The Internet is a worldwide network of computer networks that connects university, government, commercial, and other computers in over 150 countries. Connecting people to wide range of devices and services the internet has become a breakthrough in technology and globalization.

The Internet as we know it today started around 1980 when DARPA started to use the TCP/IP protocol stack on all installations connected to the DARPA Internet. The transition ended in the beginning of 1983 when TCP/IP became the only protocol stack allowed on the Internet. This is still the current situation on the Internet, but now it has grown to several thousands of nodes and millions of users.

The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), the infrastructure to support email, and peer-to-peer networks for file sharing and telephony.

The origins of the Internet date back to research commissioned by the United States government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks. This work, combined with efforts in the United Kingdom and France, led to the primary precursor network, the ARPANET, in the United States. The interconnection of regional academic networks in the 1980s marks the beginning of the transition to the modern Internet. From the early 1990s, the network experienced sustained exponential growth as generations of institutional, personal, and mobile computers were connected to it. How does the internet really work and how can you best understand why learning how it works, makes you appreciate the context of modern technology?

How Does the Internet Work?

Lots of people use the word “Internet” to mean going online. Actually, the “Internet” is nothing more than the basic computer network. Think of it like the telephone network or the network of highways that criss-cross the world. Telephones and highways are networks, just like the Internet. The things you say on the telephone and the traffic that travels down roads run on “top” of the basic network. In much the same way, things like the World Wide Web (the information pages we can browse online), instant messaging chat programs, MP3 music downloading, and file sharing are all things that run on top of the basic computer network that we call the Internet.

When you chat to somebody on the Net or send them an e-mail, do you ever stop to think how many different computers you are using in the process? There’s the computer on your own desk, of course, and another one at the other end where the other person is sitting, ready to communicate with you. But in between your two machines, making communication between them possible, there are probably about a dozen other computers bridging the gap. Collectively, all the world’s linked-up computers are called the Internet.

The Internet is made up of a massive network of specialized computers called routers. Each router’s job is to know how to move packets along from their source to their destination. A packet will have moved through multiple routers during its journey. When a packet moves from one router to the next, it’s called a hop.

Much of the Internet runs on the ordinary public telephone network — but there’s a big difference between how a telephone call works and how the Internet carries data. If you ring a friend, your telephone opens a direct connection (or circuit) between your home and theirs. If you had a big map of the worldwide telephone system (and it would be a really big map!), you could theoretically mark a direct line, running along lots of miles of cable, all the way from your phone to the phone in your friend’s house. For as long as you’re on the phone, that circuit stays permanently open between your two phones. This way of linking phones together is called circuit switching. In the old days, when you made a call, someone sitting at a “switchboard” (literally, a board made of wood with wires and sockets all over it) pulled wires in and out to make a temporary circuits that connected one home to another. Now the circuit switching is done automatically by an electronic telephone exchange.

If you think about it, circuit switching is a really inefficient way to use a network. All the time you’re connected to your friend’s house, no-one else can get through to either of you by phone. (Imagine being on your computer, typing an email for an hour or more — and no-one being able to email you while you were doing so.) Suppose you talk very slowly on the phone, leave long gaps of silence, or go off to make a cup of coffee. Even though you’re not actually sending information down the line, the circuit is still connected — and still blocking other people from using it.

If you think about it, circuit switching is a really inefficient way to use a network. All the time you’re connected to your friend’s house, no-one else can get through to either of you by phone. (Imagine being on your computer, typing an email for an hour or more — and no-one being able to email you while you were doing so.) Suppose you talk very slowly on the phone, leave long gaps of silence, or go off to make a cup of coffee. Even though you’re not actually sending information down the line, the circuit is still connected — and still blocking other people from using it.

The Rise of Websites

Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989, while working at CERN. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.

After graduating from Oxford University, Berners-Lee became a software engineer at CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists come from all over the world to use its accelerators, but Sir Tim noticed that they were having difficulty sharing information.

“In those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee…”, Tim says.

Tim thought he saw a way to solve this problem — one that he could see could also have much broader applications. Already, millions of computers were being connected together through the fast-developing internet and Berners-Lee realised they could share information by exploiting an emerging technology called hypertext.

In March 1989, Tim laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”. Believe it or not, Tim’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. In fact, his boss at the time, Mike Sendall, noted the words “Vague but exciting” on the cover. The web was never an official CERN project, but Mike managed to give Tim time to work on it in September 1990. He began work using a NeXT computer, one of Steve Jobs’ early products.

Here’s a Telegraph post, if you want to see a list of the first websites that were created.

Bonus

See this video by the BBC explaining how the internet does work. If have you ever wondered how it really works. If every bird’s nest was a computer, then the internet would be like connecting every bird’s nest together, so they could all talk to each other. In computing speak, that’s called a NETWORK.

This video got more to actually say on that.

Conclusion

In this lesson; we have explored about the internet and how it has played a critical value in our lives but most importantly how it works. You don’t need to crack your head about this. This is just an overview. Add it to your knowledge-base.

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