Who Really Invented the Internet

The answer to who really invented the Internet cannot be limited to a single person or even a single organization. As one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of communication, the Internet evolved from a long line of computer and communication advancements. Most people recognize that a computer setup known as ARPANET was the first inter-networking system that was a direct predecessor to the modern Internet, and those involved with ARPANET helped lay the foundation for the Internet we rely on today.

Early Networking
Before the idea of an interconnected computer network, computers could network only with others within a certain limited group. Several inventors and computer experts explored the idea of independent computer groups interacting with each other. Early innovations included packet switching, where segments of data are transmitted in regular intervals. Research at various universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including MIT and UCLA, lead to several variations of packet switching networks.

The concept of expanding communication among independent network systems was put into practical application by developers at the United States Department of Defense in the late 1960s. J.C.R. Licklider, Ivan Sutherland and Bob Taylor were working on the department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) when they worked to develop Interface Message Processors (IMPS) that would receive, store and forward the blocks of data sent via packet switching technology. ARPANET was first set up in four locations-UCLA, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and University of Utah. The first messages were sent over the ARPANET in 1969.

Internet Growth
After the first four IMPs were in use, the network grew to include 40 across the country by 1973. As the potential for communication grew, the research and development branch of the Department of Defense turned much of the Internet service network responsibility over to the Defense Communications Agency. In 1983, the US military divided the ARPANET system into portions, including MILNET, which was used exclusively for military purposes.

Commercialized Internet
Private network services quickly realized the potential of the interconnected network and jockeyed for positions in the mid-1980s to provide Internet services. A series of conferences, training and legislation solidified the Internet as a global information system that is based in Internet Protocol (IP) language.

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