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Happy Birthday to the Internet and ARPANET - 40 Years Old Today

Posted: 28th Oct, 2009 By: MarkJ
At about 10:30PM on October 29th, 1969, the first full connection was established over a 50Kbps AT&T line that turned an Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the world's first operational packet switching network - funded and developed by the U.S. Department of Defence, into a two node network. This marked the start of what many believe to be the true beginnings of our modern global Internet. Happy Birthday old chap.


Over the next decade the ARPANET grew and extended its links right across the USA and eventually into Europe via London. Within two decades more it would become easily recognisable as the service we all use today, albeit initially provided by early and slow dialup connections. Its growth into the consumer space was also largely facilitated by new applications being added (email, website browsing etc.), which made doing certain tasks a lot faster and more productive online.

arpanet 1980

Most users will probably be surprised that it is 40 years old as their experiences of it are unlikely to exceed 10 years, which is partly because the internet as we know it today only really took off after affordable broadband access became available to the masses; prior to that it was a considerably slower and more restrictive platform due to limited access speeds, applications and high computer kit costs.

Chris Stening, MD, Easynet Connect, said:

"Despite its relatively young age as part of the mainstream, the internet is the critical difference between this recession and those previously. By providing better access to information, more efficient ways of working, lowerering business costs and reducing the barriers to market for new firms, the internet’s impact on the longevity and depth of the recession should not be overlooked. 45% of businesses surveyed by [EASYNET] agree."

Richard Holway, a leading ICT analyst (formerly from Ovum), points out that the Internet hasn't actually done anything new. None of its big hits were new inventions – they were just done in a more efficient, exciting and approachable way (music, retailing, car boots sales, news, gaming etc.).

Holway predicts that every device and object – from cookers to fridges to people – will be connected to the internet. The internet will be available cheaply on every part of the planet - notspots will be a thing of the past (thanks largely to Mobile Broadband and wireless solutions), and the concept of an ‘album’ of songs will become obsolete as all media moves to the internet.

On the dark side, internet security will be one of the biggest threats to society. Cloud computing will put all of the world’s data into the hands of a few and make for a hugely inviting hacker target. Nothing can ever be 100% secure and people should be mindful of putting too much sensitive personal information online where it could potentially be stolen.

However the Internet's future is likely to mirror its past. Access speeds will rocket. Even 100Mbps will one day seem slow. The faster the access speeds the more exciting the uses. A world of high definition video, richer interactive content and more social / productive uses await.
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