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What is the Internet?

The Internet is a collection of thousands of networks linked by a common set of technical protocols which make it possible for users of any one of the networks to communicate with or use the services located on any of the other networks. These protocols are referred to as TCP/IP or the TCP/IP protocol suite. The Internet started with the ARPANET, but now includes such networks as the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET), the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet), the NASA Science Internet (NSI), the Swiss Academic and Research Network (SWITCH), and about 10,000 other large and small, commercial and research, networks. There are other major wide area networks that are not based on the TCP/IP protocols and are thus often not considered part of the Internet. However, it is possible to communicate between them and the Internet via electronic mail because of mail gateways that act as 'translators' between the different network protocols involved.

Note: You will often see internet with a small ' i '. This could refer to any network built based on TCP/IP, or might refer to networks using other protocol families that are composites built of smaller networks.



Paul Baran
while working at the RAND Corporation, he was credited as the co-inventor of packet-switching technology

Time Berners-Lee
while working at CERN, he was the designer of the World-Wide Web protocol and system structure

Vint Cerf
helped to install the first IMP at UCLA, working closely with Steve Crocker

Wesley Clark
proposed the idea of using a sub-network to carry and manage inter-networked computers, i.e. the use of IMP's rather than putting the burden on the Host machines

Bernie Cosell
member of the BBN IMP Guys, considered one of the best programming code debuggers in the country

Steve Crocker
UCLA graduate student who worked with Cerf to install the first IMP. Also wrote the first RFC setting the standard for introducing new networking topics

Will Crowther
member of the BBN IMP Guys, specializing in writing very tight machine code

Donald Watts Davis
while working with the British telephone company, was created with being a co-inventor of packet-switching technology.

Frank Heart
project manager of the BBN IMP Guy's

Leonard Kleinrock
developed the Network Measurement Center at UCLA. Extensive communications modeling over his career

Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider
pioneer of computer networks. Major influence to the development of the Internet.

Kevin MacKenzie
in 1979 was the first to use Emoticons ;-) and smiley 8-) for email expressions

Alex McKenzie
set up and managed the BBN Network Control Center for ARPANET. Credited with developing the first set of remote diagnostics and remote updating.

Bob Metcalfe
Invented Ethernet while at Xerox. Currently the publisher of InfoWorld Magazine.

Larry Roberts
call the Father of the Internet. He set up the Network project for ARPA and then managed/coordinated all activities as the network was built.

Bob Taylor
Head of ARPA when funding was approved for networking project. He brought in Larry Roberts for the project.

Ray Tomlinson
BBN engineer. Given credit for the use of '@' to separate name and address of email users.

Dave Walden
BBN IMP Guy, had major experience and was the lead in real-time programming needed by the IMP


ARPA - Advance Research Projects Agency
The national agency responsible for funding advanced scientific research across the country. They are also responsible for monitoring the progress of the projects and coordinating efforts.

ARPANET - Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET)
A pioneering long haul network funded by ARPA (now DARPA). It served as the basis for early networking research, as well as a central backbone during the development of the Internet. The ARPANET consisted of individual packet switching computers interconnected by leased lines.

Bolt Beranek and Newman, the consulting firm awarded the contract to build the IMP.

CERN - Centre European Researche Nucleare
birth of the Web. Geneva, Switzerland Tim Berner-Lee

A term coined by William Gibson in his fantasy novel Neuromancer to describe the 'world' of computers, and the society that gathers around them.

DNS - Domain Name System
The DNS is a general purpose distributed, replicated, data query service. The principal use is the lookup of host IP addresses based on host names. The style of host names now used in the Internet is called 'domain name', because they are the style of names used to look up anything in the DNS. Some important domains are: .COM (commercial), . EDU (educational), .NET (network operations), .GOV (U.S. government), and .MIL (U.S. military). Most countries also have a domain. For example, .US (United States), .UK (United Kingdom), .AU (Australia). It is defined in STD 13, RFCs 1034 and 1035.

Email - Electronic Mail
A system whereby a computer user can exchange messages with other computer users (or groups of users) via a communications network. Electronic mail is one of the most popular uses of the Internet.

A 10-Mb/s standard for LANs, initially developed by Xerox, and later refined by Digital, Intel and Xerox (DIX). All hosts are connected to a coaxial cable where they contend for network access using a Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) paradigm.

Frequently Asked Question

FTP - File Transfer Protocol
A protocol which allows a user on one host to access, and transfer files to and from, another host over a network. Also, FTP is usually the name of the program the user invokes to execute the protocol. It is defined in STD 9, RFC 959.

HTML - Hypertext Markup Language
Syntax used to develop WWW pages to be used with HTTP.

HTTP - hypertext transfer protocol
A simple protocol allowing servers and browsers to transfer hypertext.

A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular. (General context is not that of a computer vandal.)

Interface Message Processor, the first network control computer.

Someone who travels the Internet.

Internet (note the capital ' I ' )
The Internet is the largest internet in the world. Is a three level hierarchy composed of backbone networks (e.g., NSFNET, MILNET), mid-level networks, and stub networks. The Internet is a multi-protocol internet.

internet address
An IP address that uniquely identifies a node on an internet. An Internet address (capital ' I '), uniquely identifies a node on the Internet.

IP - Internet Protocol
The Internet Protocol, defined in STD 5, RFC 791, is the network layer for the TCP/IP Protocol Suite. It is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol.

IP address
The 32-bit address defined by the Internet Protocol in STD 5, RFC 791. It is usually represented in dotted decimal notation.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

LAN - Local Area Network
A data network intended to serve an area of only a few square kilometers or less. Because the network is known to cover only a small area, optimizations can be made in the network signal protocols that permit data rates up to 100Mb/s.

