I was introduced to the internet when I got my first computer in 2001. Having had my first child, I decided to treat myself to a computer (mainly because everyone else had one). I was amazed at how much the world had to offer over a phone line! A little modem controlled the entire internet to our house and took over the house telephone too. This little modem would dial up the internet and after several awkward squawks, it would finally spring into life. Because the computer had to use the house phone line to connect to the internet, nothing could connect in or out while online. If anyone in the house did pick the receiver up, the internet would cut off at once. This would then lead to many arguments regarding time spent on the internet or on the phone!

I Felt Spoilt

I remember feeling spoilt when I got the computer, the world had suddenly opened up and I could peek inside. The children of today will never know the struggle before the internet with things like homework, revision, shopping, etc. They’ve grown up with the gadgets necessary to have the world at their fingertips via the internet. But where did the internet come from? Well, the idea of the internet was around way longer than I or my parents for that matter.

Nikola Tesla

Born on the 10th of July 1856 in the Austrian Empire, Tesla was the fourth child of Milutin and Đuka. Tesla’s Father was a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and his mother was an inventor and Tesla’s inspiration. In Đuka’s spare time, whilst raising her five children, she invented tools and small electrical devices. Milutin wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, however, his mother encouraged his interest in science. Nikola achieved his dream of going to the Polytechnic Institute at Graz in Austria. At first, he was a straight A student, however, his mental health took a downward spiral, and he suffered a nervous breakdown. Having left the University because of his mental health issues, he took some time off to recover.

Smithsonian Magazine. (2013).

Alternating Current

At the age of 25, Tesla worked temporarily for Edison, however, a misunderstanding regarding Edison’s motors led to them parting ways. Having left Edison’s, Tesla had to take up some manual labour for a short while in order to survive financially. Tesla then invented the AC (alternating current) which is still used worldwide today. He set up his company, Tesla Electric Company, and worked with George Westinghouse to supply long-distance power. This was something Edison, thus far, had been unsuccessful in achieving. Tesla progressed upwards from there by designing the first hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls. The following year his invention was implemented to power a complete city, and finally worked its way around the world. Tesla is also well known for inventing the Tesla Coil, this is also still widely used today.

Wikipedia. (undated)

The World Wireless System

In 1898, Nikola Tesla hypothesized the World Wireless System. He believed that if he could generate enough power, he could send cable-free messages around the world. Not only that, but he believed that anyone, anywhere in the world, should be able to listen to music or anything within moments of it being transmitted. He wanted to accomplish this by transmitting electricity through the world, using the earth and its atmosphere as a conductor of some sort. Although Tesla had planted the seed by inventing this theory, he was unable to see it through before his death on 7th January 1943.

Wikipaedia (2014)

The Enemy Attack

In the 1950s, the American military were very concerned that communication could be intercepted by Soviet spies. They needed a top-secret way to communicate that couldn’t be compromised. The Soviets secretly detonated their first atomic bomb on August 29th, 1949. It also later became clear that they were armed with more nuclear explosives and had a plane that could get to the United States via the arctic. Unfortunately, the United States wasn’t equipped to handle a nuclear attack, therefore they needed to come up with a plan. The American military and the American Air Force collaborated with the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Massachusetts to provide an analysis. It became obvious that radical improvements were needed, therefore a committee of eight scientists was formed by Chairman George Valley.

Air Defence Systems Engineering Committee

The committee was called the Air Defence Systems Engineering Committee (ADSEC). Their weekly meetings managed to narrow the extreme vulnerabilities down to the radar not detecting the enemy aircraft in time. It was determined that the enemy would only need to fly low for a small percentage of the journey. This meant that they would only be noticed at the very last minute which would be too late to defend the base. Therefore, they needed a quicker means to identify incoming aircraft. Valley had a virtually impossible task ahead of him. Having inquired with colleagues and friends, it became apparent that the answer to his question was on the same campus.


