It was marked with little fanfare at the time. 30 years ago this week the modern-day Internet was born when Americans Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn launched a new protocol that streamlined the way computers could be linked together.
The general public was unaware of what was happening and, even among the bearded Internet pioneers, the implications of the change were hardly understood.
According to Wired magazine, the invention of the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP for short) made possible the World Wide Web, email, and wi-fi.
At the start of the 1980s only 1,000 computers were linked together on the Internet’s precursor, known as the ARPANET. The new TCP/IP system could handle a much larger and more complicated global network.
“There were no grand celebrations (at the start of 1983)– I can’t even find a photograph. The only visible mementos were “I survived the TCP/IP switchover” pins worn by those who went through the ordeal.”
It was another 10 years at least, and a few more refinements, most notably by Tim Berners-Lee, before the internet escaped from the realm of the nerds, and began to become the mass medium that it is today.
In the early 90s, the general public began to hear about email and something called the “Information Super Highway”.
As a young reporter in 1993, I recall being invited to see the Internet working in a shop off Grafton Street.
It took about 30 minutes before we were connected to an actual website on the Internet, and I remember greeting this new-fangled phenomenon with scepticism, remarking that there were “terrible traffic jams’’ on the Information Super highway.
At that time there were so few websites that there was an actual map of the World Wide Web. I was shown a few Irish websites that seemed to say little other than announce that they were there.
Most of the Irish sites seemed to be based in university computer departments. It was perhaps a sign of things to come that one of the sites had a list of jokes, but they would not have been out of place in Christmas crackers.
It took another two years and the launch of Windows 95 – advertised by the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up – before the Internet arrived in Irish homes in reasonable numbers.
As Vint Cerf said of his invention this week, “While we had high hopes we did not dare to assume that the Internet would turn into the worldwide platform it’s become.”