A RUNDOWN ON THE HISTORY OF THE GLOBAL
NETWORK THAT KEEPS THE PLANET CONNECTED
Believe it or not, the invention of the telegraph gave rise to what we now call the Internet. Using a telegraph key, a message could be sent with a series of taps and pauses, similar to Morse code, over wires spanning great distances to a receiving telegraph operator. Once decoded, the message would be given, for a fee of course, to its recipient.
When the telephone replaced the telegraph, its characteristic “dits” and “dahs” faded away in favor of voice communication, opening society up to a message system that was the harbinger of today’s global communication network.
The Internet, or Internetwork as it was initially known, started as little more than a network of large computers connecting primarily universities and government agencies. By the early 1980s, however, the beginnings of the commercial Internet began to emerge. In order for newly interconnected computers to communicate more reliably, a set of standards had to be developed. This resulted in the creation of a suite of communication protocols known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or more commonly, TCP/IP. Look for a future edition of Tech Block 42 to learn more about how TCP/IP keeps the Internet running smoothly.
But in order to make the World Wide Web (WWW) truly accessible worldwide, two more things were needed: another Internet protocol known as Hypertext Transmission Protocol (HTTP), and something called a web browser, which gave anyone with a personal computer (PC) the ability to “surf” the web.
The latter half of the 1990’s saw the rush for both private and commercial businesses to have a web presence. From 1999 through 2001, the so-called “DOT-COM” era, an explosion of websites proliferated across the Internet. Anyone with a commercial idea, or who sought digital entrepreneurship, created a website. As a result, the exchange of information gave rise to a new era known as the Digital Information Age.
Beginning in 2002, the Internet, now more commonly called the web, began to evolve into a new model in which interactivity and user-edited content were possible. Companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and PayPal became the behemoths that now dominate the web.
Learning how to navigate the web is actually quite easy. At the top of every browser is something called the “Address Bar” or “URL Location Bar.” Typing the address of a website into this field causes the browser to retrieve (referred to as a GET request, as in, go get this page) the website’s homepage. One thing to keep in mind whenever you are “surfing” the web is make sure you see a lock symbol on the left side of the Address Bar. Additionally, the characters, “https://” should precede the name of the website you are requesting. Why? The “s” in “https” lets you know that you are on a secure site. It is the reason we are able to do financial transactions on the Internet. The “https://” ensures that your browser is using an encryption protocol called Transport Layer Security (TLS). In short, websites use TLS to secure the communications between their servers and your web browser.
Speaking of web browsers, there are quite a few available these days. The more popular ones include Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and Brave. The browser you choose depends primarily on your personal preference. Can’t decide? No problem. You can even use multiple browsers simultaneously on your device. Want to learn more? Future editions of Tech Block 42 will delve into the differences between various browsers. So, stay tuned.