The set of written and unwritten rules of behavior on the Internet. Refer to the local FAQ.

packet switching
A communications paradigm in which packets (messages) are individually routed between hosts, with no previously established communication path.

A formal description of message formats and the rules two computers must follow to exchange those messages. Protocols can describe low-level details of machine-to-machine interfaces (e.g., the order in which bits and bytes are sent across a wire) or high-level exchanges between allocation programs (e.g., the way in which two programs transfer a file across the Internet).

RTFM - Read the ----- Manual
This acronym is often used when someone asks a simple or common question.

RFC - Request For Comments
The document series, begun in 1969, which describes the Internet suite of protocols and related experiments. Not all (in fact very few) RFC's describe Internet standards, but all Internet standards are written up as RFC's. The RFC series of documents is unusual in that the proposed protocols are forwarded by the Internet research and development community, acting on their own behalf, as opposed to the formally reviewed and standardized protocols that are promoted by organizations such as CCITT and ANSI.

RFC 822
The Internet standard format for electronic mail message headers. Mail experts often refer to '822 messages'. The name comes from 'RFC 822', which contains the specification (STD 11, RFC 822).

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. The standard used for all email over the Internet.

snail mail
A pejorative term referring to the U.S. postal service.

TCP/IP Protocol Suite
Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol. This is a common shorthand which refers to the suite of transport and application protocols which runs over IP.

TCP - Transmission Control Protocol
An Internet Standard transport layer protocol defined in STD 7, RFC 793. It is connection-oriented and stream-oriented, as opposed to UDP.

WWW - World Wide Web (or W3)
A hypertext-based, distributed information system that runs over the Internet. It was created by researchers at CERN in Switzerland. Users may create, edit or browse hypertext documents. The clients and servers are freely available.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator
A pointer used by a browser to some bit of data on the Web. It is a universal consistent method for find and accessing information from any location.


ARPA Network Information Center, Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, Calif. 'Scenarios for Using the ARPANET.' Booklet. Prepared for the International Conference on Computer Communication, Washington, D.C., Oct. 1972.

Baran, Paul. 'Packet Switching.' In Fundamentals of Digital Switching. 2d ed. Edited by John C. McDonald. New York: Plenum Press, 1990.

Baran, Paul. 'On Distributed Communications Networks.' IEEE Transactions on Communications Systems, 1 March 1964.

Bhushan, A.K. 'Comments on the File Transfer Protocol.' Request for Comments 385. Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, Calif., August 1972.

Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. 'ARPANET Completion Report: Draft.' Cambridge, Mass., September 1977.

Carr, C. Stephen, Stephen D. Crocker, and Vinton G. Cerf. 'HOST-HOST Communication Protocol in the ARPA Network.' Paper presented at the Spring Joint Computer Conference of the American Federatioon of Information Processing Societies, 1970.

Cerf, Vinton G., and Jonathan B. Postel. 'Specification of Internetwork Transmission Control Protocol: TCP Version 3.' Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, January 1978.

Computer Science, Numerical Analysis and Computing. National Physical Laboratory, Engineering Sciences Group, Research 1971. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1972.

Froehich, Fritz E., Allen Kent, and Caroly M. Hall, eds. 'ARPANET, the Defense Data Network, and Internet.' In The Froehlich/Kent Encyclopedia of Telecommunications. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1991.

Hafner, Katie and Matthew Lyon. Where Wizards Stay Up Late, The Origins of the Interent. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Kahn, Robert E. 'The Role of Government in the Evolution of the Internet.' Communications of the ACM, Aug, 1994.

Kleinrock, Leonard. Communication Nets: Stochastic Message Flow and Delay. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.

Lebow, Irwin. Information Highways & Byways: From the Telegraph to the 21st Century. New York: IEEE Press, 1995.

Licklider, J.C.R. 'Computers and Government.' In The Computer Age: A Twenty-Year View, edited by Michael L. Dertouzos and Joel Moses. MIT Bicentennial Series. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1979.

Licklider, J.C.R. 'Man-Computer Symbiosis.' Reprint. In Memoriam: J.C.R. Licklider. Digital Equipment Corporation Systems Research Center, 7 August 1990.

Licklider, J.C.R., and Albert Vezza. 'Applications of Information Networks.' Proceedings of the IEEE, Nov. 1978.

Licklider, J.C.R., and Robert W. Taylor. 'The Computer as a Communication Device.' Reprint. In Memoriam: J.C.R. Licklider. Digital Equipment Corporation Systems Research Center, 7 August 1990.

Licklider, J.C.R., and Welden E. Clark. 'On-Line Man-Computer Communication.' Paper presented at the Spring Joint Computer Conference of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, 1962.

Redmond, Kent C., and Thomas M. Smith. The Whirlwind Project: The History of a Pioneer Computer. Bedford, Mass.: Digital Press, 1980.

Roberts, Lawrence G. 'The ARPANET and Computer Networks.' In A History of Personal Workstations, edited by Adele Goldberg. Reading, Mass: ACM Press (Addison-Wesley), 1988.

Electronic Archives

Charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Processing, University of Minnesota. Large archival collection relating to the history of computing. More information can be obtained via the CBI Web site.

Computer Museum, Boston, Massachusetts. Large collection relating to the history of computing, including the archives of the Message Group concerning the early development of email. The archive is available via the Web.

Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California. Collection includes up-to-date indexes and tests of Internet standards, protocols, Requests for Comments (RFCs), and various other technical notes available via the ISI Web.

Ohio State University, Department of Computer and Information Science. The CIS Web Server offers access to RFCs and various other technical and historical documents related to the Internet.

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