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THE INTERNET AND THE WORLD WIDE WEB
The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Unlike many other technologies such as the light bulb or the telephone, the Internet has no single inventor. Instead, it has evolved over time and many people contributed to its development.
The story of the Internet started in the United States more than 60 years ago in a rather unusual way. In the 1950’s, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite into space. Americans were shocked by the news. The United States and the Soviet Union considered each other enemies and the relations between the countries were so bad, that the period was called the Cold War.
Americans thought that if the Soviet Union could launch a satellite into space, it was also possible for them to launch a nuclear missile at North America. Americans were losing the race, so the government decided that investing in technology was the key to winning the Cold War. As a result, the U.S. government founded NASA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), and decided that schools and universities should teach more science, math and technology classes.
The U.S. government was also worried about what would happen if the country’s telephone system was destroyed by the Soviets. Then people would not be able to communicate, and the country would fall into chaos. Thus, scientists decided to build a network of computers that could communicate with each other and send information from one computer to another. Such a network would make it possible for government leaders to communicate even if the Soviets destroyed the telephone system.
The first wide-area computer network was built in 1965; it connected a computer in Massachusetts to a computer in California. At that time, computers were very big – the size of a small house! At the same time, they only had a tiny part of the power and processing ability you can find in modern computers. Also, there was no way to network computers together. ARPA wanted change that and created a network that was called ARPANET.
In 1990 a computer programmer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee created the Internet that we know today. He introduced the World Wide Web that was not simply a way to send files from one place to another but was itself a ‘web’ of information that anyone on the Internet could access and navigate.
Many people think that the Internet and the Web as the same thing. However, the Internet is a huge network of computers and networks, all connected together, and the World Wide Web is a way to navigate this network. We use the Internet to access the web. It’s like comparing an ocean (the Internet) to a ship (the www).
The world wide web connected the world in a way that was not possible before and made it much easier for people to get information, share and communicate. It allowed people to share their work and thoughts through social networking sites, blogs and video sharing.
January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Before this date, the various computer networks did not have a standard way to communicate with each other.