Archive for February 26th, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #21- The Internet

Hardly any waking moment goes by when I’m not using the Internet in some way.  That got me to thinking about it, my 30+ years in IT notwithstanding.  Life as we know it would not be possible without the Internet.  First, a short history might be in order.

[Some of the following was paraphrased from Wikipedia.]  Early packet switching networks [a “packet” of data is what computers use to communicate with each other and around a network] such as the NPL network, ARPANET, Merit Network and CYCLADES in the early 1970s researched and provided data networking. The ARPANET project and international working groups led to the development of protocols for inter-networking, in which multiple separate networks could be joined into a network of networks, which produced various standards. Research was published in 1973 that evolved into the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), the two protocols of the Internet protocol suite. [You’ve probably seen “TCP/IP.”]

In the early 1980s the National Science Foundation funded national supercomputing centers at several universities in the United States and provided interconnectivity in 1986 with the NSFNET project, which created network access to these supercomputer sites for research and academic organizations in the United States. International connections to NSFNET, the emergence of architecture such as the Domain Name System, and the adoption of TCP/IP internationally, marked the beginnings of the Internet.

Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the very late 1980s. The ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990 and the NSFNET was decommissioned in 1995, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic. Commercial entities began marketing Internet access, content design, telephone and communications platforms, search engines and sales platforms.  Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and all the other hugely successful web companies all owe that success to the National Science Foundation and ARPANET.

Today, the uses of the Internet are as numerous as the number of people on the planet.  The top dozen most common uses, according to several reporting sites, are:  email, research, downloading files, discussion groups, interactive games, education and self-improvement, movie/music/video streaming, friendship and dating, electronic newspapers and magazines, politicking, job hunting and shopping. 

Specific uses can be inferred from this list, such as virtual health appointments, maps and navigation, virtual meetings and teleconferencing, social media and long-distance family interactions.

Like most people, there are times when I think the Internet is a pain, allowing anyone with a brain and access to spout any ideology they see fit, and the brain part may seem lacking.  However, just maintaining long-distance family relationships can make all the difference in someone’s life.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the latest social injustice are two examples of events that bring us together utilizing the one communications service that seems to have been developed for just such occasions.

Would I be a published author without the Internet?  Chances are slim.  How easily could I share my 30,000 photos [now over 50,000] with the public?  I’ve often referred to the Internet as my virtual memory, with nearly everything I would ever want to know at my fingertips.  My blog would likely never have happened either, nor supplementing our income while living in an RV on the road.  Like I said, life like we know it would simply not be possible.


My closing quote for this subject is from Tom Wolfe, an American journalist, who said, “Once you have speech, you don’t have to wait for natural selection! If you want more strength, you build a stealth bomber; if you don’t like bacteria, you invent penicillin; if you want to communicate faster, you invent the Internet. Once speech evolved, all of human life changed.

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