A brief history of the Internet

We are living in interesting times. Even though we don’t have flying cars,  eat dinners contained in pills or have vacations in space (yet) there have been a been dramatic changes the last decades. I want in this little piece to focus on the changes the computers have imposed upon information, and intellectual property. The digitalisation of various forms of communication in combination with the huge numbers of computers and computer-like devices owned and cheap Internet connections have changed the way we communicate. Maybe not in the expression, but in the manner of speed and multiplicity. Just think back; after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC the message of success against the Persian had to be transmitted by a runner. After Napoleons success against the Austro Hungerian Empire the expanded system of semaphores made this easier, but the biggest difference in efficiency of transmission messages happened in mid 19th century beginning in the Supreme Court Room in Washington DC 24th of May in 1844 with a message sent to a railroad depot in Baltimore and back again. The first message sent through a telegraph; from now electrical communication replaced the optical semaphores. Ironically is the next big step done by moving back to an optical system, but this time through optoelectronics and through fibre cables rather than a manual system.

In the end of th 1960s the first messages between computers was performed. The 29th of October 1969 a short message was sent through the ARPANET. Living in 2011 and look back in time this may seem like a huge invention, but the consequences of getting  computers to communicate meant very little for John Doe in 1969. Computers were expensive and rare, it would take around another ten years before the first computers got personal into their acronym and another twentyone years before the most popular and the pinacle in its commercialisation was to be incepted at CERN (WWW). From here the story is well known: Everyone got connected, bought new hardware every second or third year and got faster and cheaper Internet. We got routers and flatrate so we could stay online all the time, then we got wireless routers so we could sit in the sofa and not in the office and finally we got wireless connection on our phones, Kindles, iPad, Gallaxies and whatnot. We stopped admiring gif and horisontal borders with low-res animation and started to download music. Later as computers got more powerful we started to download movies as well, and games. Games in the begining had to be runned through DOS and came in big boxes, but at some point they turned into auto-install and came in the new DVD-casing format. Oh, and as not just the nerds, the office workers, academics and the porn-browsers got connection we started to connect in social networks, and sharing our content online. In the early days through homepages where we took the metaphor of virtual home to a maximum by placing a house in the top-left corner and dedicating a section to the family pet, to a more contemporary dynamic myriad of content based services for blogs, pictures, video, poems, tour tips, movies watched and book reviews.

Today the hot stuff is tangible and cloud-based, and the convergence of media in the computer is segregated into other platforms as well. The e-book is read on devices with artificial ink, the music is heard on portable players or mobile phones, some even have own devices to present pictures taken digitally. Games are still popular on computers, but more extensions to the game consoles and exclusive release on games increases their sales. Simultaneously do we see a reconvergence as most of these differentiated platforms are able to do tasks the others are specialized to do. You can listen to MP3s on your Kindle and watch movies in your photo frame. Things get also moved from the computers and into the cloud, your photos can be shared through others online and even synchronised from your computer, the same happens with your e-mail. Who are still using POP3? Things get moved from your computer to your little distant storage room located another place so you can access it from all the gadgets.

So, what can we learn from all of this? What is the next move in communication? What is the next trend or tendency? Well, I don’t know, but if you have any idea, please leave a comment.

This post was meant as a little comment on the intellectual property of the Internet, but well, that is not the way it turned out. Stay tuned for that post later, and more post on technology. Picture by Tim Ducett, acquired through Flickr The picture is licensed under creative common. Please refer to link for more information

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *