The Internet as we know it turns 20

Estimates on the age of the Internet depend on who you ask, but going by the calculations of one industry pioneer, this week...

Estimates on the age of the Internet depend on who you ask, but going by the calculations of one industry pioneer, this week marks the 20th birthday of the modern Internet.

On 1 January 1983, Internet forerunner ARPANET (a system developed by the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency) fully switched to TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).

The transition came after a decade of development work on the new system, which replaced an earlier, clunkier setup, the Network Control Protocol (NCP).

Transition plans for the NCP-to-TCP/IP move were published in 1981, and some administrators began migrating soon after. But New Year's Day 1983 was the deadline, and quite a few techies found themselves cramming for it, according to Bob Braden, a member of the original ARPA research group that designed TCP.

"People sometimes question that any geeks would have been in machine rooms on 1 January. Believe it - some geeks got very little sleep for a few days," Braden wrote in a recent post to an Internet Engineering Task Force mailing list.

Of course, an Internet-like system was running long before 1983. Since 1969, researchers had been exchanging data over ARPANET, which connected hundreds of host machines at the time of the TCP/IP switchover. But the standardisation of TCP/IP laid the groundwork for today's massive, decentralised network.

In 1990, a victim of its own unplanned, unexpected success, the ARPANET was decommissioned, leaving only the vast network-of-networks we know as the Internet.



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