The start of 2013 marks a significant milestone for the internet, as it is 30 years ago that Arpanet, precursor of the modern day internet, was switched to running on the TCP/IP protocol stack, a move that paved the way for the global internet as we know it today.
Arpanet, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, was itself the world's first operational packet-switched network, and a product of the Cold War era. It was developed to link together the numerous computer systems and sites operated by the US military, to make it easier to access resources at one location from any other on the network.
However, a major hurdle that the scientists and engineers faced was that the equipment at different sites was sourced from different vendors, and hence a host of incompatible communications technologies and protocols were in use.
One engineer involved in the Arpanet project was Vint Cerf, who in commemoration has posted an article to Google's official blog. Cerf outlines the situation back then, and the need for a common protocol that could be used to join the disparate networks together.
"There was no common language. Each network had its own communications protocol using different conventions and formatting standards to send and receive packets, so there was no way to transmit anything between networks," he wrote.
Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, was developed by Cerf and others to meet this requirement, and evolved gradually, eventually being split into two separate parts - TCP and the Internet Protocol (IP) - before settling into a stable implementation with IPv4, the version which is still largely in use today.
The official Arpanet switchover to TCP/IP was performed on 1 January, 1983, and went relatively smoothly, according to reports, with just a few sites experiencing difficulties as other protocols were turned off.
In 1984, the US Department of Defense made TCP/IP the standard for all military computer networks, which led to its increased adoption in research facilities and educational establishments, and also set it on the path to becoming a standard for commercial IT products.
With TCP/IP, Arpanet formed the core of the fledgling internet, although the Arpanet itself was formally decommissioned in 1990.
Afterwards, the internet's growth into a global phenomenon was kick-started by the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee at the start of the 1990s, but this development built on the existence of TCP/IP, which makes it possible for anyone with a compatible device to reach any other connected system around the world.
It is sobering to think that despite the introduction of IPv6, the vast majority of sites and systems on the internet are still using IPv4 - the same version of the protocol that was used when the switchover happened 30 years ago.
06 Aug 2012
It was 21 years ago today that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, then a humble scientist at CERN, made the first page on the World Wide Web publicly available. It’s hard now to imagine a world without the web, and it's hardly fathomable that just over two decades ago our lives were completely different based on the innovation and generosity of one man.
At its simplest level, the web was designed as a network of pages that could be accessed via terminals in homes and businesses to share information. But it has quickly become the cornerstone of how we carry out just about every task in business or our personal lives.
Shoppers now turn to the web to make their purchases, readers download their books from it, companies base their branding and marketing strategies on it. And then there’s the dot-com and web generation of giants which have become the business super powers of today, the Googles and Facebooks and Amazons. None of these could exist without the web, and what a different world it would be.
During his much-praised opening ceremony for the London Olympics, Danny Boyle chose to close his musical segment, documenting the wealth of British musical talent over the decades, with a rather surprising figure. We didn’t get Muse or Coldplay or Paul McCartney. We got Sir Tim Berners-Lee, sitting at a computer.
And how apt this appearance was, as Sir Tim tweeted out:
His reference was not only a message about the inclusivity of the London Olympics, but also reminded the audience of billions of his gesture all those years ago to donate the web to the world at large, rather than try to sell it off or keep it as a closed network.
There might have been a couple of uninformed NBC commentators – naming no names, Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer - who were shown up on air by assuming that nobody would have heard of Sir Tim, and advising their audience to “Google him”.
But we’re sure that the rest of the world are well aware now, if they weren’t before, that the whole Googling thing wouldn’t have been possible without Sir Tim and his web invention in the first place.
So Happy 21st World Wide Web, and here’s to many more exciting developments down the years.
So far, so good for the London 2012 Olympics.
As part of a moving opening ceremony, the celebration paid tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, acknowledging the technology pioneer in front of the entire world.
The ceremony included the introduction of Berners-Lee behind a massive sign reading: "This is for everyone."
The tribute is quite fitting given the integral role technology and the web will play into London's Olympic plans.
In addition to the massive IT infrastructure upgrade required to host the media coverage and massive crowds, much of the facilities for the game will be transformed into the Tech City technology hub.
Acknowledging Berners-Lee is not only a noble gesture, but a re-affirmation of the city's commitment to the technology sector. The city hopes that IT will play an integral part in its future, so it is only fitting that they acknowledge Britain's rich technology history.
Perhaps this also means we're one step closer to giving other icons, such as Alan Turing, the recognition they so richly deserve.