The Need For Computer Networks

Many may think that the Internet came around sometime in the 90’s, but the beginnings of this computer network happened much before that. In 1966, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) hosted a program with several research institutions called Resource Sharing Computer Networks. With the threats of the Cold War, the United States government thought it would be smart to decentralize all information storage and increase overall computing power. They wanted to find a way to link computers together, so that information could be shared remotely. Also, this would allow for a continued stream of information if one location got hit by a nuclear attack. After much discussion and planning, proposals were sent out and ARPANET development began

Early Days

Before computer networks, a scientist or researcher would have to physically travel to a location, copy computer data and bring it back to his/her respective institution. Based on this, it isn’t hard to see why network development was an absolute necessity. The first ARPANET network connected 4 institutions using existing telephone lines. The 4 locations were UCLA, University of Utah, University of California, and Stanford. ARPA chose the initial computer sites based on pre-existing research relationships with the United States government. Each site had its own team of engineers responsible for connecting the site computer to the ARPANET. In August 1969, the UCLA team hooked up its host computer to an IMP, a Honeywell DDP 516 computer. This was the first of the sites to be connected to ARPANET. Within days, the team was able to exchange information between two computers. They then added another site to the network. On the first attempt with 3 sites, the system actually crashed. Luckily after a reboot, everything went somewhat smoothly on the second try. Before the end of 1969, scientist were able to transfer information from computers remotely over a 50 kbps phone line.


ARPANET set the standard for many technologies and systems that we use today. Through its development, the ARPANET team invented protocols, packet switching, Remote Logins, and our beloved email.

FTP —File Transfer Protocol allowed computers located in different regions to talk to each other and share information.

Packet Switching — A system still used today in which the data files sent over the web are broken down into smaller pieces. This allows for greater flexibility during transport to and from the servers.

​Remote Logins​ — With ARPANET, people could use one computer system to log into another one miles away. For the first time, researchers and scientists could access databases full of information without having to physically travel to another computer site.

Email — In 1972, programmer Ray Tomlinson developed an electronic mail system for ARPANET. Tomlinson chose the “@” symbol to join together the names of the recipient and the recipient’s host computer, a convention we still use today.

Internetting — ​In 1973, Robert Kahn initiated an experiment with a technique he called internetting. He had the idea of taking larger established networks and connecting them to make an even larger network. These connections of large networks has become what we know as the modern Internet​

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