History of the Internet, The: The Missing Narratives

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Internet

Article Snapshot


Martin Campbell-Kelly and Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz


Working Paper, December 2005


This paper explains the history of Internet technology in the private sector.

Policy Relevance

Conventional wisdom traces the origins of the Internet to public projects, but many private-sector networks and technologies were also involved. It would be misleading to think of the Internet as a proof that government involvement in technology works well.

Main Points

  • Most histories trace the origins of the Internet to the ARPANET network, built by the U.S. Advanced Projects Research Agency in the late 1960s.


  • Many computer networks were built in the 1960s, including:
    • Airline reservation systems.
    • Remote computer services.
    • Defense networks like SAGE.


  • More computer networks and databanks grew in the 1970s, such as:
    • Electronic Data Interchange, which enabled business-to-business commerce
    • Computer networks for banks
    • Lexis and Dialog
    • Global data communications


  • The 1980s saw the rise of CompuServe and Prodigy, the first commercial email services, and Videotext services. 


  • In the 1990s the World Wide Web sprang up, enabled by research that predated computer networks. Commercial firms such as Netscape, Microsoft, MCI, AOL and Yahoo made the Internet useful to ordinary consumers.

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