Brief Overview of the Internet for Beginners

The Net and the Web and You

Building websites involve the Net and the Web. Web sites reside on the World Wide Web, or the Web for short. The Web resides on the Internet, or the Net for short.

If you are going to build, whether a full-time, freelance or part-time career that is related to the Web, such as web design or mobile app development, it is essential to know a glimpse of what the Internet is. That way, you won’t appear unknowledgeable before your client. Unless you are pursuing a professional career in Computer Science or Technology, in which case you have to be an Internet expert, as web designer or builder, you don’t have to know everything about the Internet but it’s good to know a bit.

In this section, you are going to learn an overview of the Internet.

In The Beginning of the Net

The Internet is a network of networks. It connects millions of computers globally (worldwide) forming a huge network. As long as these computers are connected to the Internet, any computer can communicate with any other computer.

If you are referring to the Internet itself, you always spell the with a capital I. Consequently, its shortcut the Net follows the same rule. An exception would be when you use it as a modifier to form a compound word, you may spell it with the lower case i. For example, internet connection.

When electronic computers started to emerge in the 1950s, computer labs in the United States, United Kingdom, and France started conceptualising independently the idea of networking computers. The very first wide-area computer network, as an experiment, was built in 1965 connecting a computer in Massachusetts and another in California via a dial-up telephone line. In the years that follow, collaborative minds led to the design of ARPANET – a network of computer networks in the United States. In 1969, the very first message sent over a computer network (ie the ARPANET) came from UCLA to Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. Initially, ARPANET connected four computers originating from UCLA, SRI, University of California Santa Barbara and University of Utah.

Beginning in 1971, network users began to develop applications for ARPANET. The very first app written for the network was the electronic mail as a tool for the network developers’s easy coordination system.


Who Invented the Internet?

So, who exactly invented the Internet? There are many genius minds who contributed to the development of the Internet. One inspiration is from Vannevar Bush who envisioned a system of accessing information, much like the Internet now. He called his system memex.

A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. ~ Vannevar Bush, 1945

Bush’s vision of the future Internet opened more minds to envision further the future Internet.

Meet the Pioneers of the Internet

In 1961, Leonard Kleinrock at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published his work about the flow of information in communication networks using packet switching. Packet switching is a method of transmitting digital data into broken parts, then re-assembled as they reach their destination.
Independently, the concept of packet switching in communications network was also in the mind of Paul Baran and Donald Davies. Paul Baran developed the idea of packet switching in the early 1960s while at RAND Corporation USA. Donald Davies of NPL England developed packet switching in 1965.

In 1962, Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider of the DARPA research at MIT sent a memo to his colleagues outlining the concept of the Internet which he called the Galactic Network. DARPA is Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that was founded by Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.

In 1965, Lawrence Roberts and Thomas Merrill connected a network at Massachusetts to a network in California via a telephone line.

In 1966, Lawrence Roberts developed at DARPA the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET. The ARPANET is regarded as the predecessor of the Internet.

In 1967, at a conference in Tennessee, Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury presented their works in packet switching. Developers of ARPANET bought the idea and implemented it.

All the names mentioned here are credited to the development of the Internet.

For more information about the key people responsible for the birth of the Internet, read Brief History of the Internet by the Internet Society. Also, read on the Living Internet site an even more extensive history of the Internet.

The Internet Technology

Protocols govern the Internet. These are standards that regulate the movement of data across the Internet. Six of the protocols that regulate the Internet are —

  1. TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol interconnects all network devices, such as a computer, across the Internet.
  2. HTTP – Hyper Text Transfer Protocol transmits and accesses data via a website.
  3. FTP – File Transfer Protocol allows the uploading and downloading of files to/from a web server that hosts your website.
  4. POP – Post Office Protocol allows the download of e-mail messages from a mail sever to your computer.
  5. SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol allows to send e-mail messages from your computer across the Internet through a mail server.
  6. IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol allows to send and receive e-mail messages through a web server; it is the protocol used for web mails such as Gmail.

1-Minute Quiz

  1. Which protocol does the Internet use to interconnect all network devices?
    1. TCP/IP
    2. HTTP
    3. FTP
    4. SMTP
  2. In your opinion, who invented the Internet?
  3. What do you call the first known Internet?
  4. What is the most important use of the Internet?
    1. Broadcasting
    2. Information dissemination
    3. Investment
    4. Connect people, communities, and countries
  5. The Internet is a network of open-architecture networks. True or False?