It's been nearly 30 years since the first electronic message was sent from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to Stanford University.
As the internet comes of age, some of the firms that profited most from its invention were invited last week to mark the anniversary with a birthday party.
The first message, sent 2 October, 1969, laid the foundation for the internet, according to UCLA, which is behind the birthday event. The first message, an attempt to log in to a remote site, was only successful in sending two characters before the system crashed.
The global communications network has come a long way since 1969, when a few room-sized machines connected four universities in America, to today where the internet underpins corporate networking.
The internet has its roots in Arpanet (the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a US military funded project which aimed to look at ways to connect networks across packet switched architectures.
The installation of the first node of Arpanet was done on 2 September 1969. By the end of 1969 the network consisted of four Honeywell DDP-516 minicomputers each with 12K of memory, connected by 50Kbps leased lines.
But the use of a set of transparent protocols, TCP/IP, to allow thousands of networks to interconnect, and the computers on them to interwork, didn't come until 1973.
The first three-network demonstration had to wait until November 1977, and the widespread interconnection of networks only happened in 1983.
The internet remained the domain of scientists and students until the birth of the world wide web in the early 1990s, which eliminated much of the technical jargon and complex procedures that held the medium back from wider use in business.
Despite being 30, the internet is still in early development. The future will see the expansion of ecommerce and use of the underpinning technology of the internet to route voice traffic over corporate networks.
Vint Cerf, the co-inventor of TCP/IP, said the main challenges facing network managers of tomorrow as the internet develops, are "scale, security and performance".
"Performance is going to become one of the key elements distinguishing one network's service from another.
"As new applications arrive, demanding higher bandwidth and higher reliability, low jitter and low latency, the ability to deliver this capability reliably will become a major selling point," said Cerf, who is senior VP for internet architecture and technology at carrier MCI Worldcom.
Challenges for the future
Cerf added that network administrators must learn to cope with increasingly large networks. "Just keeping all the pieces straight and properly configured is a challenge," he added.
Brian Carpenter, chairman of the Internet Architecture Board, said managing network capacity and quality of service will be the key challenge for the future.
"As we migrate voice and video services onto internet technology, service management will become the challenge," said Carpenter, who added that scaling the network to the billions of nodes soon expected will also be a formidable challenge.
For a detailed timeline of the internet’s history, see the Internet Society’s home page www.isoc.org
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