Between the Lines Book Club: A Brief History of the Internet

between the lines book club logoThis month we’re reading The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in a Digital Age, by Astra Taylor.  In this book Taylor challenges the idea that the Internet is an open marketplace, showing how companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook push out smaller companies, and arguing that real-world inequalities exist in the Internet as well as in the “real” world.

In the 1960s, computer labs in the US and Europe began experimenting with “packet networking”.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first network to use packet switching and TCP/IP, two technologies which are vital in making the Internet work.  The number of computers linked to ARPANET and it was declared “operational” in 1975.  The network was under the control of the Department of Communications and was only to be used for government purposes.  ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990.

Remember how much flak Al Gore took for claiming to have invented the Internet?  Well, he never claimed to have created it, but he did claim to have been instrumental in moving it forward though legislation, and that’s an accurate claim.  Gore authored legislation called The High Performance Computing and and Communications Act in 1991.  The act led to the creation of infrastructure (“the information superhighway”) that made the creation of the Internet as we know it possible.

As TCP/IP technology became more common, more and more systems could connect to each other.   The 1980s saw the fledgling Internet becoming global.  The Internet also became both more public and more commercial, with the final restrictions on carrying commercial traffic ending on April 30.  Google was incorporated as a privately held company in 1998.  The transitive verb “to google” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006.  Facebook was founded in 2004 and Amazon, the old veteran of the group, has been around (and taking all my money) since 1994.

Which brings us today, where the Internet brings you bloggers, email, and pictures of cats: