The Nineties in America
Definition: A worldwide network of computer networks
In the 1990's, the Internet grew from about 100,000 hosts—connected by the new, and largely untested, transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) networking protocol—to over one and a half million hosts, connected by a robust TCP/IP internetworking infrastructure. The 1990's also marked the rapid development of the World Wide Web as an important way of distributing information and doing business.
Computers were first used in the 1950's, and from their inception scientists tried to connect them so that they could share printers and data. In 1962, J. C. R. Licklider of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gave the first description of an internet as a network of networks. The technology of the 1960's used dedicated circuits to connect computers, and this technique did not support large internets. In 1964, Leonard Kleinrock of MIT described a new technology, packet switching, which sent messages from one computer to another by breaking a message into packets and sending the packets one at a time rather than the entire message all at once.
During the 1970's and 1980's, packet-switched networking developed at a fast pace and demonstrated that it was capable of supporting large internetworks. The TCP/IP network protocol was a packet-switched internetwork protocol, defined in a paper by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf in 1974. TCP was a transport protocol to connect individual computers, and IP was a protocol that facilitated the movement of data over the network using routers. Several successful implementations of TCP/IP networks were produced during the 1980's. In 1983, the government required all computers connected to its Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) to implement TCP/IP, and in 1995 Microsoft implemented TCP/IP as its default networking protocol. These two actions effectively made TCP/IP the standard internetworking protocol after 1995.
By the late 1980's, many computer networks were connected by TCP/IP, and there was considerable transfer of data among these computers. However, the data was transferred as files, and it was not particularly attractive when it arrived at a destination computer. From 1989 to 1992, Tim Berners-Lee of the European Council for Nuclear Research (later renamed the European Organization for Nuclear Research), known as CERN, in Switzerland developed the first version of a Web browser and server using the hypertext markup language (HTML) and hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). Using the Web to disseminate information over TCP/IP internetworks greatly increased its popularity. Many improvements were made to Web servers and browsers over the 1990's, and by 2000 the Internet had become one of the major vehicles for the exchange of information. The first real e-business was a CERN telephone directory created by Berners-Lee in 1992. During the remainder of the 1990's, e-commerce developed at breakneck speed, with many large companies like Amazon.com appearing. While there was a downturn for e-commerce in 2000, the industry recovered shortly after and has since expanded rapidly.
A new version of IP called IPv6 (version 6), was proposed in 1991. This upgraded IP provides better security and enhanced routing capability. Because the current version of IP is widely used, IPv6 has been making slow but steady progress in being deployed. In 1996, the Internet2 project was announced as the next version of the Internet. A high-speed (100 gigabytes per second) state-of-the-art internetwork, Internet2 will support a variety of media transfers and innovative applications. It is anticipated that Internet2 will use IPv6.
Creation of the Internet
In 1969, ARPANET was created under the leadership of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Department of Defense. Initially, ARPANET consisted of a small number of government and university computers connected with the network control program (NCP) protocol. In 1983, ARPANET made TCP/IP its core protocol. Over the next few years, TCP/IP matured as an internetworking protocol. By 1990, ARPANET had become difficult to operate, and it was officially retired. ARPANET was replaced by several internetworks (including the National Science Foundation Network, or NSFNet) and a group of organizations (including the Internet Society, or ISOC). By 1991, these internets and organizations were regularly referred to as the Internet.
In 1991, NSFNet decided to allow use of its network by commercial entities as well as the government and universities. This effectively opened the Internet to everyone and resulted in a dramatic increase in the size of the Internet. The Internet Society was chartered in January, 1992. It is a large organization, made up of individuals, companies, universities, and organizations. ISOC determines the policies and standards for the Internet. ISOC has several important boards, including the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). The IAB provides technical advice to ISOC, the IETF works on specific standards, and the IRTF does long-range planning. In 1995, the Federal Networking Council (FNC), a coordinating group of representatives from the federal agencies involved in networking, officially defined the Internet as the totality of networks that were interconnected by TCP/IP. This is the definition of the Internet used today.
Advances in Networking
During the 1990's, there were many advances in TCP/IP software that helped the Internet to grow. When TCP/IP was selected as the internet protocol of ARPANET, it included a number of important features, including Telnet for remote terminal access, file transfer protocol (FTP) for remote file transfer, transmission control protocol (TCP) for reliable connections, IP for routing, and simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) for e-mail support. In 1990, the simple network management protocol (SNMP) made its debut by remotely operating an Internet toaster. During the 1990's, SNMP continued to add features and applications until a single workstation could manage all the computers on a network.
The most important addition to the TCP/IP protocol suite made during the 1990's was HTTP, proposed by Berners-Lee in 1989 and implemented by him at CERN in 1992. This simple protocol allowed the Internet to support the World Wide Web (WWW), and the WWW became the most important application running on the Internet by the end of the 1990's. The IP gives all computers on the Internet a 32-bit numeric address, such as 22.214.171.124. For a variety of reasons, the Internet community wanted to have a symbolic name for each computer rather than the 32-bit numeric address. In the early days of ARPANET, the symbolic-to-numeric name conversion was handed locally by a hosts file, located on each computer. The domain name system (DNS) was proposed as a better solution for the conversion about 1983, and by 1985 a DNS with several zone servers had been created. In 1993, the NSF started privatizing the DNS by assigning its major administrative functions to private corporations. Since that time, DNS Internet address registration and maintenance of the Internet address database has been handled by a number of companies who jointly maintain thirteen root servers.
