Week 1: How the Internet Started

To me, the internet is fascinating. It’s something that is so integral to society, yet no one really saw any value to it. But then again, that’s how many startups begin: with an idea that not many people really see. Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, says in his book Zero to One: Notes on Startups and How to Shape the Future, “There are some things in this world which are so blatantly obvious that we just miss it. The idea may be simple, but it consists of many quirks and intricacies, adding a facade to the idea. Those who can see past this facade can see the future. Those who remove the facade and act on the idea, however, are the ones who shape the future.” Internet pioneers like Bob Taylor not only saw past this facade, but worked on creating the internet we know of today.

I was fascinated by the fact that the internet spurred as a result of government involvement in R&D to compete with the Soviets. With the Soviet’s Union launch of Sputnik, the United States began to fear that they may have been lacking in the defense and technology industries. In response to its launch, the country’s top scientists were collected to work together as a military unit–something that they were unfamiliar with. To compete with the Soviets and really succeed, this research group could not function as a military unit. Therefore, research groups like ARPA begin to switch into startup mode–like nowadays–to generate innovation by giving them freedom to explore specific areas of interest. One day, I want to be a part of a startup and take this similar approach to continue shaping the future and the future of the internet.

Considering my passion in entrepreneurship, I really valued the advice about making a startup team. The tips were:

  1. Find the best talent in areas that you may lack in
  2. Don’t overload one side–be balanced
  3. Ensure good leadership and collaboration among all parts of the organization

This advice really speaks to me because I always viewed entrepreneurship as a one-man pursuit. I learned that to design the future, whether it be the internet or a new food recipe, a team works best when the above criteria is satisfied. Personally, I have been trying to step foot in the entrepreneurship scene here at Harvard and this profound advice will hopefully allow me to build an effective team.

One last takeaway for me from this conversation was how the network of IMPs and computers worked. Although oversimplified to cater to my understanding, huge (ancient) computers would communicate with each other using IMPs. My original, intuitive understanding about how computers would communicate over long distances was through a compiler that would read the source code and draw native elements of the code to satisfy the system’s other language to compile in the same machine code of 1’s and 0’s powered by transistors. However, a translator is not really the most effective method. To solve the problem of connecting these standalone computers, IMPs, or Intermediate Protocols, would read code that is written specifically for it to build a universal language that IMPs would communicate in. By using these IMPs to communicate with each other, a network is built that allows for quick communication, a lack of congestion, low-costs because of shared cables and an easier means to communicate. These cables would carry electrical impulses, or sound, of varying tones which would correlate to different machine codes being executed.


  1. Mike Smith

    September 9, 2016 @ 8:48 pm


    Great personal insights! I might add a bit to your thoughts on entrepreneurship, based on my experiences. You’re absolutely right that it is very, very hard to be a one-man show and have impact in today’s complex world. The same idea often springs up in multiple places at the same time because the world happens to be ready for that idea at that time. We saw that with the ARPANET. And being a one-man band at that point is almost sure to lose against the multi-piece bands working elsewhere, which we also saw in the readings.

    But I do think that there is a one-man piece to these world-changing ideas. It is almost always one or two people that are the force behind the idea, who believe deeply in it, who can’t stop thinking about it, continuing to shape it until it is right. The best of these individuals convince the team that the trip from idea to working prototype is worthwhile. This isn’t a one-time activity, and that work is often very lonely at times.

    I’m happy to talk more about this if my comment didn’t make sense.

  2. DeveloperDev

    September 17, 2016 @ 4:35 pm


    A lot has happened since Tim Berners Lee hypothetically created the internet. From “hello world” to the evolution of php, sql, javascript and databases.

    Really enjoyed your post, looking to applying to Harvard next year so thanks for posting.

  3. school of applied science

    November 11, 2016 @ 4:44 am


    i also to check out new information on your site. Brief but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this one

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