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In-Depth Information
1.1.1. In the Beginning
The Internet began in the late 1960s as an experiment in the design of
robust computer networks. The goal was to construct a network of com-
puters that could withstand the loss of several machines without com-
promising the ability of the remaining ones to communicate. Funding
came from the U.S. Department of Defense, which had a vested interest
in building information networks that could withstand nuclear attack.
The resulting network was a marvelous technical success, but it was lim-
ited in size and scope. For the most part, only defense contractors and
academic institutions could gain access to what was then known as the
ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network of the Depart-
ment of Defense).
With the advent of high-speed modems for digital communication over
common phone lines, some individuals and organizations not directly
tied to the main digital pipelines began connecting to and taking advant-
age of the network's advanced and global communications. Nonethe-
less, it wasn't until around 1993 that the Internet really took off.
Several crucial events led to the meteoric rise in popularity of the In-
ternet. First, in the early 1990s, businesses and individuals eager to
take advantage of the ease and power of global digital communica-
tions finally pressured the largest computer networks on the mostly U.S.
government-funded Internet to open their systems for nearly unrestric-
ted traffic. (The network wasn't designed to route information based on
content, meaning that commercial messages went through university
computers that at the time forbade such activity.)
True to their academic traditions of free exchange and sharing, many of
the original Internet members continued to make substantial portions of
their electronic collections of documents and software available to the
newcomersfree for the taking! Global communications, a wealth of free
software and information: who could resist?
Well, frankly, the Internet was a tough row to hoe back then. Getting
connected and using the various software tools, if they were even avail-
able for their computers, presented an insurmountable technology bar-
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