Kilburn and Frederic Williams at Manchester University in England. Nine more are sold between 1951 and 1957.

October 16th
The first high-level computer language (FORTRAN) is released by an IBM team lead by John W. Backus.
October 29th
The first hard disk drive is created at IBM by a team lead by Reynold B. Johnson. The '305 RAMAC' (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control) held 5MB of data on fifty 24 inch disks at a cost of about $10,000 per MB.

October 4th
USSR launches Sputnik, first artificial earth satellite.

Bell System announces it's Data-Phone service which permits transmission of data over regular telephone circuits.
February 7th
In response to the launch of Sputnik the US Department of Defense issues directive 5105.15 establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The directive tasks the agency with 'direction or performance of such advanced projects in the field of research and development...'.
September 12th
Jack Kilby demonstrates the fist integrated circuit to fellow researchers and executives at Texas Instruments.
December 15th
Arthur L. Schawlow and Charles H. Townes publish Infrared and Optical Masers describing what would later be known as the laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) while at Bell Labs. Earlier in the year they also apply for a patent which is granted in 1960, the same year Theodore Maiman builds the first working model while at the Hughes Aircraft Company .

Joseph Licklider publishes Man-Computer Symbiosis.

May 31
While at MIT Leonard Kleinrock publishes the first paper on packet switching networks Information Flow in Large Communication Nets.

Steve Russell finishes the first computer game Spacewar! while at MIT, inspired by E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman novels. Later that year he and Alan Kotok would create the first joysticks. Other people involved were Peter Samson, Wayne Wiitanen, Dan Edwards, Martin Graetz, Steve Piner, and Robert A Saunders.
July 23
The first live trans-Atlantic television broadcast is hosted by Walter Cronkite and made via ATT's Telstar 1 satellite, launched 13 days earlier on July 10.
Full audio from the first broadcast.
Audio story by Walter Cronkite (from NPR)
Joseph Licklider and Wesley Clark publish 'On-Line Man-Computer Communication' discussing their 'Galactic Network' concept that would allow people to access data from any site connected through a vast network.
Joseph Licklider becomes the first head of the computer research program at ARPA.

Doug Engelbart invents the 'X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System', known today as the mouse.

RAND's Paul Baran publishes On Distributed Communications: Introduction to Distributed Communications Network which outlines packet-switching networks. This paper did discuss nuclear war, and is probably the source of the false rumor that the Internet was built with the goal of withstanding a nuclear attack.

April 19
Gordon Moore declares that computing power will double every 18 months, a prophecy that holds true today and is known as Moore's Law. Moore and Robert Noyce would later leave Fairchild semiconductor to start Intel in the summer of 1968.
Thomas Marill and Lawrence Roberts set up the first WAN (Wide Area Network) between MIT's Lincoln Lab TX-2 and System Development Corporation's Q-32 in California. Later they would write Toward a Cooperative Network of Time-Shared Computers describing it.


Lawrence Roberts publishes the first design paper on ARPANET entitled Multiple Computer Networks and Intercomputer Communication at ACM's Gatlinburg conference.

Joseph Licklider and Robert Taylor publish The Computer as a Communications Device.
Larry Roberts of ARPA releases a Request for Quotation (RFQ) looking for bids to constructing a network of 4 IMPs, with possible growth to 19. Many large companies like ATT and IBM do not submit bits, saying that such a network was not possible.
A small consulting company called Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) located in Cambridge wins the ARPA IMP contract. The group, headed by Frank Heart, would have $1 million and less than a year to turn theory into a working system.

'Sometime in March'
Honeywell delivers the first IMP prototype (IMP 0) to BBN. The unit was a modified version of Honeywell's rugged 516 computer. Unfortunately it didn't work correctly, Ben Barker would spend several weeks rewiring it by hand into the correct configuration.
April 7th
Steve Crocker creates the first Request for Comment (RFC) document titled 'Host Software' (RFC1). It outlined the interface between hosts and BNN's IMP devices, each site would be responsible for creating the host software that connected their computers to the ARPANET's IMPs. The name RFC was chosen to avoid sounding too self-righteous, Crocker hoped to create an environment in which everyone felt comfortable participating - a spirit which would help the network to thrive in the coming decades.
July 20th
Apollo 11 lands on the Moon. Neil Armstrong becomes the first man on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin becomes the second man. They spend 21.5 hours on the lunar surface, including 2.5 hours outside their lunar excursion module while millions watch from the earth.
September 2nd
'The IMP Guys' from BNN finish installing the first ARPANET IMP node (IMP1) at UCLA, it is attached to the school's SDS Sigma-7 without a hitch.
October 1st
The ARPANET's second node is set up at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), connecting to their SDS 940.
October 29th
After a bit of tweaking the first connection is made from UCLA to the SRI machine over the 50Kbps connecton. After typing "l" and "o" of the login command the SRI system crashed. The two computers were finally successfully linked up on November 21st.
November 1st
IMP number three is installed at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
The fourth node is installed at the University of Utah.

