Ancient Indians invented the Internet

The first Internet connection was established on October 29, 1969. Until then, only computers of the same design could communicate with one another. It took years before the Internet penetrated people's everyday lives.

The landing on the moon 50 years ago outshines all other events in a historical review of the revolutionary technical developments of 1969. The Internet's birthday falls in the autumn of 1969. The first internet connection was established on October 29th. And if you look at the economic and political effects of the Internet, they are likely to have been even greater than the US victory in the race to the moon.

The internet started with a crash. At that time, computer science student Charles S. Kline tried to send a message from a computer at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) more than 500 kilometers away. Actually, Kline wanted to transfer the word "LOGIN". But after two letters the system crashed. An hour later, the full message was delivered.

The birthday of the internet

Until then, only computers of the same design could communicate with one another. "50 years ago it was possible for the first time that computers with different operating systems could exchange information," said Prof. Christoph Meinel, Scientific Director at the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) in Potsdam, classifying the historical significance. "Therefore, October 29, 1969 is considered the birthday of the Internet."

While the moon landing would be broadcast live on TV, hardly anyone heard the historic act at UCLA. Even the scientists involved were not clear about the implications. "We knew we were developing important new technology that we expected would be useful to part of the population, but we had no idea how significant the event was," said Kline manager Leonard Kleinrock , later.

It also took years for the internet to penetrate people's everyday lives. When users were able to send each other messages in the form of an e-mail for the first time in 1971, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) only had 15 nodes. Two years later, the first connections to computers outside the USA were established in Oslo and London.

1983: Introduction of the TCP / IP protocol

It then took another ten years until an important milestone in the history of the Internet was reached in order to improve the quality of the data connections: In 1983, the TCP / IP protocol was introduced, which is still used to transmit data today. With this method, the messages are first divided into small packets, then transmitted independently of one another in the network and reassembled at the recipient. The US scientists Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf carried out the fundamental development work on the TCP / IP protocol.

The demands of the military also played a role in the design of the network. The US Department of Defense wanted a network that could withstand large-scale failures following enemy attacks. However, Prof. Meinel from the HPI believes that the military aspect of the development of the Internet is overestimated. The development was located in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was subordinate to the US Department of Defense. "But above all, DARPA was the body within the state administration that was able to support things financially without red tape if they seemed important enough. DARPA let many scientists work with innovative project ideas. And the universities gratefully accepted this money for their research funding. "

The fact that scientists rather than the military defined the properties of the Internet can also be seen from a serious deficiency that plagues it to this day. In the protocol there are virtually no built-in security functions, "actually there is the requirement that everyone trusts everyone on the net," said Grant Blank of the British Oxford Internet Institute of the magazine "New Scientist". This birth defect facilitates crime and espionage to this day, but also disinformation campaigns and hate speech on the Internet.

Significant impulses came first from the USA

Until the beginning of the 1990s, the main impetus for Internet development came primarily from the USA. The Internet's first "killer application", the World Wide Web, was invented in Europe. In 1991, the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee promoted concepts at the European research center CERN in order to be able to exchange data easily and across borders. "However, the first versions of the WWW could still be operated with complicated commands," recalls Meinel.

That changed in 1994 when the first Mosaic browser appeared with a graphical user interface. From this point on, a mouse click was sufficient to ensure that the necessary commands were started in the correct order in the background.

The browser helped GAFA to rise

With the browser, companies like Google and Facebook could then become mega-corporations. The trend intensified with the mobile Internet. The iPhone (2007) showed that everyone can use the Internet, technology simply takes a back seat. This is linked to another trend: "In the meantime, computers are disappearing more and more from our field of vision. They are operated in the cloud and can be used via the Internet," says Prof. Meinel.

Cloud technology, which is dominated by US companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google, also raises questions about data protection and national sovereignty for the HPI director. "I think the state has a duty to set up its own cloud infrastructure for all of its offers," he says. The fact that Germany is doing so badly in this area also has to do with the fact that the framework conditions for the various applications are not well understood and clearly regulated.

"There, for example, bodycam videos of patrol officers are stored on Amazon cloud computers. You have to let that melt on your tongue. The German state is big enough to build its own infrastructure for all of its purposes," says Meinel.

This infrastructure could then also be opened up for other users and applications outside the administration. "In this way we could also manage to set up larger data pools in Germany or Europe. You need these data pools if you want to develop and train applications in the field of artificial intelligence and to keep up with developments in the field of AI internationally."