INTERNET: " THE NETWORK OF NETWORKS"
This is the magic word known to many that identifies "the network of networks " as an immense cobweb which wraps the whole world with its telephone connections between computers. In the present state of the art it is a great step towards the merging of television and the computer even though a lot has still to be done in that direction.
Internet was born in 1968 as a project of the Pentagon, that is, the US Defense Department. The project consisted in creating a military network of computers spread all over the territory of the USA, so as not to be easily identified and attacked by possible enemies. It should be borne in mind that at that time a cold war was raging between the Russians and the Americans.
The designers of the first network, which was called Arpanet, came from the consulting engineering company of Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc. who operate in Massachussetts. Among the pioneers we shall name:
-- Ben Barker, designer of the Arpanet hardware interfacing;
-- Roland F. Bryan, researcher of the Santa Barbara University of California, one
of the first Arpanet centers;
-- Stephen Crocker, designer of the protocols for Arpanet;
-- Severo Ornstein, responsible for the hardware for the commutation of the
packages of information.
We shall limit the list to the foregoing for space reasons only, because the most interesting aspect of the Arpanet network first and of Internet later is that they are born from the contribution of thousands and millions of people who use and expand the network of information with their daily work. You, too, could contribute to the growth of this information network .
The first, strictly military stage soon involved the main American universities, both because of the existence of adequate computers and because of the need for qualified personnel capable of working in an environment that was initially complicated. Indeed, it was necessary to know the Unix operative system at the basis of the operation of the system.
The university world used that means of information exchange among computers for the purpose of research and exchange of information among the various universities with the so-called Electric Mail, that is, a very fast and inexpensive means for the exchange of letters and files among computers.
With the end of the cold world, the connecting network contined to develop more and more intensely, thanks to the contribution and exchange of information among high-level minds all over the world. Nonetheless, up to about three years ago the phenomenon of Internet was mainly restricted to the university world which had at its disposal free of cost all the computer connections and the knowledge required to work on that system. Then a group of CERN researchers in Geneva created a graphic interface, World Wide Web (www), that allowed any person to work in the Internet environment with appropriate programs such as Mosaic or Netscape without any effort and actually to work in an environment in which it is easy to manage photographs, drawings, sounds and manuscripts, simply under control of a mere tuner called "mouse". A mouse checks on the screen the movement of an arrow that is used to select the desired item by means of a button; pressing the button on the mouse (called "clicking") selects the item pointed out by the arrow.
In view of the wide mass diffusion, many companies, in addition to the universities, started leasing their computers for a small price to be used as a point of sorting out and input into Internet. Once a link is established with the physically nearest input point, Internet allows travelling all over the world at the simple cost of the local connection. In practice, it is like making a telephone call to America for the price of a local phone call (provided that there is an input point to Internet in town).
To speak and write only of the things that can be done on Internet is very restrictive, because this is a multimedial system and writing alone is but a small part of the Internet capabilities. At any rate I shall try to give a small example to rouse your curiosity and to induce you to try. As a matter of fact it is easy to try: all you need is a personal computer, an apparatus called Modem to connect to the telephone outlet and a little goodwill... It won't be a telecomputer, but it's already a great deal.