Oct. 29, 1969, 10:30 p.m., Pacific Time The Internet is born ... and promptly crashes. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency were trying to figure out a way to combine physically distant computers into one virtual network.
Exactly 40 years ago today, the first such network - called Arpanet - was established between machines at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Stanford Research Institute.
The first message transmitted was supposed to be the word "login." The baby network got through "l" and "o" without trouble, but crashed at "g."
By the end of 1969, the Internet was four computers old. Within that fledgling circuitry lay the groundwork for what would become, just a few decades later, one of the most important tools in human history.A couple of years before that, 1966-67, I was an apprentice tech writer at what was then called the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. I well recall the anxiety when the new CDC 6600 computer was installed; it required weeks of testing and debugging, and we got truly dirty looks from the technicians if we dared to look in and see what was going on.
The CDC 6600 took up a large room full of equipment, and we bragged that a few years earlier it would have required the space taken up by the Empire State Building. Within a few months of its launch, someone was playing Space War on it, a simple computer game that ate up untold thousands of taxpayers' dollars.
Meanwhile, others at the Rad Lab were trying to figure out how to use computers to inform the scientists about what was being published in their fields. In effect, they were groping their way toward Google. The idea of using computers to communicate never crossed our minds in the mid-1960s. That was what telephones were for.
Happy birthday, Internet. And thank you very much.