Sunday, March 18, 2007

Whence Came the Web?

An editor recently told me that whenever he gets a book manuscript--or even a table of contents--that offers a history of the Internet or Web, he tells the author to remove it, because the story is always the same, and there's no way to check the source.

Just about every history of the Internet I've seen or heard is the same. Everyone tells the same story about ARPAnet, and it's been told so many times that it's almost as if it came to us set in stone. In fact, the conventional history of the Internet could be codified into something like this:

In the beginning there was no Connection. Then—Lo!—ARPAnet was brought forth upon the land by the scholars, and among themselves they learned to Connect. The Department of Defense took note and said, “Let there be DARPAnet!”

And the DoD saw that this was good, and said “Henceforth, let only scholars and soldiers be Connected,” and it was so, for the DoD was mighty, and all feared its wrath. TCP and IP were created, and the word was “Internet,” and it was good.

But the people, led by the merchants of the land, were sorely vexed, and demanded that they, too, be Connected ...

And so on. That's how conventional wisdom has it that the Internet began. Add a bit about a stranger from a far land to explain the Web, and the Online Genesis is complete!

The only problem with all this is that it's not true. Oh, certainly ARPAnet did some of the fundamental research in developing computer communications, but saying that ARPAnet is the Internet is like saying two wheels and an axle make an automobile.

The real story requires a book to tell. I'm writing it now ...
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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