The fifth ARPANET node is installed at BBN's headquarters.
ARPANET hosts start using Network Control Protocol (NCP) created by the Network Working Group (NWG) headed by Steve Crocker.

June 23rd
RFC 172 is released establishing the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
The first Terminal Interface Processor (TIP) is deployed on the ARPANET, which enabled computer terminals to connect directly into the ARPANET for the first time.

BBN's Ray Tomlinson creates the first software (SNGMSG and READMAIL) that allows email to be sent between computers, email quickly becomes the network's most popular application.
March 23nd
ARPA's name is changed to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and is established as a separate defense agency under the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
April 3rd
Jon Postel creates the 1st Telnet specification (RFC 318) entitled: 'Ad hoc Telnet Protocol'.

Vinton Cerf sketches his gateway architecture on back of envelope while sitting in a hotel lobby, building on Bob Kahn's ideas for an improved version of NCP.
May 22nd
Robert Metcalfe writes a 13 page description of what will become Ethernet as part of his Harvard PhD thesis. He and David Boggs would later create the first ethernet network (running at 2.944 Mbps) between computers named Michelson and Morley, scientists who proved ether didn't exist in the 19th century. Metcalfe would later start 3Com Corporation in June 1979.
October 15th-17th
Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie presented their first paper on UNIX at the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles at Purdue University.

Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn publish 'A Protocol for Packet Network Internetworking', which established the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). This is also the first time the term Internet was used.
The ARPANET has 62 computers attached to it.

The ARPANET was transferred by DARPA to the Defense Communications Agency (now the Defense Information Systems Agency) as an operational network.
In RFC 706 - On the Junk Mail Problem Jon Postel notes that the design of most mail systems made it difficult to block junk mail, forsight the would prove correct when spam begans to fill user's mail boxes twenty years later.

Queen Elizabeth II of England becomes the first head of state to send an e-mail message.

January 3rd
Apple Computer was incorporated in the state of California by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Dennis C. Hayes sells his first modem products to computer hobbyists. He goes on to create the Hayes Standard AT command set in June 1981, which becomes the de facto standard for modem interfaces.
Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and others demonstrate the first gateway system connecting packet radio and the ARPANET.

May 3rd
The first unsolicited email message is sent to 400 people across the ARPAnet by Gary Thuerk inviting west coast users to a demonstration of Digital Equipment Corporation's new Decsystem-20 computer.

April 12th
Kevin MacKenzie sends the first ever emoticon in a message to the MsgGroup. The first is   -)   meaning tongue-in-cheek.

October 27th
The ARPAnet stops functioning for several hours when the routing processes in all of the IMPs crash after one of them corrupts the network's routing tables.

August 12th
IBM releases its IBM Personal Computer. It retailed for between $1500 and $4500 and sold more than 65,000 in the first 4 months.
September 1st
RFC 791 which defines Internetwork Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is released.

A military directive is issued by Richard DeLauer, the United State Under Secretary of Defense. It establishes the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), as the protocol suite for ARPANET (and all military networks). The cutover date is set for January 1st 1983.
The first PC LAN is demonstrated at the National Computer Conference by Drew Major, Kyle Powell, and Dale Neibaur. Their software would eventually become Novell's Netware.
Eric Rosen finishes the External Gateway Protocol (RFC 827) specification.
September 19th
Scott E Fahlman proposes the ubiquitous Smiley   :-)   to indicate humor in message board posts.

