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History 101: Who invented the internet?

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Quick Answer

No single person invented the Internet, but some of those credited with its creation include Robert E. Kahn, Vinton G. Cerf, Leonard Kleinrock, J.C.R. Licklider and Larry G. Roberts. While many people associate the World Wide Web (WWW) with the beginning of the Internet, the World Wide Web wasn't actually introduced until 1991. The WWW made the Internet popular among the public for accessing Web pages, but the Internet is the actual global network that the WWW now operates on.

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Full Answer

How It Began
The invention of the Internet was a collaboration of ideas by engineers, researchers, programmers and computer scientists that occurred over many years.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer scientist Licklider originally published some memos in 1962 about his idea of a "galactic network" of computers. He explained the concept of computers that were linked globally from which quick access to programs and data could be had by everyone. As a result, a couple of months later he was offered a position within the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, now known as DARPA.

The year before. Kleinrock, another MIT computer scientist, published a paper about his packet switching theory. This outlined a way for electronic data to be transmitted effectively.

Roberts, an MIT researcher, was convinced by Kleinrock that packets could be used instead of circuits for communications. As well as this computer networking theory, he worked with Thomas Merrill in 1965 to discover how computers could talk to each other. Having moved to DARPA in 1965, he developed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which was a network of computers involved in time-sharing. ARPANET saw multiple computers on a single network communicating via packet switching. This was the prototype of the Internet that exists today.

The Progression of the Internet
The packet switch component was called the Interface Message Processor (IMP). The IMP subnetwork was designed and subsequently built by a team from Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). The architectural design for ARPANET was handled by Kahn.

The public first learned of the Internet in 1969 when the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) issued a press release. The first IMP was sent to UCLA along with the first network switch a month later. Just a few days later, the first data moved to the switch from UCLA's host. Network equipment was also fitted in Stanford Research Institute and, at the end of October 1969, Kleinrock's UCLA laboratory sent the very first message by the Internet.

While the hardware aspect of the Internet had progressed, there was still the issue of how different devices could understand each other through protocols or set of rules. The network control protocol (NCP) had been established in 1970, but Kahn and Cerf expanded on this and replaced the NCP rules with Internet protocol (IP) and transmission control protocol (TCP). These important protocols enabled ARPANET and other networks to connect. ARPANET had previously only been able to work with a single network, but TCP/IP allowed data to be transmitted across multiple networks. Because of this, many people credit these two as being the inventors of the Internet.

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