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Why the Internet was Created?

Updated on February 6, 2017

The year was 1958. I was a radar maintenance technician stationed on a remote radar site in Southern Japan on a mountain top called Suburiyama. We were part of a United States Air Force radar network called AC & W (Aircraft Control and Early Warning). Our mission was to search for Soviet aircraft entering our airspace and scramble fighters jets to intercept the enemies aircraft. It was part of the Cold War strategy.

The radome atop Mt. Suburiyama

F86D Fighter used in Cold War


AUTOVON Telephone, 1958


My first encounter with the embryonic seeds of the Internet was with a system called AUTOVON (Automatic Voice Network). We used it to send our secret code of the day and status to other radar sites in our network. The dialing worked on a technology that was called DTMF (Dual Tone Multi-Frequency). When one of the buttons was pressed, it would generate two frequencies. The four red keys were used to establish a priority based on importance and authority. The keys were labeled:

  • FO Flash Override
  • F Flash
  • I Immediate
  • P Priority

Today, it is called touch tone dialing. At that time, civilians were still using rotary dials on their phones.

It wasn't until decades later when I worked for Toshiba Information Systems, Telecommunications Systems as an online course developer that I learned that touch tone dialing was really the AUTOVON system. When you press any key, you hear the tones. Those tones are the generation of two frequencies, that tell the telephone systems, which buttons you are pressing. Those four red buttons (frequencies) on AUTOVON are still used today, but you can't see them. They are used to generate Caller ID and Call Waiting, and other codes that are used to communicate with the telephone system.

Ethernet then and now

My next encounter with the Internet was in 1985. I had just formed my own technical writing consulting company. I had received a contract from Cal Comp. Cal Comp designed and built plotters for all types of applications. The contract I was working on was for a system for the U.S. Geological Survey.

A PC was mounted to the side of the plotter and the PC was to communicate over a system called the "Internet." I had no idea what that was, so I asked some engineers. they said it was a network of about 85 users (the total population of the Internet at that time) that were connected via a digital network so that the academic and scientific community could communicate with each other. It used Ethernet, which had cables the size of a garden hose running all over the lab floor. Ethernet has been standardized and reduced in size and has become the LAN cables that we connect between routers and a PC. The protocol that was used was called TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) which is still used today. When I asked the engineers what that was , they pointed me to a stack of specifications that were so big they could sink a battleship!

Rolodex File

The concept for Web Browsers
The concept for Web Browsers | Source

What does a Rolodex File have to do with the Internet?

When I first started consulting, I was using the first Macintosh computers. A programming language came with it called Hypertext. It was a high level language that allowed writing programs that were linked. It worked like a Rolodex file where you could go forward and backward from page to page or jump to a page. I remember seeing the illustration of the Rolodex file in the Macintosh user's manual. Does that concept sound familiar? It is how the browsers of today work and how our links work.

The language it uses is HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). My first encounter with this type of language was with a word processing program called Word Star. It used a coding system to format page text so that what you see is what you get on the screen. (WYSIWYG). It was very much like today's HTML coding.

Packet Switching, Routers, and Browsers

My next encounter with the Internet, was in 1990 when I worked for Sony Trans Com. We developed in-flight entertainment systems for airlines. One day we were told that we would be using the World Wide Web for research and it used a browser called Netscape.

It was later I found out, that the World Wide Web and the Internet was really a marriage of the United States Military and the world's scientific community. Starting back in the days of the cold war, the U.S. military wanted a way of sustained communications in the event of a nuclear attack. It started with ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) that was funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). They came up with a method of breaking up information into small packets and routing it to the destination where the packets would be re-assembled into the original information.

Let's say you are going to mail a letter. Instead of putting the letter into an envelope and mailing it, you first sliced the letter into many pieces and sent each piece via a separate car for each piece. Each car would be free to take any route it wanted because of congestion or blockage on the freeway (nuclear attack). When each envelope arrived at the destination, the letter would be re-assembled in the proper order. That is the basis of packet switching and routers that were developed from the technology of the 50's and are still used today.

CERN and the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web was developed by CERN (European Organization of Nuclear Research,) so that scientific agencies world wide could share information with an easy to use system. This system was to be compatible with different computer platforms that were used by the various agencies around the world. It used a language called Hypertext, where pages where linked backward and forward, like a Rolodex file and a browser called Netscape. Sound familiar?

Today's Internet

When these two technologies were merged in the 90's, the result was the Internet that we know today. I feel privileged to have grown up and evolved with the early development of digital Internet technology.

This is also a testament as to how diverse cultures and technologies can create something bigger than the separate parts and how the department of defense can leverage technology to be used by the military as well as the civilian population.

This is also how CERN was able to isolate the God Particle. But that's for another article. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you have enjoyed my journey with the Internet technology.


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    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      7 years ago from Placentia California

      Thank you Victoria. I'm going to have to read your hubs. The topic sounds fascinating.

    • victoria1800 profile image


      7 years ago from Whitechapel UK

      fascinating read. Many times, I have wondered how the internet was created, but have never took the time to look it up. I always go away from your hubs, having learned something new. Voted up and interesting!