January 1st
The entire ARPANET switches from NCP to IP. The transition is said to have went smoothly, although buttons were distributed saying 'I survived the TCP/IP transition.' Jon Postel documented the plan in RFC801, Dan Lynch of USC ISI handled much of the logistics (and went on to start Interop in 1988), and UCLA student David Smallberg documented the transition in 15 RFCs in the range of RFC 842 - RFC 876.
June 23rd
Jon Postel and Paul Mockapetris of the University of Southern California run the first successful test of their automated domain name system, which allowed users to use human-readable names for machines instead of needing to use the machine's physical address.
Paul Mockapetris publishes RFCs 882 and 883 which outline the Domain Name Service. Paul's first implementation of a DNS server was called JEEVES. Kevin Dunlap and later Paul Vixie would soon write BIND, which is by far the most common implementation today.
Mike Muuss writes Ping while at the US Army Ballistics Research Laboratory.

FidoNet is developed by Tom Jennings, with the node 2 belonging to John Madill.
January 5th
Richard Stallman starts the GNU Project, and would later start the Free Software Foundation.

April 1st
Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link(WELL) is started by Larry Brilliant of Networking Technologies International and Stewart Brand of the Point Foundation, with Matthew McClure as director. Customers are charged $8 per month plus $2 per hour.
Quantum Computer Services is founded, in November its first online service Q-Link, launches on Commodore Business Machines. The company would become American Online in October 1991.

Mail Exchanger (MX) records are described by Craig Partridge in RFC974 joining mail records and DNS.
RFC 977 is released by Brian Kantor and Phil Lapsley. It describes Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), which was created in an effort to make Usenet news faster and more efficient.
The National Science Foundation establishes 5 super-computing centers to provide high-computing power for all (JVNC at Princeton, PSC at Pittsburgh, SDSC at UCSD, NCSA at UIUC, Theory Center at Cornell). The NSFNET is created to connect the sites with a backbone speed of 56Kbps.
Dan Lynch organizes the first TCP/IP Implementor's Workshop (which would become Interop in a few years), and holds it in Monterey.

August 1st
The 1000th RFC 'Request for Comments Reference Guide' is published.
December 9th
The Christmas Virus finds its way onto BITNET, causing many mail servers to crash because of the overload. Eventually much of the network is shutdown for a time to stop its spread.
December 18th
Larry Wall releases the first version of his Practical Extraction And Reporting Language, Pearl. (it's name would soon be shortened to simply Perl)

The NSFNET backbone is upgraded to DS-1 (1.544Mbps) links, it handles more than75 million packets a day.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)is written by Jarkko Oikarinen at the University of Oulu, Finland.
November 2nd
The Internet Worm is released by Robert Morris Jr., affecting about 6,000 of the 60,000 hosts on the Internet. CERT(Computer Emergency Response Team) is later formed by DARPA in response to concerns raised by the Worm.

First Web Project proposal is distributed by CERN's Tim Berners-Lee. His proposal was for a 'hypertext system' to aid the sharing of information between teams of researchers in the High Energy Physics community.
The first specification for Point to Point Protocol (PPP) is released in RFC 1134. Today almost all dial-up Internet users use PPP to connect.
November 13th
The 'Make Money Fast' pyramid scheme is posted to UseNet for the first time, making Dave Rhodes infamous.

The ARPANET ceases to exist.
July 10th
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is announced by Mitchell Kapor and John Perry Barlow.
The first World-Wide Web software is created by Tim Berners-Lee.
Peter Scott introduces hytelnet.

June 12th
CERN has a computer seminar on WWW.
August 6th
Line mode browser (www) is announced on alt.hypertext. Later that month it is released on comp.sys.next, comp.text.sgml, and comp.mail.multi-media.
September 10th
  • Gopher is announced by Paul Lindner, Farhad Anklesaria, and Mark McCahill from the University of Minnesota.
  • October
    The mailing lists www-interest (now www-announce) andwww-talk@info.cern.ch are started.
    October 5th
    Linus Torvalds announces Linux version 0.02.
    December 2nd
    Apple Computer releases QuickTime version 1.0

    January 12th
    The Line Mode Browser v1.1 (www) is made available by anonymous FTP.
    February 12th
    Line mode v 1.2 announced on alt.hypertext, comp.infosystems,comp.mail.multi-media, cern.sting, comp.archives.admin, and several mailing lists.
    The first IAB IPv6 draft is withdrawn during an IETF meeting.
    The Internet Hunt contest is started by Rick Gates.
    November 17th
    Veronica, a gopherspace search tool, is released by the University of Nevada.

