Internet Pioneers

This web site profiles ten individuals whose work has contributed significantly to the development of the Internet. It is my master's project.

This site is not intended to be an exhaustive history, nor is it suggested that these ten "pioneers" are the only individuals who have made meaningful contributions.


During World War II, a man named Vannevar Bush Vannevar Bushfacilitated a relationship between the federal government, the American scientific community, and business. After the war, he helped institutionalize that relationship. As a result, organizations like the National Science Foundation and Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), were created. It was at ARPA that the Internet first began. Bush also wrote a paper entitled, "As We May Think," in 1945. In this paper he described a theoretical storage and retrieval device, called a "memex," which would use a system remarkably similar to what we now call hypertext.


The Advanced Research Projects Agency was created by President Dwight Eisenhower after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite in October, 1957. The Soviet launch caused a crisis in American confidence. ARPA was formed to ensure that America would not again be caught off guard on the technological frontier. In 1962, J.C.R. LicklidJ.C.R. Lickliderer went to work for ARPA. Licklider, a psychologist and computer scientist, believed that computers could be used to augment human thinking and suggested that a computer network be established to allow ARPA research contractors to communicate information with each other efficiently. Licklider did not actually build his proposed network, but his idea lived on when he left ARPA in 1964.

Bob Taylor, who was the director of ARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) from 1966-1969, wanted to find an efficiLarry Robertsent way to allow various IPTO contractors to share computing resources. He picked up on Licklider's old idea of a network and hired Larry Roberts to head the project. Roberts would be the main architect of a new computer network that would be known as the ARPANET. Thus the beginnings of the Internet were underway.


The architecture of the ARPANET relied heavily on the ideas of Paul Baran who co-invented a new system known as packet-switching.( A British computer scientist, Donald Davies, independently came up with his own theories of packet-switching). Baran also suggested that the network be designed as a distributed network. This design, which included a high level of redundancy, would make the network more robust in the case of a nuclear attack. This is probably where the myth that the Internet was created as a communications network for the event of a nuclear war comes from. As a distributed network the ARPANET definitely was robust, and possibly could have withstood a nuclear attack, but the chief goal of its creators was to facilitate normal communications between researchers.

The ARPANET connected large mainframe computers together via smaller gateway computers, or routers, known as Interface Message Processors (IMPs). On September 1, 1969, the first IMP arrived at UCLA. A month later the second one was installed at Stanford. The UC Santa Barbara and then the University of Utah.

A True Internet

The ARPANET continued to grow. Networking technology continued to Bob Metcalfedevelop as people like Bob Metcalfe, who invented Ethernet, and Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse among oDouglas Engelbartther things, pushed the technology's envelope. Other computer networks, like Hawaii's ALOHANET and the satellite linked network SATNET, began to spring up. Soon the were many different computer networks all over the world, but thVint Cerfey could not communicate with one another because they used different protocols, or standards for transmitting data. Then in 1974, Vint Cerf (known to some as the "father of the Internet"), along with Bob Kahn, wrote a new protocol, TCP (Transmission Control Protocol, that would become the accepted standard. The implementation of TCP allowed the various networks to connect into a true "internet."

The Internet became widely popular in the computer and scientific research communities. By the 1980's most universities and research-oriented institutions had computers that were connected to the Internet.

The World Wide Web

In the 1970's, Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext," to describe aTim Berners-Lee system for nonlinear linking of documents directly inspired by the works of Vannevar Bush. Using hypertext, Tim Berners-Lee created a new way of interacting with the Internet in 1990-the World Wide Web. His system made it much easier to share and find data on the Internet. The World Wide Web was further augmented by others who created new software and technologies to make it more functional. For instance, Marc Andreesen created a new browser called Mosaic and then led the team that created Netscape navigator.

The World Wide Web led to widespread popularity for the Internet. Today the web continues to grow and change in sometimes unpredictable ways.


*New list of suggested books for further reading.*




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