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      8 years ago from Placentia California

      stephanieb27: You are welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

    • stephanieb27 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Interesting read! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      8 years ago from Placentia California

      Rose: Thank you so much for your comments. When I look back on my journey, it is even fascinating for me to see how far technology has advanced over those years. Thanks for the sharing and votes.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      Fascinating article! You have provided some very interesting information regarding the evolution of the Internet, however, I found your own personal journey even more intriguing! Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      8 years ago from Placentia California

      rebeccamealey: Thank you so much. I love it when I can turn on lights. Thanks for sharing this all over the World Wide Web!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Wow, this was a fascinating read. My son is a young web developer. He will just love this. I am sending this to him as well as sharing all over guessed it, World Wide Web!

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      8 years ago from Placentia California

      TIMETRAVELER2: Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found it interesting. It has been interesting for me as well to see how far it has evolved.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      Sondra Rochelle 

      8 years ago from USA

      This was a very interesting read. I have often wondered how the internet came to be, and now I know. Thanks!

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      mybestreviews: Thank you so much for your kind comments. I was so young when I was in the Air Force, I didn't even know I was in the Cold War until I went to a squadron reunion about 10 years ago.

    • mybestreviews profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

      I like how it included your personal experience. It made it more interesting and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for your military service as well.

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      Hi Jaye: Working with that embryonic technology and then comparing it to state of the art stuff today, does give one an appreciation as to how far we have come. With miniaturization, they have put the power of mainframe computers, that occupied an entire facility, into everybody's hands. Thanks for the votes.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      9 years ago from Deep South, USA

      What an intriguing article--all the more so because of your personal experiences woven into the evolution of the Internet!

      I'm not a "techie", but I recall many of the terms and systems you described that were in use in the late '70s and early 80s. At that time I worked as a manager at a community college, and one of my friends taught computer science (then in its fledgling stage), so I heard a lot of terms and explanations I didn't fully understand.

      Some of them I still don't grasp. It's that left brain-right brain phenomenon. Some people (such as you) got the combination creative/logicical brain. My "little gray cells" are more infused with creativity than with logic. Since I had a succession of secretaries and assistants who performed the types of computer work I didn't want to learn, I managed to avoid most applications other than e-mail, word processing, use of the Internet and various company intranets, and PowerPoint (for presentations). Thinking back to the use of Netscape, I feel nostalgia for that browser.

      It's astonishing to recall the many changes of technology I experienced within the decades of my career, especially after I began working in the mid-80s for one of the largest international telecommunications companies. I was on the fringes, however, while you were in the trenches of high-tech development.

      Voted Up++


    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      Justsilvie: I'm glad you like it. People who have't grown up with the technology, don't have an appreciation as to how far we have come. They just assume that everything is going to work properly and almost demand it. When I worked at Autonetics, we had an open house, where the people were greeted with an oscilloscope display that displayed the words "Welcome to our open house." and they were just in awe that something like that could be done. Thanks for droppiing by, I'm looking forward to readings some of your hubs.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow loved the history lesson.

      I started using the net in 1988 as part of a University of Texas project with our organization. I remember it had this crazy branching system named after trees. My job was to post info about our organization and if you made a typo you were red faced for weeks because there was no editing. I also remember running home all excited about having E-mail and my husband said "who you gonna write".

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      RealHousewife: . I've been retired for five years now and I do miss the tech talk. It's interesting to watch the people today use their technical devices and don't have a clue about how it was in the old days. They don't know that floppy disks used to be eight inches in diameter and were truly floppy. I'm honored that you stopped by. Wow comments from an Elite hubber who can tech made my day! Thanks for sharing.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Wow! Love this article and I am really interested in technology. How things work.

      My first encounter with a computer was a DOS operating system and I never did figure that beast out. lol

      I do remember the first appearance of Netscape too - I had dial up and it was a mess. I had to defragment my computer the old way too then:) LOL Wow! The first version of windows - sheesh now I am suddenly reminded of words that could draw nightmares - word perfect? macros? floppy disks? Crazy huh?

      Excellent hub and I am sharing!

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      katyzzz: Thank you so much. I love to turn light bulbs on in people's heads.

    • katyzzz profile image


      9 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You are certainly an expert in your field, and so willing to share, a wonderful attribute, a hub well done

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      Curiad: Wow! I'm impressed. The last thing I worked on at Toshiba was networked call centers via networked VoIP PBX switches. Finally, I found somebody I can "tech talk" with. Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes Peoplepower, as an engineer that designed control systems I understand completely about writing technically or writing for non technical audiences. Some of the networks I designed have over 400 nodes spread across the USA and use TCP-IP/UDP.

      I just couldn't resist the poke at Gore :)

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      Kathleen Cochran: I hate to say this, but being older allows one to look back and appreciate how far we have come with technology. But yet, the basic building blocks have not changed. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      It is amazing how so many advances come from the unintended consequences of other endeavors. But it takes people like you paying attention and thinking outside the box. Thanks for your contribution.

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      fastfreta: Yes it's amazing how it evolved. I wrote this article in part to give user's an apprecitation of how it all started and how far it has come. Thanks for dropping by and your votes.

    • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Russo 

      9 years ago from Placentia California

      Curiad: Al Gore, while in congress, did introduce support for super-computer networks, which in a way helped the development of the internet. But he didn't invent it or create it. Thanks for your comment. It was hard for me to stay on track and keep it non-technical, but thanks for stopping by.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Although I'm not a technical person, I read this hub with great interest. I began using my first PC in the early 90's, but I didn't realize the Internet was so new at the time. Thanks so much for this very interesting article. Voted up, interesting, and useful.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I always knew it was not Al Gore...LOL

      Seriously, this is a great overview of how the modern internet evolved!


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