Friday, December 22, 2006

Dawn of a New Era

(continued from The Twilight Zone, see 12/4/06 below)

No technology in our lifetime (including television) has had a greater impact on us than the internet. The internet, and its chief consumer application, the World Wide Web, changes the way we communicate, the way we socialize, the way we work, the way we play, the way we shop, the way we sell, and now, too, the way we advertise. As has been said, the internet changes everything.

In August, 1962, J.C.R. “Lick” Licklider of MIT wrote a series of memos discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.

In October of the same year, Licklider became head of the computer research program at the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for the military. (ARPA was later renamed DARPA, the D for Defense, then renamed back again to ARPA, then again, finally, we hope, to DARPA. It’s the government. Go figure.) Licklider convinced his successors, including MIT researcher Lawrence Roberts, of the importance of this networking concept.

Meanwhile, Leonard Kleinrock, also of MIT, published the first paper on packet switching theory in 1961. Kleinrock convinced Roberts of the theoretical feasibility of communications using packets rather than circuits, which was a major step along the path towards computer networking.

In 1966, Roberts went to DARPA to develop the computer network concept. He published his plan for the “ARPANET”, which ultimately evolved into the internet, in 1967. In October of 1969, the first host-to-host message was sent successfully, and by the end of the year four host computers were connected together into the initial ARPANET, and the budding internet was off the ground.

In 1972, the ARPANET was introduced to the public at the International Computer Communication Conference. It was also in 1972 that electronic mail – email – was introduced.

The Internet as we now know it embodies a key underlying technical idea, namely that of open architecture networking. In an open-architecture network, the individual networks may be separately designed and developed and each may have its own unique interface which it may offer to users and/or other providers, but the networks can communicate with each other.

The idea of open-architecture networking was first introduced by Bob Kahn shortly after arriving at DARPA in 1972. In the Spring of 1973, after beginning his initial “internetting” effort, Kahn asked Vint Cerf (then at Stanford) to work with him on a detailed design of the new open-architecture protocol. They teamed up to spell out the details of what eventually became called the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). A key concept of the Internet is that it is not designed for just one application, but as a general infrastructure on which new applications could run, as, for example, the World Wide Web. It is the general purpose nature of the service provided by TCP/ IP that makes this possible.

Widespread development of Local Area Networks (LANS), PCs and workstations beginning in the 1980s allowed the Internet to flourish. The growth has been astounding:

Date Number of Hosts*

Dec, 1969: 4

Dec, 1979: 188

July, 1989: 130,000

July, 1994: 3,212,000

July, 1999: 56,218,000

July, 2004: 285,139,107

July, 2006: 439,286,364

*Hosts = a computer system with a registered ip address

Source: Hobbes’ Internet Timeline, v8.2,

With the communication infrastructure of the internet in place, and the application of the World Wide Web and search technology such as Google putting the power of the internet into the hands of ordinary people, our world became different. The changes brought us into a new era in advertising, too.

Oh, what timing. Here it is, the end of 2006, and a new year is about to begin, too. As 2007 begins, we will quickly wrap up our historical review and begin to discuss this new era. We’ll examine how the old merges with the new. No longer reviewing history, we will collectively take our place to participate in the writing of it. It’s an exciting time to be in advertising, don’t you think?

Welcome to….the People era.

Have a safe and happy New Year everyone!

(to be continued….)

Sources and additional reading:

Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, et al, “A Brief History of the Intenet”, Internet Society,

Hobbes’ Internet Timeline, v8.2,

Walter Howe, “A Brief History of the Internet”,

Wikipedia, “History of the Internet”,


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