The Internet, urban myths and car parts

Many books written about the internet indicate that its development was spurred on by the perceived need of the American Government to develop a communication system that would be sufficiently robust to survive a nuclear war with Russia. This led to the development of ARPANET (which was the precursor to the internet as we now know it) during the cold war years of the 1970s

As appealing a story this might make, it is in fact totally untrue. The main motivation behind the development of the prototype internet was to enable scientists to access computers remotely. At that time powerful computers were a scarce resource and it made no sense to travel vast distances to gain access to them. To be able to access those computers directly from your desktop made much greater sense.

Of course nowadays the computer sitting on your desk is likely to be far more powerful than the super computers that ARPANET was set up to access. That is progress.

Forty years on from the inception of ARPANET the internet itself has become a cauldron cooking up and distributing urban myths and legends. A recent one concerning the origins of the internet is that Al Gore has made the preposterous claim that it was he who created it. Of course this is nonsense, he made no such claim. What he did do however was to ensure that network development was well funded by the US government.

One important thing Al Gore actually did was to support the Internet Infrastructure Act in 1992 which led to commercialisation of the internet.

Now, thanks in a way to Al Gore, and his support of what he termed the information superhighway, we can sit at our desks in the UK purchase car partsfrom America.

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