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History of the Internet, 1965-1995

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What is the History of the Internet (1965-1995) Project?

Much is being said and written about the source of one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century: the internet.

However, most of that material is from secondary or tertiary sources. And that material is often more about technology than about the people, motivations, disputes and controversies, or roads not taken.

This project is different.

Here we are attempting to gather primary sources, usually video interviews with people who actually helped to create the internet.

Our emphasis is on ideas and people rather. We are not trying to explain technology. We are more interested on the inventive forces that were (and we hope remain) at work.

We believe that we bring a special and unique perspective. Both of us were there. Both of us worked on the early internet and, sometimes, with the people being interviewed.

We are limiting our focus to the period 1965 through 1995, from the rise of packet switching to the rise of the world wide web (which we consider to be but one application, a very successful application, layered upon the internet.)

In reality, the internet began long before. The idea of relaying messages has been around every since kings and generals used relay runners to carry scrolls or letters. Smoke signals and semaphore flags dispensed with the need to transport a physical writing. The electrical telegraph of the early 19th century was the first electrical form of packet switching. By the latter part of the 19th century the electrical store-and-forwarding of messages had grown to be a worldwide system. Themes that we hear in conjunction with the internet - addressing, routing, encryption, peering, priority handling - were all present when long distance or fast communication meant the electrical telegraph.

The telephone system was a bit of a detour. Voice telephony emphasized end-to-end electrical circuits rather than store-and-forward message system. The telegraph system has a much stronger claim to being a direct ancestor of the internet than does the telephone system.

This series is the story of the internet in the years before the rise of the world wide web.

Our story is of people and ideas rather than an explication of technology.

Our focus is on people and ideas.

These are our themes:

The History of the Internet Project is an effort by Chris Wellens and Karl Auerbach.

Both of us were involved with the nascent internet during much of the period (1965-1995) covered by this series.

The project is supported by InterWorking Labs.