When I first went to the Air Force Academy, back in 1973 I was introduced to a research terminal for a thing called ARPANet. It was like Ham Radio with wires in that I could talk to folks all over the world, but with the ability for me to do both classwork and later, research across the globe from a screen. Eight years later, in 1981 I had the personalized cartag ONLINE. That was 12 years before the WEB. So much cool stuff has occurred since then.
For those who don't subscribe to Vanity Fair, this article is outstanding, it is one of the best histories I have read of this industries. I know a couple of the folks in the article and their modesty is amazing. What many did, that we take for granted is on a level that is beyond comprehension when taken en masse.
An Oral History of the Internet
How the Web Was Won
Fifty years ago, in response to the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik, the U.S. military set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency. It would become the cradle of connectivity, spawning the era of Google and YouTube, of Amazon and Facebook, of the Drudge Report and the Obama campaign. Each breakthrough—network protocols, hypertext, the World Wide Web, the browser—inspired another as narrow-tied engineers, long-haired hackers, and other visionaries built the foundations for a world-changing technology. Keenan Mayo and Peter Newcomb let the people who made it happen tell the story.
by Keenan Mayo and Peter Newcomb July 2008
This year marks the 50th anniversary of an extraordinary moment. In 1958 the United States government set up a special unit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (arpa), to help jump-start new efforts in science and technology. This was the agency that would nurture the Internet.
This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mosaic, the first widely used browser, which brought the Internet into the hands of ordinary people.
Millions of words—multiplied and sent forth by the technology itself—have been written on the world-changing significance of the Internet, for good or ill, and the point hardly needs belaboring. Surprisingly, few books have been written that cover the full history of the Internet, from progenitors such as Vannevar Bush and J. C. R. Licklider up through the entrepreneurial age of our own times. Not many people recall that the first impetus for what became the technology of the Internet had its origins in Cold War theorizing about nuclear warfare.
To observe this year’s twin anniversaries, Vanity Fair set out to do something that has never been done: to compile an oral history, speaking with scores of people involved in every stage of the Internet’s development, from the 1950s onward. From more than 100 hours of interviews we have distilled and edited their words into a concise narrative of the past half-century—a history of the Internet in the words of the people who made it.
I: The Conception
II: The Creation
III: The Web
IV: The Browser Wars
V: Going Public
VI: Boom and Bust
VII: Modern Times
VIII: The Last Word
An interesting excerpt:
: Mosaic was built at the University of Illinois. I was an undergrad student, but I was also a staff member at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, which is basically a federally funded research institute. When Al Gore says that he created the Internet, he means that he funded these four national supercomputing centers. Federal funding was critical. I tease my libertarian friends—they all think the Internet is the greatest thing. And I’m like, Yeah, thanks to government funding.
Mosaic was a side project that one of my colleagues and I started in our spare time, for several reasons: One, we didn’t think the real project we were working on at the time was going to go anywhere. And, two, all this interesting stuff was happening on the Internet. And so we basically said to ourselves, you know, if a lot of people are going to connect to the Internet, if only because of e-mail, and if all the P.C.’s are going to be going graphical, then you’ve got this whole new world where you’re going to have a lot of graphical P.C.’s on the Internet. Somebody should build a program that lets you access any of these Internet services from a single graphical program.
It sounds obvious in retrospect, but at the time, that was an original idea. When we were working on Mosaic during Christmas break between 1992 and 1993, I went out at like four in the morning to a 7-Eleven to get something to eat, and there was the first issue of Wired on the shelf. I bought it. In it there’s all this science-fiction stuff. The Internet’s not mentioned. Even in Wired.
How the Web Was Won: Entertainment & Culture: vanityfair.com