22 Feb 2006

Internet

For you to be here reading this article we all of have some one to thank for the invention of this communication platform called the internet. Some of us are avid users of the internet who might be a fellow blogger, a surfer, an online business owner, a student, teacher, a stay at home mom and the list goes on but, have you ever wonder who invented the web? If you do know, then congrats but I hope you did not say Bill Gates. William "Bill" Henry Gates III is the cofounder, chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft Corporation. He controls the largest software company in the world and is also the worlds richest individual. Well, if that was your answer or you cannot answer the question above then, that’s where this article comes in.

How it all began - a quick synopsis of the internet history
The pavement for the internet was sparked by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) launching of the first earth satellite called Sputnik in 1957. The United States was shocked by the USSR advancement in technology and out of fear, they envisioned the danger of the Soviet creating weapons in space that could strike them anytime and place in the US. Seeing the danger that they would be helpless and susceptible to such a potential attack they quickly responded by forming an organization called Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1959. This organization came under the umbrella of the Department of Defense (DoD) and was given the responsibility to establish the United States as a military leader in the advancement of science and technology. This set off the space race between both countries.

[Note: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was commonly called Soviet Union or Russia. Abbr. USSR.]

By the year 1965 due to the theories of computer networking development, ARPA sponsored a study on 'co-operative network of time-sharing computers'. In 1968 Pentagon (the United States military head quarters) put forward a proposal for the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) - a pioneering wide area computer network- to unite America's military and scientific establishments. In 1972 The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was renamed The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The genesis of the Internet

By the late 1980’s researchers (from around the world) contributing at the European Particle Research Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland were having problems organizing and formatting documents that they wanted to share since their different computers and software system had to be compatible with the main CERN computing system. This caused frustration which lead to an unwillingness to comply to the CERN computing system. In addition, CERN being the premier Internet site in Europe were having serious problems locating all their data information. There system was quickly becoming overwhelmed by daily data information and urgently need a system that could readily correct this problem. There problem was however answered by a young computer researcher named Tim Berners-Lee.


The inventor of the web

Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist invented the World Wide Web in 1990. He graduated from the Queen's College at Oxford University, England, 1976. In 1980 he spent six months at CERN as a consultant software engineer. While there, he wrote his own personal software program as a memory substitute for storing data information called "Enquire". Even though this was not published it set the foundation on which the internet concept was built for the future. In 1984 however, he took up a fellowship at this same organization and in 1989 in response to the problems that was facing CERN he submitted a proposal called the global hypertext project. The purpose of this project was for the development of a data information system that would create a network (web) of information. This information system is now known as the World Wide Web.

In 1990, he wrote the first World Wide Web (WWW) server called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). This “WWW” system that he would design was the method in which computers would communicate over the internet using hypertext documents. This system worked by assigning a universal system of written documents with addresses and hypertext links to all information. He called the system of written addresses a Universal Resource Identifier (URI). This is now known as Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

A hypertext link is a computer-based text retrieval system that enables a user to access particular locations in webpages documents by clicking on links within specific webpages or documents. By October 1990 Tim Berners-Lee started working on his proposal and wrote a program - hypertext browser/editor -that would allow hypertext documents to be retrieved and viewed. In the summer of 1991 his WorldWideWeb browser/editor and web server software, that was originated within CERN, became available on the Internet. Researchers and computer enthusiasts from around the world began setting up their own web system by downloading the browser and the web server software using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). His goal became a reality that would now solve the problem that the scientist at CERN where facing. Scientists were now able to send and post information documents on the web that could easily be assessed by anyone around the world that needed that specific information. This therefore means that they didn’t have to worry or get frustrated of whether the operating system used by other scientists were compatible or not due to the difference in the different operating systems used.


During the next three years as users of the internet spread, Berners-Lee worked on refining the internet through feedback from its users. In 1994 he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he worked in the Laboratory department for Computer Science (LCS). He wanted the World Wide Web to be free and not to be controled by any company or institution manipulated by destructive competition and so, he envisioned a consortium that would enhance the full potential of the Web development thus ensuring stability and evolutionary transformation of the web in a standardize democratic process. Thus, through the help of MIT he head the new consortium as Director, known as the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) and coordinates all three centers world wide MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in the US, European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) in France, and Keio University in Japan. The goal and mission of W3C is to ensure the web stability by standardizing the technical specifications of the WWW and laying down guidelines by which to follow by a democratic process. These standards and guidelines are not enforced but are recommended by W3C . This they achieved by bringing together all its members and other internet/software companies such as Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Apple and Netscape just to name a few.


Discussion

The internet might have just started 15 years ago but it is now one of the most important universal communication platforms. In spite of all this, Tim Berners-Lee development of the web has not brought him wealth and fame. However, it can be concluded that the purpose of his invention of the Web was not for monetary gains. We all owe the “father of the web” for this great invention that has improved our way of life in so many different ways.


Extra
- did you know?

The first e-mail program was created in 1972 by Ray Tomlinson of Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN).


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