Before the Internet In a lot of ways war is the mother of invention. For it is said that what is good for the generals is also good for General Electric, General Motors, General Dynamics and other corporate vendors of military supplies. Where there was profit to be made, corporations were willing to sell the tools of the trade to any side with cash to buy. President Eisenhower, the great military commander of the Allied forces during WWII noted, “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” World War II set the pace for the growth of the military industrial complex. After the great war, only two major powers were left standing, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. The United States was left untouched, thus it stood mighty among all nations. The Soviet Union lost 25% of its population while the Nazis ravaged the land. One must take into consideration why the USSR was so intent on creating a strong buffer zone after being invaded twice in twenty years. None of that matter. What matter was the defeat of the new enemy, communism!
There was the Cold War. The Cold War pitted the USA against the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Nothing was scarier than the Soviet Union launching nuclear weapons against US soil. While there were plenty of events that scared Americans during this time, one event made it seem that the Soviets were pulling ahead of American technology and know how- the launching of Sputnik satellite.
With the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, America feared that the Soviet Union would not only militarize space, but be able to gain a huge advantage that threatened our very security. In reaction to the launching of Sputnik, the USA tried to come up with ideas in how to protect the nation against the Soviet Union and diminish its strategic advantages. Concerned over the Soviet launch of Sputnik II, President Eisenhower requested funds to establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) as a line item in an air force appropriations bill on January 7, 1958. Now known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), this agency was given the mission to create technologies that would help give our military a high tech edge. The goal was to once again lead in the arms race, as well as protect our country and security.
It was this type of Cold War funding that produced the research money used by MIT and its subsidiary, Lincoln Laboratory, to indirectly create what we now know as the Internet. In fact Lincoln Laboratory was founded by MIT to "develop an air defense system that could detect, identify, intercept, and direct resources against hostile aircraft" (NERDS 2.0.1 - pg. 30).
Another event that figured prominently into the history of the internet is a commissioned study by the USAF on how the military would be able to keep and maintain control and command of airplanes, bombers and nuclear missiles during and after a nuclear attack. The United States Air Force wanted to understand the best ways to create a decentralized network of communications in order to run their branch of the military during and after a nuclear strike. The important point was that this command would have to be decentralized. So no matter the extent of damage, the military would still be able to control its nuclear weapons, airplanes and bombers in order to counter strike or protect itself. The original study was commissioned and overseen by Paul Beran, a member of the RAND Corporation.
A major result of the Soviet launch of Sputnik was the interest in and importance placed on space programs, especially here in the United States. As The Soviet Union’s main rival in the Cold War, the US could not be left behind in the Space Race. This would make them seem less technologically capable than the USSR. Of course, looking stupid factored in as well. There was also the concern of the "missile gap," and the fact that if the Soviets could launch a satellite into space, they could very likely launch an H-bomb to strike the United States.
Adding to this fear was the launch of Sputnik 2, just about a month after Sputnik 1 was launched. Sputnik 2 was bigger, weighing 1100 pounds and carrying Laika, the first dog and living species in space. The United States hadn't managed to launch a single small satellite yet, and the Soviets were already launching satellites that approached the weight of a nuclear warhead. Finally the government realized how important it was for the US to accomplish something that would put them back in the competition with the Soviet Union.
The country scrambled to make up for lost time in the new "Space Race," to fund satellite programs, and to emphasize math and science in schools. In 1958 the National Defense Education Act was passed to give $47.5 million in student loans as well as allocate $300 million for equipment and fellowships for science and math graduate students. Money was sent to high schools, colleges, and universities to provide them with new books and laboratories, and to give students financial incentives to improve their education. Schools also began to emphasize creativity and independent thinking.
At the time of the launch, hardly anyone seemed to care about the satellite, even the Soviets.
The United States government officials found out about the launch at a reception at the Soviet Embassy that night. Those same government officials had the same reaction as the government in Moscow -- they congratulated the scientists, but overall downplayed the importance of the accomplishment. After several days, however, they realized what an impact the launch had had on the public. As far as politics was concerned, "the Soviet Union had staged a tremendous propaganda coup for the communist system," and proved that they could accomplish more than the United States. The result of this launch was that "the international image of the Soviet Union was greatly enhanced overnight."
On January 31, 1958 the United States launched its first satellite into orbit.
It wasn’t until 1962 that the first ideas about a web or interconnected network type of system were formed. First written about by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August of 1962, Licklider wrote several memos in what he termed was a “Galactic Network”. In essence, this Galactic Network was able to access information in electronic form- either by data or programs from a large network of computers. The key was that all of the computers in this Galactic Network would be some way connected to each other. In that year, Licklider headed up the first computer research program for ARPA.
Within ARPA, a special office was established to support research dealing with the field of computers and computer related technologies. This was the Information Processing Techniques Office, or "IPTO."
In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider, a professor of Psychology at MIT, was hired by ARPA to become first Director of the IPTO. Licklider was a brilliant visionary and pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction and specifically the field of interactive computing. Licklider's work also laid the foundation for graduate work in the newly created field of computer science.
Licklider pursued his vision of increased human-computer interaction and interactive computing despite criticism from some areas of the computer establishment. His perseverance led to breakthroughs in interactive computing and set the trend for further developments in this area.
Licklider's responsibilities at ARPA included selecting and funding researchers to build and lead research groups. By 1962, the value and potential of computers was becoming more widely recognized. However, computers were still extremely large, expensive and difficult to use. Part of Licklider's vision was a concept he originated called "man-computer symbiosis."
One of the first known sketches of a computer network was drawn by Licklider in 1960, nine years before any such thing became a reality. It was nothing like what existed but the concept was there. He had everything linked together throughout the world - remote computers and data sharing. While he had no idea how to go about building this network, it was Licklider's vision that helped to shape the things we so often take for granted.