A Short History of The Internet

With some computer history thrown in…

By Alex

    The Internet is a large, large, large place. In fact, it takes up over a zettabyte, which a little over one sextillion bytes (a byte is around one character). To put the sheer amount of data that is, there are around 7 billion people on earth. For there to be 1 sextillion people, you would have to multiply the people on earth by over 142 billion, which is more people than the earth can fit. The physical data would take up an oil tanker (just the storage devices, not data centers, wires, or routers).

    Not only do we use the Internet outside of school, but students all across America and the world use online aids. In fact, 48 out of 50 states and Washington DC support online learning. The US Department of Education has a webpage dedicated to sharing every major or influential online education program, which includes online schools, universities, and enrichment programs.

    I was curious where everything big and small on the Internet came from. So, I set about tracking down the history of the Internet.

205-85 BC- Antikythera mechanism

    This ancient machine, which is an analogue computer (non-digital), was created in Greece over two millennia ago. This relic was found on a shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, which is off the Greek coast. It is one of the very first computers, and was used to predict astronomical events and positions up to decades ahead, and track the cycle of the Ancient Olympic Games

1837- Analytical Engine

    The Analytical Engine was a suggested computer created by Charles Babbage. It was another predecessor to the modern computer. It would have been used to do complex mathematical equations. As it was never built, there was no coding language developed for the computer by Babbage himself. A code was developed by the Italian mathematician, and future prime minister, Luigi Federico Menabrea. His writings were translated into English by Ada Lovelace, the daughter of famous poet Lord Byron, who predicted that the Engine could be used for scientific applications.

1936-World Brain

    The “Father of Science Fiction”, H.G Wells, predicts a ‘World Brain’, where everyone would share information. He described it throughout his collections of essays in the book World Brain as a free, synthetic, and permanent encyclopedia for all to use.

1959- First online education program

    Daniel Alpert and Don Bitzer created the first online education program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The program, dubbed PLATO, had over 15,000 hours of lessons stored.

1964- Asimov’s prediction

    Isaac Asimov, a writer of hard science fiction, wrote to the New York Times in 1964, saying: “The I.B.M. exhibit at the [1964 World’s Fair]… is dedicated to computers, which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the ‘brains’ of robots… Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.” His predictions are exactly what we use today, as FaceTime and Skype, Google, and EBooks.

1975- Microsoft

    Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. It started out by making operating systems for other companies, such as IBM.

1976- Apple

    Apple is founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. The Steves started out by making the Apple II, a home computer.

1985- Crypto Currency

    An American cryptographer named a David Chaum released what is widely known as the first online monetary system, ecash.

1990- Archie

    Widely considered to be the first search engine, Archie (no relation to Archie Comics) was created at McGill University in Montreal by Alan Emtage.

1990- World Wide Web

    Tim Berners-Lee begins coding the a browser/interface which he calls the World Wide Web.

1990- First website

    The first website, http://info.cern.ch/ is made at CERN, a physics lab near the French border of Switzerland. It goes live shortly after.

1994- Amazon

    Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, the world’s largest internet retailer by revenue, as an online bookstore.

1995- Google

    Sergey Brin, and undergrad student at Stanford is assigned to show Larry Page around, who was considering going to grad school at Stanford. The two later founded Google in their dorm room. Fun fact: Google’s first server was made out of Legos!

1996- Nokia 9000

    The Nokia 9000 is released, which is the first cellphone with a web browser. It sold for $800 and was discontinued in the early 2000s

1996- First pop-up add

    The first pop-up ad was created by Ethan Zuckerman. In 2014, he apologised for creating what he called “The Original Sin of the Internet”.

1997- PowerSchool

    PowerSchool is founded by Greg Porter. He unofficially started the company in 1983 when he created record keeping software for his high school, and sold it to them for $350.

2001- Wikipedia

    Wikipedia was founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Unlike other online encyclopedias, such as Encyclopædia Britannica, Wikipedia was created so all people could edit it, which was a novel idea at the time

2008- Bitcoin

   The website Bitcoin.com is registered. This is the start of Bitcoin, which is the most traded crypto.


Computer History Museum






Encyclopædia Britannica




Department of Education

Published by