If someone asked you about the Internet would you tell them that it is the World Wide Web? This isn’t really true, and you will learn why in this lesson as we look at the parts that make up the Internet.

What Is the Internet?

Can you remember a time when you could not tweet, post, email, blog, snap, or like someone online? Many people today have grown up being able to do all of these things. But there was a time when none of this was possible. What makes this possible today is what we call the Internet.

According to Webopedia, the Internet is a worldwide system of connected networks. Each network consists of millions of computers, servers, routers, and printers. You can think of the Internet like the telephone network or the interstate highway system. You may have even heard people refer to the Internet as the Information Super Highway. The networks that make up the Internet may be owned and maintained by different companies but messages and data move across all of them without regard to ownership because they all use the same protocol or language to communicate.

Who Created the Internet?

According to Hobbes’ Internet Timeline, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit. While this might not sound serious, this happened during a time in American history called the Cold War. It was at this time the threat of nuclear war was at its greatest. The thought was, if the Soviets could launch a satellite into space, then they might be able to launch a nuclear bomb and hit the United States, destroying all of our communication lines.

The Internet began in 1969 as a research project funded by the Department of Defense with a goal of creating a means of communication beside telephone lines. The first network was called ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency NETwork). The focus was on communicating in the event part of the network was disabled. This early network was the precursor to the Internet. It was limited in function but launched the idea of a different method of communication.

How Does Information Move Across the Internet?

Information moves across the Internet much like UPS delivers packages. When you order something, it could be boxes in multiple packages because one box would be too large to deliver. A message or webpage is broken down into packets to be delivered to your computer. Each packet has addressing information so that it knows where it is going. Your message or webpage could be broken down into many packets and each packet will have the address and the number of the packet so that when it gets to its final destination your computer or email server will know how to put the packet together to make a meaningful message.

In the beginning, most information moved across telephone lines using a modem and dial up connection. This method of connection, slow and unreliable, is still available. Today, though, we have connections, such as ISDN – Integrated Service Digital Network, DSL – Digital Subscriber Line, T1 and T3 lines, that provide faster speeds. You can also get the Internet over your local cable TV lines and by satellite. No matter how you connect to the Internet, it has likely become a vital part of your everyday life.

What Makes Up the Internet?

For information to move across the Internet, it takes hardware and an agreed upon set of protocols. The hardware needed would be computers, cables, routers, servers, cell phone towers, satellites, smartphones and a variety of other mobile devices. Anything that has the capability to send or receive data would be considered a connection on the Internet. Your computer or smartphone would be considered an end point – the final destination. Cables, routers, servers, cell phone towers, and satellites are nodes on the network, that pass information along on its way to its final destination.

Protocols are sets of rules that machines follow to complete tasks. It is because of these protocols that a variety of devices can connect to the Internet and communicate seamlessly, and the protocols assure the information sent gets to its final destination in the correct order.

Lesson Summary

When scientist first designed ARPANET, or Advanced Research Project Agency NETwork, also the first network, they could not have imagined how it would grow to be in every home and used by millions of people, known as the Internet, or a worldwide system of connected networks.

ARPANET started as a simple means of communication in the United States but has grown to be a worldwide collection of webpages, emails, chat rooms, and newsgroups. The concept that started almost 50 years ago, still works on the same concepts today of breaking data into packets, or data broken down into sendable material, to move around the globe. This process includes several different components, including protocols, which are sets of rules that machines follow to complete tasks and nodes, which are spots in a network that pass information along its way to its final destination, like satellites, cell phone towers, routers and servers.

Business, education, and socialization has all changed because of the increased use and growth of the Internet. No matter how you use the Internet, it has opened an entirely new world of communication for everyone.