“What is the precursor to the Internet?” I am often asked. In part that depends on what you mean by “precursor,” because several systems could claim that distinction. Online bulletin board systems, for instance. Or even packet radio, if your definition is a system which allowed people in disparate locations to communicate by typing on a terminal. But most people who remember a time before the Internet consider the answer to “What is the precursor to the Internet?” to be the ARPANET.
As Danny Goodman explains in his excellent book SpamWars, back in 1962 (yes, more than 40 years ago!), “experiments proved the concept of connecting computers to each other across a linkup orginally using a regular telephone line. With much funding help through the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), several universities and a few private corporations worked towared the goal of connecting multiple systems to allow researchers from one facility to run applications and access data at another facility in collaboration.”
While the concept was proven, it would be another seven years before it was successfully put into effect, and then on a very limited basis.
“In 1969, the network built with ARPA funding, called ARPANET, successfully connected the first two, and then four, computers at different locations around the western United States,” explains Goodman. Those first four locations were…
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