Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the "official" beginnings of what is now the Internet. On that day, in 1969, wrote Dr. Leonard Kleinrock in Volume 2 (page 305) of his two-volume set "Queueing Systems":
"... the embryonic one node network (!) came to life when the first packet-switching computer was connected to the Sigma 7 computer at UCLA. Shortly thereafter began the interconnections of many main processors (referred to as HOSTs) at various university, industrial, and government research centers across the United States."
Thus was born the ARPANET.
An AP story marking the anniversary says that Dr. Kleinrock (and no doubt J.C.R. Licklider, Larry Roberts, Wesley Clark, Paul Baran, Thomas Marill, Charles Herzfeld, Bob Taylor, and the many others involved in its beginnings) never envisioned that the ARPANET would evolve into what it has today. What began as a way to openly and freely exchange information among scientists and engineers became all that and more.
“"Watching and participating in this non-stop multiplayer action has been a real treat for us and we can't believe how fast our fans reached 43 million kills. We can now truly say that we have set a new standard for what can be done in the downloadable games category and gamers recognize the endless value that Battlefield 1943 provides for just $15."
And a story last month in the London Daily Express discussing the various Internet (and other technology) related injuries people now have that they didn't have 40 years ago. The paper says that some 5 million staff days are lost per year in the UK due to Internet surfing related injuries.
How the Internet will evolve over the next 40 years is anyone’s guess (and feel free to make a prediction), but we should give some special thanks to those in ARPA who decided to fund the effort, the universities and government labs who built it out, and others in government who were wise enough to let it grow freely, those 40 plus years ago.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.