Fifty years after the first computer network was connected, most experts say digital life will mostly change humans’ existence for the better over the next 50 years. However, they warn this will happen only if people embrace reforms allowing better cooperation, security, basic rights and economic fairness
The year 1969 was a pivot point in culture, science and technology. On Jan. 30, the Beatles played their last show. On July 20, the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the moon. Less than a month later, nearly half a million music fans overran a muddy field near Woodstock, New York, for what Rolling Stone calls the “greatest rock festival ever.”
But the 1969 event that had the greatest global impact on future generations occurred with little fanfare on Oct. 29, when a team of UCLA graduate students led by professor Leonard Kleinrock connected computer-to-computer with a team at the Stanford Research Institute. It was the first host-to-host communication of ARPANET, the early packet-switching network that was the precursor to today’s multibillion-host internet.
50 years of ARPANET: The precursor to the Internet
Today marks 50 years since ARPANET carried its very first message, between two computers at UCLA and Stanford. While perhaps unremarked at the time – only ‘LO’ was transmitted instead of ‘LOGIN’ thanks to a crash – it set things in motion for everything that has followed. While we’ve come a long way from booking time on mainframes, or dialing up with a modem, the benefits of connectivity have continued to permeate our society.