Hey, I’m back to bring you down the rabbit hole of the history of the internet yet again! So I was just out driving with Bowser– you know, our furry friend that got us started down this rabbit hole in the first place? And it got me thinking about how the scientists were test-driving their new ARPAnet in the 1960s. So yeah, me test-driving a new car, them test-driving a brand new internet–practically the same thing, right? I mean, we might as well put Bowser in a lab coat and call him a scientist.
Bowser might leave behind more slobber than scientific inventions and discoveries, so maybe not… but Lawrence G. Roberts and Leonard Kleinrock sure knew what they were doing.
A Quick Refresher Course
For those of you who don’t remember, last time we went down this rabbit hole, I told you about the race against the cold war to develop the web in the sky that we call the internet and packet switching, which allows small packets of data to be sent through a messy web of wires and nodes to pass through to another computer. Though at this point, our scientists aren’t as close to the web in the sky that we know today, they were still excited to take the ARPAnet for a test-drive.
Back down the rabbit hole we go!
So, it was 1969, and Kleinrock’s research center at UCLA was chosen to be the first official trial run of the ARPAnet. How cool is that? Getting to be the first one to try out the very first global networking system. Anyway, the first Interface Message Processor (IMP), basically the first generation of routers, was installed on Kleinrock’s computer, and he was connected and ready to communicate.
But, just like having a one-way conversation with yourself doesn’t work very well, the ARPAnet needed a computer on the other end of that communication line for the test-drive to work.
After some extra adjustments and research, a computer from Stanford Research Institute (SRI) became the second node, or hub to receive data, for the ARPAnet and was successfully connected to both the net and the UCLA computer just a month later. It was October, 1969 when the first message was sent across the ARPAnet from UCLA to SRI. The message was nothing more than the word LOGIN, sending just one letter at a time through the small packets we discussed earlier. It was like archaic instant messaging, referred to as host-to-host communication at the time, but the blue screen of death ruined the fun.
For those of you with better computers than my dinosaur, the blue screen of death means the computers crashed, or rather, in this instance, the link between the computers crashed on the letter “G”. Who knew that a seemingly insignificant letter could have the power to crash a test-drive? But that test-drive was in no way marked as a fail, rather a significant step, though baby step, towards the internet that we have today. In fact, it wasn’t long before they improved this host-to-host protocol of connecting one computer to another to communicate and in the process even invented the email.
You didn’t know the email was coming up so quickly, did ya?
Ready to go further down my favorite rabbit hole? Okay, how about jumping forward a few years to 1972? After more test drives, connecting more computers, and implementing the initial ARPAnet host-to-host protocol known as the Network Control Protocol (NCP), the ARPAnet was live and running for people to use and develop freely. This included developing applications, like the email.
And oh boy, was the email a hot application of its time. It was 1972 when March Ray Tomlinson wrote the basic email software to serve as an easier coordination mechanism for the ARPAnet system. That was the first time little granddaddy internet, or ARPAnet, saw some real people-to-people traffic.
Little did they know that not even a century later, the internet would be hosting a lot more communication and traffic than just simple emails to sort through information.
By that point in time, the ARPAnet had come a long way from just a single thread in the sky to begin the world wide web for our little spider friends to crawl, but it was ready to hit a growth spurt.