    February 22nd
    DARPA is redesignated as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in President Clinton's strategy paper, 'Technology for America's Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength'.
    International Workshop on Hypermedia and Hypertext Standards is held in Amsterdam.
    May 14th
    Gleason Sackmann begins using the Net-happenings listserv to distribute announcements about the latest Internet resources.
    July 5th
    Peter Steiner's famous 'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.' cartoon appears on page 61 of The New Yorker (Vol.69 (LXIX) no. 20)
    The first World-Wide Web developers' conference is held in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
    There are over 500 known HTTP servers.

    Marc Andressen and Jim Clark form Mosaic Communications Corp. (now Netscape Communications).
    March 5th
    Arizona lawyers Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel 'spam' 6000 usenet groups with postings advertising green card lottery services, many Internet users fight back.
    May 25th
    The first international WWW conference is held at CERN in Geneva. It is heavily oversubscribed and known as the 'Woodstock of the Web'.
    The International WWW Conference Committee (IW3C2)is created by CERN and the NCSA.
    September 1st
    The Internet/ARPANET celebrates its 25th anniversary.
    October 10th
    Mosaic Communications Corporation (now called Netscape Communications) announces the first version of it's Netscape web browser (version 0.9 Beta).
    VRML 1.0 Draft is released by Gavin Bell, Tony Parisi, and Mark Pesce.
    December 14th
    The first meeting of the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is held in Cambridge. W3C had been created by Tim Berners-Lee and Al Vezza.
    December 16th
    CERN gets funding for the Large Hadron Collider and decides to discontinue WWW development enorder to refocus on particle physics. CERN hands projects over to INRIA.

    The number of Internet hosts breaks 4 million.
    April 30th
    The National Science Foundation stops funding the NSFNET backbone and establishes the very high speed Backbone Network Service(vBNS) to serve the research community.
    September 14th
    The NSF and NSI announce that domain registration will no longer be free of charge effective immediately. According to the plan new registrants will pay a $100 fee for a two-year registration; and thereafter will pay $50 per year. Organizations registered prior to September 14, 1995 will be charged the $50 annual fee on the anniversary of their initial registration. EDU domains are still paid for by the NSF.
    RFC 1883 - 'Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Specification is released, detailing how IPv6 should work.


    Links, references, and suggested reading:

    Books and other references:
    Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon - ISBN 0-684-81201-0
    IPv6 - The New Internet Protocol by Christian Huitema - ISBN 0-13-850505-5
    Nerds 2.0.1 by Stephen Segaller - ISBN 1-57500-106-3
    The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll - ISBN 0671726889
    A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable by John Steele Gordon - ISBN: 0060524464
    Community Memory a discussion list about the history of cyberspace
    Data Communications Magazine 25th Anniversary Issue, October 21st, 1997.
    Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy - ISBN 0-385-19195-2
    The Ring of Truth by Philip and Phylis Morrison - ISBN 0-394-55663-1
    Sidereus Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger by Galileo Galilei (translated by Albert Van Helden) - ISBN 0-226-27903-0
    DNS and BIND by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu - ISBN 1-56592-010-4
    Network World magazine, May 18st, 1998.
    Stopping Spam by Alan Schwartz and Simon Garfinkel - ISBN 1-56592-388-X
    Sendmail by Bryan Costales and Eric Allman - ISBN 1-56592-222-0

    Internet Chronology by Lawrence G. Roberts
    The Birth of the Internet by Leonard Kleinrock
    A Brief History of the Internet from the Internet Society.
    Hobbes' Internet Timeline by Robert Zakon
    The Role of Government in the Evolution of the Internet by Robert Kahn
    The World Wide Web Consortium
    Request for Comments Documents (RFC's)
    RFC1462 - What is the Internet?
    RFC1958 - Architectural Principles of the Internet
    RFC2555 - 30 Years of RFCs
    A Little History of the World Wide Web
    Java: Cornerstone of the Global Network Enterprise?
    Schawlow and Townes Invent the Laser
    Telecom History Time Line
    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
    Founding Father (Paul Baran) Wired magazine - March 2001
    Google's 20 Year Usenet Archive
    The First Smiley :-) - NPR report