Hardly any waking moment goes by when I'm not using the Internet in some way. That got me to thinking about it, my 30+ years in IT notwithstanding. Life as we know it would not be possible without the Internet. First, a short history might be in order.
[Some of the following was paraphrased from Wikipedia]
Early packet switching networks [a "packet" of data is what computers use to communicate with each other and around a network] such as the NPL network, ARPANET, Merit Network, and CYCLADES in the early 1970's researched and provided data networking. The ARPANET project and international working groups led to the development of protocols for inter-networking, in which multiple separate networks could be joined into a network of networks, which produced various standards.
Research was published in 1973 that evolved into the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), the two protocols of the Internet protocol suite. [You've probably seen "TCP/IP"]
In the early 1980's the National Science Foundation funded national supercomputing centers at several universities in the United States and provided interconnectivity in 1986 with the NSFNET project, which created network access to these supercomputer sites for research and academic organizations in the United States. International connections to NSFNET, the emergence of architecture such as the Domain Name System, and the adoption of TCP/IP internationally marked the beginnings of the Internet.
Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the very late 1980s. The ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990 and the NSFNET was decommissioned in 1995, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic. Commercial entities began marketing Internet access, content design, telephone and communications platforms, search engines and sales platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and all the other hugely successful web companies all owe that success to the National Science Foundation and ARPANET.
Today, the uses of the Internet are as numerous as the number of people on the planet. The top dozen most common uses, according to several reporting sites, are email, research, downloading files, discussion groups, interactive games, education and self-improvement, movie/music/video streaming, friendship and dating, electronic newspapers and magazines, politicking, job hunting and shopping. Specific uses can be inferred from this list, such as virtual health appointments, maps and navigation, virtual meetings and teleconferencing, social media and long-distance family interactions.
Like most people, there are times when I think the Internet is a pain, allowing anyone with a brain and access to spout any ideology they see fit, and the brain part may seem lacking. However, just maintaining long-distance family relationships can make all the difference in someone's life. The COVID-19 pandemic and the latest social injustice are two examples of events that bring us together utilizing the one communications service that seems to have been developed for just such occasions.
Would I be a published author without the Internet? Chances are slim. How easily could I share my 30,000 photos with the public? I've often referred to the Internet as my virtual memory, with nearly everything I would ever want to know at my fingertips. My blog would like never have happened either, nor our supplementing our income while living in an RV on the road. Like I said, life like we know it would simply not be possible.
Like always, I received some interesting comments to include in this article. I've edited and paraphrased some of them:
BLSMSS- The Internet makes me happy when it works! We have some tech tools that we use and if our internet isn’t working like it should, nothing gets done.
Kevin, Yvonne & 4 Doxies- We love the availability of information.
Becca R.- The internet makes me happy because we can stay in touch more face-to-face (via screen viewing) with family and friends during our traveling adventures. The internet has been really important during the ‘Rona as it has also allowed working from ‘home’ on a special project for Telehealth patients in need.
See Spot Run RV- The Internet just makes things easier. We use it on a regular basis for directions and to find attractions in new areas. We move to new locations every couple weeks so it helps us find things to explore. The Internet also allows us to share pictures and adventures with friends and family. I can send an explanation of what we did for the week with pictures to 50 people with one click. It can help us find people or places. We can get medical advice or advice on how to fix our coach and other information. It is just very useful.
Habadabeer- How did we tackle maintenance issues before the Internet!? I’ll bet there’s a dozen YouTube how-to videos for every repair I’ve had to make! Water pump, water heater, pilot light, generator starter solenoid, dually differential seals, pleated shades strings... you name it, I found somebody to walk me through the fix! The extensive knowledge base is something younger generations might take for granted, but it sure gives a level of freedom, confidence, and independence to what is already a daunting enterprise. You don’t have to be an expert in all fields, just good enough in the field of information searching to find an expert for your current problem. It’s hard to beat the feeling of accomplishment from completing a challenging task. Like Brian from “RV With Tito” says: “I fixed it my damn self, and it works!”
Elsiesmom (Candy)- My purse used to be the thing. Five minutes after getting rescued from near death I discovered that the smart phone is now the thing and the Internet made the smart phone possible. I love the internet because of the little computer in my pocket that can be replaced and restored within hours if necessary, unlike the contents of a purse which takes apparently two decades, give or take.
MieschLyn- Zoom app gets my vote. Recently had a 99th birthday party/family reunion with my Mom in a nursing home thru Zoom. It was the only way we could visit her! How awesome is that?
Ed R. (OCREF)- The Zoom app is a great tool! From computer internet, to smart phone, I'm able to host and do weekly meetings with all my managers, in my business, my Kiwanis Club members, members, officers from other clubs and my monthly Kiwanis Division, District and Membership meetings. Like I said, I think it's a great tool!
John And Debbie M.- Search engine!
Brenda and Bob- Taking a Fork in the Road- The internet does not make me happy, however having access to local information does. I need a haircut and found a local salon that is open, yeah! We also try and find local hiking/biking trails in the local area that provide behind the scenes natural and geological beauty.
WeMustRV- The Internet allows me to have my office anywhere in this beautiful country.
Mark & Anneliese H.- Well, I have learned a lot since I got a PC and Internet, one being that I learned to spell English and or translate it to German, major feat, plus that is how I got my hubby, he had to fix my total mess all the time, so he said it would be easier if he just married me!
Nadyne H.- I love the internet for the many ways it has enriched my life. *I got to know my husband in the early years of the Internet. We got to know each other for over a year only on the Internet and phone. *When our youngest granddaughter was born in England, she knew who I was by our Internet visits everyday. I even enjoyed hugs and kisses via video visit. *Internet access enables us to work from our RV while we travel all over the US. Without Internet access we couldn't live our dream. There are many other reasons I love the Internet but these are huge! The personal, life enriching ways it has helped me live some dreams.
Ayub B.- The Internet is the kind of net with which we feel simultaneously handcuffed and also free.
John H.- Being able to look up the thing you sort of remember but just can't quite recall more than the tiniest detail.
My closing quote for this topic is from Tom Wolfe, an American journalist, who said, "Once you have speech, you don't have to wait for natural selection! If you want more strength, you build a stealth bomber; if you don't like bacteria, you invent penicillin; if you want to communicate faster, you invent the Internet. Once speech evolved, all of human life changed."
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.