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The Internet Celebrates Its 35th Birthday

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Sep 3, 2004 8:02 AM PDT    Text size: 
CYBERSPACE — The year the Internet was born, the Beatles were still together, “Hawaii Five-O” was on the tube, the Woodstock concert took place, the Manson family ran amok and man walked on the moon. In 1969, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, transmitted data from one oversized computer to another.

Not unlike that momentous moment in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell transmitted his voice over a wire to Thomas Watson, on Sept. 2, 1969, UCLA Prof. Len Kleinrock and graduate students including Vinton Cerf and Stephen Crocker exchanged bits of gibberish between two computers linked by a 15-foot cable in an engineering lab on the university’s Westwood campus.

Just as Bell and Watson’s experimentation gave birth to the telephone, the Internet emerged out of the UCLA test and the brave new wired world was born.

The Internet per se preceded the World Wide Web by about a quarter century. Prior to the web, the flow of computer information was largely restricted to academic and Defense Department circles.

By early 1970 - the year the Beatles broke up - three additional “nodes” joined UCLA’s nascent network. A few years later, email began. The TCP/IP communications protocol came into being by the end of the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. This was followed by the domain name system in the 1980s, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

But by the mid-1990s, with the advent of the web, access to the until-then cloistered enclave of the Internet became more and more public, in ever-increasing numbers. Today, what was once the exclusive preserve of academia and the military is an increasingly indispensable and regular part of everyday life, from offices to homes.

Crocker and Cerf are still involved with the Internet. Crocker chairs the Security and Stability Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an important international organization for web oversight. Cerf works for MCI. Kleinrock is still a professor of computer science at UCLA.

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