Plyojump - Computer History

Computer History - Networks (1845-present), and The Internet Era (1994-Present)

Additional Resource at The Beacon -

"The Victorian Internet" by Tom Standage

"In the nineteenth century there were no televisions, aeroplanes, computers, or spacecraft; neither were there antibiotics, credit cards, microwave ovens, compact discs, or mobile phones. There was, however, an Internet..."

Structure of the Victorian Internet:

Printing Telegraph Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse as an old man, along with an advanced version of a typing/printing telegraphic system

It's been done before...excerpts from "The Victorian Internet"

Trying to "multitask"
One New York businessman complained in a speech in 1868: "The merchant goes home after a day of hard work ... to a late dinner, trying amid the family circle to forget business, when he is interrupted by a telegram from London, directing, perhaps, the purchase in San Francisco of 20,000 barrels of flour, and the poor man must dispatch his dinner as hurriedly as possible in order to send off his message to California. The businessman of the present day must be continually on the jump ... He must use the telegraph."

IMing and online chats
"During quiet times and after business hours, operators on-line would break out the IMs and chatrooms. According to a contemporary account, "Stories are told, opinions exchanged, and laughs enjoyed, just as if the participants were sitting together at a club." One after-hours "meeting" was shared by hundreds of telegraph employees in 33 offices along a 700-mile "wire".

Some of these "tales of the wires" would be reported in newspapers - but the inventor Thomas Edison noted that far more went unpublished because they were too rude or
sexually explicit. The more things change, eh?

Even the so-called modern phenomenon of the socially awkward "internet nerd" dates back to those days: telegraphers in remote outposts often preferred on-line chat to socialising in real life with the locals.

Online Romance
By the 1870s, a third of the operators at the main telegraph office in New York were female. In Britain, female telegraphers were usually the daughters of clergymen, tradesmen and government clerks, and were typically between 18 and 30 years old and unmarried. As a result, in most offices, female operators were segregated from the men...but they were in contact with their male colleagues over the network throughout the working day. "Ordinarily an operator can tell a woman the moment he hears her working the wire," wrote one telegrapher in 1891. "He tells by her touch on the key. Women, as a rule, do not touch the key of their instruments as firmly as men do."

Many working relationships flowered into online romances. Some flourished; others ended when the operators met for the first time. A novel, Wired Love, about an online courtship, was published in 1879 - beating today's email romance novels by over a century. In the 1840s there was the first online wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York.

In one famous case, the telegraph operator at an Army base in Arizona was unable to get leave to attend his own wedding in California, so he invited his fiancee to the camp and they were then married by their chosen minister, who was 650 miles away. The manager of the California and Arizona lines arranged for all of them to be cleared so that the marriage could go ahead smoothly, and invited all operators along the line to "attend" the wedding. At the appropriate time, the couple tapped out "I do" in Morse code. For years afterwards, the groom would be greeted by strangers who turned out to be operators who'd been present at his wedding.


2008 1865
Internet = "Information Superhighway" Telegraph = "Highway of Thought"
Bits and bytes (1s and 0s) Dots and Dashes (1s and 0s)
Social Networks like Facebook link people into worldwide chats Up to 1500 telegraph operators at a time participated in worldwide "chats" via the telegraph
Due to network limitations on cellphones, users develop their own cryptic code of "smileys" and abbreviated words Due to network limitations of telegraph transmissions, users develop their own cryptic code of "smileys" and abbreviated words
The Internet, by linking everyone in a worldwide network, is expected to promote peace and democracy (think YouTube and Iran) News of the first transatlantic cable in 1858 led to predictions of world peace and an end to old prejudices and hostilities
Presidential Candiate Barak Obama uses the Internet to reach his supporters. Working through websites, social networking sites, and virtual worlds, the received an enormous amount of support and contributions

Abraham Lincoln's "T-Mails" 1860

"...Abraham Lincoln became president of a divided nation during a period of both technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time. No leader in history had ever possessed such a powerful tool. As a result Lincoln had to learn for himself how to use the power of electronic messages. Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln developed his own model of electronic communications -- an approach that echoes today in our use of email..."

Internet allows money to be sent via the network, creating e-commerce and online shopping Telegraphs allow banks to send money via wire, leading to the foundation of Western Union (think "moneygram")
Stories and articles warn of the dangers of online romance, and weddings are in virtual worlds like Second Life Stories and articles warn of the dangers of "racy words" exchanged via the telegraph, and online weddings are performed
You've Got Mail (1998)- a movie about an email-based Romance "Wired Love" (1879) - a movie about a telegraph-based romance
People check their Twitter feeds and "friends lists" 6 times a day Postal mail is so efficient that people send and receive written letters six times a day from their friends.
Online gaming is popular worldwide, especially in Asia One if the first uses for the telegraph was to play online chess and checkers matches between distant opponents.

