This map shows the extent of the entire internet in 1973

A detailed view of UCLA's Interface Message Processor (IMP) is pictured in a storage closet, where it had been stored for over 20 years, at 3420 Boelter Hall in UCLA, May 3, 2011. UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock and his team used the Interface Message Processor, IMP, the packet-switching node used to interconnect participant networks to the ARPANET to send the first message, the letters LO to Standford Research Institute on October 29, 1969. The UCLA Department of Computer Science and Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have collaborated in creating the Kleinrock Internet Heritage Site and Archive (KIHSA) with the center recreating the lab at its original site in 3420 Boelter Hall, moving the IMP back to the room from which that first message was sent.The recreated lab will open October 29 with a reunion of the computer scientists responsible for the first message. Picture taken May 3, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) - GM1E7AQ0LMM01

The ARPANET project was originally funded by a branch of the U.S. Military. Image: REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Frank Cardona
Writer, Visual Capitalist
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Before the modern internet, there was ARPANET.

ARPANET was the first internet-like network, and it was developed to allow multiple computers to share data across vast geographical distances. Interestingly, the researchers that worked on ARPANET are credited with developing many of the communication protocols that the internet still uses today.

Image: Visual Capitalist

Today’s map comes from David Newbury, who shared a keepsake from his father’s time as a computer science business manager at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1970s. We added a legend to help explain the symbols on the map.

Have you read?

A brief history of ARPANET

ARPANET was funded in the late 1960s by a branch of the U.S. Military called The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), with the original purpose being to allow researchers at different universities to use their limited computing resources more efficiently.

Before ARPANET, if a researcher at Harvard wanted to access a database at Stanford, they had to travel there and use it in person. ARPANET was used to test out a new communication technology known as packet-switching, which broke up data into smaller “packets” and allowed various computers on the network to access the data.

With ARPANET researchers could:

- Login to another computer miles away

- Transfer and save files across the network

- Send emails from one person to several others

On the map above, you can see the network only had computers in the United States, but later that same year, a satellite link connected the ARPANET to the United Kingdom, creating the beginnings of a global network.

Image: Visual Capitalist

A network of networks

In 1983, ARPANET adopted the TCP/IP protocol standards which paved the way for a “network of networks”, and the internet was born. Several years later, ARPANET would be decommissioned and the new internet would begin to flourish.

Below you can see what the early internet looked like in 1984:

Image: Visual Capitalist

A big jump

These maps take us back to a simpler time when social networks, mobile phones, and unlimited access to the world’s information did not yet exist. Even 12 years after the first message was transmitted on the ARPANET, there were still only 213 computers on the network.

Fast forward a few decades later and the change in scale is mind-boggling – the modern internet has 1.94 billion websites and 4.1 billion internet users globally, resembling a digital universe.

One can only imagine how quaint the ARPANET will look a few more decades from now.

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