Whirlwind was a real-time computer that was designed and built by Jay Wright Forrester and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was originally designed for the Navy as a flight simulator capable of responding to the pilots’ actions in real-time. He designed the ‘Random-Access Magnetic Core Memory’, which was used to store information. All in all, the project took three years to complete. By this time, the project was abandoned by the Navy, and taken over by the Air Force to help with Valley and the ADSEC project. Valley was correct in his decision to employ the Whirlwind for the project as it proved to be a success. This success would soon result in the development of the SAGE.

Digital Radar Relay

John Harrington, a scientist at the Cambridge Air Forces Research Facility, developed the ‘Digital Radar Relay (DRR). By inventing a way of transmitting radar information over the users’ existing telephone lines, John Harrington invented the first modem. The modem was created to convert between analogue and digital signals. ADSEC implemented John Harrington’s DRR when tracking the radars and sending them to Forrester’s Whirlwind computer. This was a great success and Forrester joined Valley’s committee. After much deliberation, funding for a laboratory at MIT, to assess the air defence problems, was granted.


In 1957, IBM began building Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE). SAGE has had many names during its developments, those include Project Lincoln and Lincoln Transition System to name a few. By 1963, SAGE Air Defence System was a large system of computers that could detect enemy aircraft early on. It was able to detect the enemy and send the data to the operator to decide the next course of action. One downfall of SAGE was the fact that it was Semi-Automatic, therefore there always needed to be a human operator controlling it. What they needed was a fully automated system.


Having worked on the SAGE Air Defence System, Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (Lick for short) invented the internet’s predecessor. Lick recognized SAGE’s shortfalls and aimed to bridge the gap by inventing The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). American Psychologist and Computer Scientist J.C.R Licklider used all of his training and work experience to develop a computer networking theory. This theory became the ARPANET, and it’s the theory on which today’s internet is still based. Robert Taylor became a significant person when developing the ARPANET and recognized that there should be a single language protocol that can be used for all computers. 

Wikipedia. (undated). 

Recognizing this need, Robert Taylor secured funding from the U.S Defence Department ARPA in 1969. Originally used by the government it was then employed by the military. In 1969, the first Packet-Switching was theorized to allow data to be transferred through network links in small ‘packet-sized’ chunks.


On October 29th, 1969, a computer laboratory at UCLA sent a message with the word ‘login’ to Stanford, through the ARPANET. Unfortunately, Stanford only received the first letters ‘lo’ however this was only the beginning. Robert Khan and Vinton Cerf created the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) in the 1970’s. ARPANET adopted it on the 1st of January 1983, and it became the crucial element for the internet. The TCP/IP model helps to create standardised communications between hosts on the internet.

The World Wide Web

London-born computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1990. Having grown up with both parents in the computer science industry, Tim was destined to follow in their footsteps. Tim graduated from Oxford University and became a Software Engineer at CERN in a laboratory in Switzerland. He noticed that there was a gap that needed bridging, and this could be achieved by using hypertext. His foundations consisted of three main technologies: HTML; URI and HTTP. By 1991, the public was given the opportunity to explore the online community. It became so popular, that Tim decided to allow the public free unlimited access to his work. Tim Berners-Lee created a masterpiece that people worldwide could benefit from, whether it was work or leisure related. Having realized what benefits his work would present, he chose to give his services to the public for free.

Our Sources

Gilbert King. (2013). The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and His Tower. [Online]. Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 26th September 2022].

Wikipedia. (2014). World Wireless System. [Online]. Wikipedia. Last Updated: 2022. Available at: [Accessed 26 September 2022].

Wikipedia. (undated). ARPANET. [Online]. Wikipedia. Last Updated: undated. Available at: [Accessed 26 September 2022].

Wikipedia. (undated). Alternating Current. [Online]. Wikipedia. Last Updated: 2022. Available at: [Accessed 26th September 2022].