"The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forrester (1909) - maybe it's not "all good"

Read the complete short story at:


What happened to the Victorian Internet?

What if?

Answer: "Steampunk" - a vision of a computerized world, 19th-century style

Steampunk computer

Steampunk USB Steampunk PDA


Origin of the modern Internet

In 1962Dr. J.C.R. Licklider , a computer visionary, and a key figure in developing ARPANET. He realized that computers and networks were becoming powerful enough to create Vannenr Bush's vision of the Memex

Lickliter arpanet

It seems reasonable to envision, for a time 10 or 15 years hence, a 'thinking center' that will incorporate the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval.

The picture readily enlarges itself into a network of such centers, connected to one another by wide-band communication lines and to individual users by leased-wire services. In such a system, the speed of the computers would be balanced, and the cost of the gigantic memories and the sophisticated programs would be divided by the number of users.

-  J.C.R. Licklider, Man-Computer Symbiosis, 1960.


Key technologies for creating a network with no center

Interface Message Processorinternet node router
1969 Interface Message Processor - an early Internet router, and a modern consumer home router (2010)


Early Internet

The battle for openness

Internet design was always pushed in the direction of "openness"

Growth of the Internet in the 1970s and 1980s

A text-based world that nevertheless introduced

Structure of the Internet Internet 1980s

A MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), and early multiuser virtual world


Movie of the Internet being used in 1981 to create an "e-newspaper"


The BBS (Bulletin Board System) - a competitor to the Internet

The Internet's "near death" experience


Al Gore 1990s

1991-1993 - The rise of the Web

A complete history of the web:

Concept map by Tim Berners-Lee for the Web in 1989

web concept map Tim Berners-Lee

Link to the original proposal


Mosaic - the first graphical web browser (1993)

Mosaic 1993 beta

Marc Andressen
Marc Andressen, who created Mosaic as a summer school project at the University of Illinois in 1993


Netscape - the first commercial browser/dotcom company (1994)

Netscape original

Netscape was co-founded by Marc Andressen and Jim Clark (from Silicon Graphics). Their company pioneered many of the features of a modern Internet company

Ancient web browser downloads -

The dawn of the "Dotcom" era (1994)

Link to Kaleidospace Home Page - Spring, 1994
Kaleidospace (later renamed

Alternate link

kaleidospace wheel Creating Internet Entertainment
A segment of a 1990s Kaleidospace page, along with the first book on Internet Entertainment, 1996

Web pages from the 1990s

Yahoo 1996
Yahoo! in 1996

Hotmail in 1996

Napster in 1999

See billions of web pages from 1996 and later at


The Internet (and other networks) during 1990s

Internet 1995


What was a dotcom?

A dot-com was an Internet business which relied on harnessing "network effects". It operated losing money while trying to build market share or "mindshare". The companies promised that they could build enough brand-awareness in the new world of the Internet to begin charging for their services later. During the loss period the companies relied on millions of dollars of venture capital to fuel their operations. Historically, the dot-com boom can be seen as similar to a number of other technology-inspired booms of the past including railroads in the 1840s, automobiles and radio in the 1920s and transistor electronics in the 1950s.

dotcom nasdaq wired 1990s netscape

ebay yahoo pets dotcom license



The Dotcom Crash - 2001-2003

Accordint to George Stalk of Boston Consulting, 34% of the 109 pure-play dot-com fatalities were because of business models that didn't bring in enough revenue or were burdened with too many costs to have even a chance at survival.

nasdaq icon

The rise and fall of the technology-heavy NASDAQ, and a the icon for, a casulty of the dotcom crash

Some companies significant in the dotcom bubble (Wikipedia)


The Social Network era - post 2004

Tne "new dotcoms" - which actually made money (search and social networking)

google myspace facebook


The Internet in 2010


Mobile devices like the iPhone become a primary means of communication

Ron PaulObama internet

"Outsider" politicians like Barak Obama and Ron Paul use the Internet to gather votes and money. Obama becomes our first "Internet President"

internet topology

Internet topology (connections of all the sub-networks in the world) Credit: Bill Cheswick, Lumeta Corp


Internet Traffic -

Future Internet Trends

Interplanetary Internet

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