Humble Beginnings

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog, where I can ramble and muse about the Internet, on the Internet. Today’s topic: the formation of the world wide web.

First of all, can I just say it blows my mind how these huge machines that can take up multiple rooms only had the capability of a simple calculator? Reading Where Wizards Stay Up Late¬†was an internal battle for me because my brain kept picturing a modern day computer with a much different purpose and overall meaning. What was once a luxurious and complex hunk of machinery is now accessible to grubby toddler fingertips, professional adults, and everyone in between. I wonder how did they compress all the functions of a computer into a thin MacBook Air? Where do all the tangible parts and cords go? When I imagine the Internet, I picture technicolor waves and the “packets” that Davies deliberately named as small Minecraft-esque cubes zooming through infinitely looping tunnels. It was difficult enough to get computers to speak the same language, but it is even harder to visualize it and fabricate something that has never existed before.

In my opinion, the innovative and loose academic environment that ARPA curated was the perfect breeding ground for something as ingenious as the Internet. Every scientist they took under their wing was given freedom of direction and trusted with a good amount of funding and faith. Since ARPA was a product of the Defense Department, it was often associated with the military; this reminds me of the Manhattan Project which was an inherent component of World War II. Both ARPA and the Manhattan Project brought together some of the world’s best scientists and gave them free reign to construct products with larger political and ethical implications than previously thought. By solving their dilemma of simply making their product work, they unlocked a plethora of questions about how we should use it and whether we could even handle it.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the Internet is just as dangerous as atomic bombs, but yes, I am actually. Essentially, they both pose risks in unique ways. While nuclear world destruction perpetually looms in the air, the Internet is an active part of our daily lives. In the 6th grade, the Internet was simply a portal to coolmath-games.com, but now it is an open door to my privacy and safety.

Although I’ve taken a rather pessimistic and dark stance, I truly believe the ends justify the means. What J.C.R. Licklider envisioned decades ago has blossomed into a thriving entity in itself. Each day I am learning how to use the Internet effectively, but in the spirit of scientific discovery, it’s going to take a lot of trial and error.

One thought on “Humble Beginnings

  1. Great first post…you have clearly gotten into the Zen of the class.

    One of the things that continually amazes me about the Internet (and its predecessors like the ARPAnet) is how the folks who built it had no idea of what they were doing. If you had told any of the early creators of the ARPAnet that they were starting something that would connect billions of people, they wouldn’t have believed you. The World Wide Web was started to physicists could share papers; it has become a whole lot more than that now.

    What also gets lost in the history is how much fun it was to build this kind of thing. When done right, research and building things like this is really enjoyable. Finding things that are this much fun to do is part of what makes innovation work.

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