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How the Internet was born?

In today’s hyper-tech world, almost any new device (even a fridge, let alone phones or computers) is born “smart” enough to connect easily with the global network. This is possible because at the core of this worldwide infrastructure we call the Internet is a set of shared communication standards, procedures and formats called protocols.

However, when in the early 1970s, the first four-nodes of the ARPANET became fully functional things were a bit more complicated. Exchanging data between different computers (let alone different computer networks) was not as easy as it is today. Finally, there was a reliable packet-switching network to connect to, but no universal language to communicate through it. Each host, in fact, had a set of specific protocols and to login users were required to know the host’s own ‘language’. Using ARPANET was like being given a telephone and unlimited credit only to find out that the only users we can call don’t speak our language.

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ARPANET interface for Xerox PARC’s PDP-10. Computer History
Predictably, the new network was scarcely used at the beginning. Excluding, in fact, the small circle of people directly involved in the project, a much larger crowd of potential users (e.g. graduate students, researchers and the many more who might have benefited from it) seemed wholly uninterested in using the ARPANET.

The only thing that kept the network going in those early months was people changing jobs. In face, when researchers relocated to one of the other network sites – for instance from UCLA to Stanford – then, and only then, the usage of those sites’ resources increased. The reason was quite simple: the providential migrants brought the gift knowledge with them. They knew the procedures in use in the other site, and hence they knew how to “talk” with the host computer in their old department.

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