A major area of improvement in networking that led to the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990's was the development of high-speed networks that used fiber-optic cables. Especially important were the backbone internetworks that provided support for transfers of data from one part of the country to another. The increased bandwidth of the communications networks supporting the Internet has resulted in a number of innovative applications, including music and video downloads, rich graphical pages sent over the Web, and telephone service introduced in 1996 that used voice-over IP (VoIP).
The improvements in general computer and communications hardware during the 1990's provided a great deal of support for the Internet. Microchip manufacturers increased their chip density during the 1990's, and this improved the computers sending and receiving data, as well as the communications equipment connecting these computers. Typical of the companies that experienced dynamic growth in the 1990's is Cisco. Founded in 1984, Cisco went public in 1990 with assets of $190 million. In 2000, Cisco was estimated to be worth more than $500 billion. Cisco originally produced simple routers and gateways but later marketed a full range of communications products.
The 1990's marked a time of greatly improved access to the Internet from home and the workplace. Microsoft led the way when it included a TCP/IP stack as part of the Windows 95 operating system, but all personal computers and workstations provided TCP/IP support by the end of the 1990's. The introduction of the Mosaic Web browser for the Macintosh and personal computer (PC) in 1993 and Internet Explorer as part of the Windows 95 operating system in 1995 made access to the Web simple. Improvements in hardware used to access the Internet were even greater than those for software. For the home user, the 1990's marked a time of greatly improved choices for high-speed access to the Internet. The 28.8-kilobit modem was introduced in 1994, the 56-kilobit modem in 1996, and the 1- to 2-megabit asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) modem in 1998. These provided home Internet users with a standard telephone line fast access to the Internet. For those with cable television, the cable modem, introduced about 1997, and standardized with the data over cable service interface specification (DOCSIS) protocol in 1999, provided 2- to 10-megabit service that was very reliable. During the same time, cell phone users could use either a 56-kilobit modem or a proprietary cell phone modem to communicate with their office. As early as 1995, some were using satellites to access the Internet, although it was expensive.
In the workplace, high-speed access became commonplace in the 1990's. The 10Base-T standard was adopted in 1990, and this allowed companies to provide inexpensive access for their employees, using large switch-based networks. The first wireless local area networks (LANs) appeared about 1997, and in 1999 the IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN standards process began. Wireless access allowed employees to access the Internet without having to plug into an Ethernet connector. At home, inexpensive wireless kits containing access points and connector cards were in wide use by 2000 and allowed multiple home computers access to the Internet.
There were a number of important Internet applications developed during the 1990's, the most important of which was the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee implemented a working WWW system at CERN in 1992. Many improvements were made to the basic ideas of Berners-Lee during the decade, including the development of the Mosaic browser by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina in 1993, the development of Netscape Navigator in 1994 by Andreessen and Jim Clark, and the development of Internet Explorer by Microsoft in 1995. These later browsers added improved graphics and multimedia support. Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994, and this organization (replacing the ISOC) became the main standards body for Web-specific activities.
The most-used application of the Internet today is e-mail. The first e-mail system was developed by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. In 1991, Philip Zimmerman introduced a way to send e-mail securely with his Pretty Good Privacy technology. The original e-mail format, defined by the request for comments (RFC) 822, was quite limited, and in 1992 it was enhanced by the multipurpose Internet mail extensions (MIME) to support sending pictures and sound in e-mail. As HTML became a popular format for messages, e-mail clients like Outlook Express and Eudora developed a technique of displaying e-mail as an HTML document, while encoding it in the RFC 822 format using MIME. The addition of the post office protocol (POP) in 1999 greatly enhanced reliable e-mail delivery.
The secure socket layer (SSL) protocol was originally developed by Netscape in 1994 and has been improved by many others since then. It provides a secure communications path for browsers and e-mail programs, and this has made e-commerce over the Internet much safer.
Over the 1990's, the Internet grew exponentially. The number of Web servers, e-businesses, and users greatly increased. Transmission speeds improved throughout the world and changed the way people communicate. In 1990, few used, or even knew of, the Internet; by 2000, the Internet had become an essential tool for most in the United States.
Baase, Sara. A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computers and the Internet. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002. Interesting coverage of the social and legal issues surrounding the Internet.
Hofstetter, Fred. Internet Literacy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Provides a comprehensive introduction to the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Salus, Peter H. Casting the Net: From ARPANET to Internet and Beyond. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1995. A good introduction to the development of ARPANET and the early days of the Internet.
George M. Whitson IIISee Also
Amazon.com; Apple Computer; CGI; Computers; Dot-coms; DVDs; E-mail; Hackers; Instant messaging; Inventions; Microsoft; MP3s; PDAs; Silicon Valley; World Wide Web; Y2K problem.
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