Inventing the Internet (Inside Technology) | Janet Abbate

Summary of: Inventing the Internet (Inside Technology)
By: Janet Abbate

Introduction

Inventing the Internet delves into the development of the internet, from its origins as an isolated calculating device to the global communication tool it is today. The story is an exploration of collaboration and conflict among a diverse group of people, from ARPANET to the World Wide Web, driven by their own agendas, resources, and visions for its future. Janet Abbate’s account not only underscores the crucial contributions made by network projects and experts from around the world but also emphasizes the unexpected twists and turns in the internet’s development – all of which shaped its transformation via technical, organizational, and political restructuring.

The Evolution of Computers

Computers have undergone a massive transformation from being an isolated calculating device in the 1960s to becoming a communication device in the 1980s. Initially, computers were expensive, room-sized, and scarce. Sharing data among computers was a daunting task before the invention of computer networks, and transferring information typically required a physical storage medium. While modems were introduced in the late 1950s, it was not only expensive but also error-prone to establish a phone connection between two computers. Scientists who needed to use a remote computer preferred to travel to the machine’s location to use it in person. However, technological advancements led to the development of network technology, thus putting computers at the center of a new medium of communication. Today, millions of computers worldwide are linked to the mechanism of the internet and are used by both scientists and ordinary citizens.

The Evolution of the Internet

The Internet was created by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) with the intention of connecting remote computers for scientific research. However, the Internet as a communication medium emerged only after social choices were made. The process of technical, organizational and political restructuring took place, with contributions from network projects and experts outside the U.S. The ingenuity of the system’s builders and the practices of its users also played a significant role. Inspired by the need for network access, CSNET University-based computer scientists created a new network, called CSNET, which would serve a large number of researchers. The CSNET network broadened access to the Internet and expanded international Internet links for the limited purpose of exchanging e-mail. The National Science Foundation took over responsibility for the Internet, when ARPA willingly gave it up. Over the course of the 1980s, the focus shifted toward academic research and away from military involvement.

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