= I =
The mother of all networks. First
incarnated beginning in 1969 as the ARPANET, a U.S. Department of
Defense research testbed. Though it has been widely believed that
the goal was to develop a network architecture for military
command-and-control that could survive disruptions up to and
including nuclear war, this is a myth; in fact, ARPANET was
conceived from the start as a way to get most economical use out of
then-scarce large-computer resources.
As originally imagined, ARPANET's major use would have been to
support what is now called remote login and more sophisticated
forms of distributed computing, but the infant technology of
electronic mail quickly grew to dominate actual usage.
Universities, research labs and defense contractors early
discovered the Internet's potential as a medium of communication
between humans and linked up in steadily increasing numbers,
connecting together a quirky mix of academics, techies, hippies, SF
fans, hackers, and anarchists. The roots of this lexicon lie in
those early years.
Over the next quarter-century the Internet evolved in many
ways. The typical machine/OS combination moved from DEC
PDP-10s and PDP-20s, running TOPS-10 and
TOPS-20, to PDP-11s and VAXes and Suns running Unix, and
in the 1990s to Unix on Intel microcomputers. The Internet's
protocols grew more capable, most notably in the move from NCP/IP
to TCP/IP in 1982 and the implementation of Domain Name
Service in 1983. It was around this time that people began
referring to the collection of interconnected networks with ARPANET
at its core as "the Internet".
The ARPANET had a fairly strict set of participation guidelines -
connected institutions had to be involved with a DOD-related
research project. By the mid-80s, many of the organizations
clamoring to join didn't fit this profile. In 1986, the National
Science Foundation built NSFnet to open up access to its five
regional supercomputing centers; NSFnet became the backbone of the
Internet, replacing the original ARPANET pipes (which were formally
shut down in 1990). Between 1990 and late 1994 the pieces of
NSFnet were sold to major telecommunications companies until
the Internet backbone had gone completely commercial.
That year, 1994, was also the year the mainstream culture
discovered the Internet. Once again, the killer app was not
the anticipated one - rather, what caught the public imagination
was the hypertext and multimedia features of the World Wide Web.
Subsequently the Internet has seen off its only serious challenger
(the OSI protocol stack favored by European telecoms monopolies) and
is in the process of absorbing into itself many of the proprietary
networks built during the second wave of wide-area networking after
1980. By 1996 it had become a commonplace even in mainstream media
to predict that a globally-extended Internet would become the key
unifying communications technology of the next century. See also
the network and Internet address.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.