Fifty years ago, on October 29, 1969, the internet, in the form of ARPANET, went online then subsequently crashed. (Image credit: Pexels)

 

Fifty years ago, Leonard Kleinrock and his colleagues developed ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a packet-switching network that implemented the TCP/IP protocol for the first time. It was a two-node network that was connected between the Network Measurement Center at the University of California (Los Angeles) and the NLS system at SRI International located in Menlo Park, on the other side of California.

 

At 10:30 PM (Pacific Time) on October 29, 1969, the first two letters were transmitted between those two nodes, and then shortly after, the system crashed. After an hour of debugging, the system was up and running, and evolved into the platform we use today- an invaluable tool that has been integrated into our daily lives, but it also has a dark side that was never meant to be, according to Kleinrock.

 

In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Kleinrock explains that he and his colleagues envisioned the internet as an ethical, open, trusted, free, shared tool that everyone could use to their benefit. They never anticipated that their creation would have a dark side, a place where anything and everything can be bought and sold, including identities, drugs, and pornography. Kleinrock stated that things started to go downhill, “when on April 12, 1994, a small moment with enormous meaning occurred: The transmission of the first widely circulated spam email message, a brazen advertisement. The collective response of our science community was “How dare they?” Our miraculous creation, a “research” network capable of boundless computing magnificence had been hijacked to sell … detergent?”

 

Shortly after that, spam would become less of a problem, as viruses and malware hit the system, and continues to propagate, along with botnets that can cripple infrastructure and paralyze financial institutions. The internet gave rise to state-backed hackers whose only goals are to steal secrets, the latest technologies, and other evil tasks designed to disrupt and damage other countries.

 

The internet was a Pandora’s Box just waiting to be opened, and only a miracle would be able to return it to what those engineers intended it to be. Kleinrock states, “We could try to push the internet back toward its ethical roots. However, it would be a complex challenge requiring a joint effort by interested parties — which means pretty much everyone.” Well, happy birthday internet- here’s hoping things get better for you over the next fifty years!

 

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