Summary of Inventing the Internet

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Janet Abbate exhaustively researched her scholarly history of the Internet and presents it with the detail and tone you would expect from a historian, which she is. Therefore, don’t come looking for a breezy, "gee whiz" approach. This is not a promotional pat on the back to the companies that helped popularize the Internet, nor does it glorify dot-coms or any of their fearless leaders. In fact, Abbate devotes the first 75% of her book to the precursor to the public Internet - the ARPANET system used by scientists, researchers and the U.S. military. We recommend this book to all readers who want to know how the Internet really came into existence and how it evolved from a private, secret, scientific resource into today’s vast realm of public information, auctions, virtual bookstores, e-mail and even

About the Author

Janet Abbate  is a lecturer in the department of history at the University of Maryland, in College Park, Maryland.



The First Step: Computer Networks

Computers underwent a tremendous transformation between the 1960s and the 1980s. Originally conceived as an isolated calculating device, the computer was transformed into a communications device, a use that was inconceivable just a few years earlier. Today, people take it for granted that information can travel worldwide instantaneously, but computers simply weren’t used for that purpose originally, nor did they have that capability as recently as a few decades ago. In the early 1960s, computers were scarce, very expensive and cumbersome. Most were huge - more than room-sized. Simply sharing software or data among different computers was a rare and daunting challenge. Before the invention of computer networks, a person who wanted to transfer information between computers usually had to carry some physical storage medium, such as a roll of magnetic tape or a stack of punch cards, from one machine to another.

Although modems were introduced in the late 1950s, setting up a phone connection between two computers was not only expensive, but also highly error-prone. In fact, computer incompatibilities made such communications impossible ...

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