Internet turns 40

Published 10:57 pm Monday, August 31, 2009

For one second, imagine what life would be without e-mail, instant messenger or Google.

Forget about Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.

And don’t even consider YouTube, Yahoo or Ebay.

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Go all the way back to 1969, and picture yourself on the UCLA campus, before computers could be held on laps and accessed through telephones.

There, on that college campus on Sept. 2, the first ever Internet connection was made, and in the four decades since, a new culture has been ushered in.

“(The internet) has exploded everything,” said Joe Edenfield, dean of Franklin campus for Paul D. Camp Community College. “The volume of information that is now available and the access we have to things today is mind-blowing.”

Back 40 years ago, the focus of developing an information sharing network was not created for entertainment or casual study. Instead, the APARNET (named this because the Advanced Research Projects Agency – ARPA – originally funded the Internet project) was created in order to support scientific research in the United States.

“Little did those pioneers realize what they had created,” former UCLA Professor Leonard Kleinrock said in a school publication celebrating the 30th anniversary of Internet’s creation. “In fact, most of the ARPA-supported researchers were opposed to joining the network for fear that it would enable outsiders to load down their ‘private’ computers.”

Three months after its invention, the ARPANET had expanded to just four sites: UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah. It would not be until the 1980s that the Internet would truly take off in popularity and commercial use.

Today, the Internet has become an undeniable force in the worlds of business, entertainment and education.

Edenfield said collegiate studies are just one aspect of life that has been revolutionized by the advent of the Internet.

“I think back to when I was in school, and everything was in paper,” he said. “If I wanted to get an article for a paper I was writing, I had to wait for days for it come in. Now, you have to wait for seconds and then it’s right there. The volume of material and the immediacy of the access to it has changed everything. Everything is out there for students to read, see and learn from.”

While that may be the case today, Kleinrock said today’s use of the Internet was completely unforeseen.

“Indeed, no one in those early days predicted how enormously successful and pervasive data networking would become,” he said.