Happy Belated Birthday!

April 8, 2009 1 Comment

Apparently, yesterday was the 40th birthday of the Internet – and I missed it! But it’s nothing a belated birthday card can’t fix.

More specifically, yesterday was the birthday of RFC’s, which some claim is the start of the structured Internet we know today. Actually, there are several separate followings when it comes to the birthplace of the Internet…1961, 1969, 1982. It all boils down to what you consider the starting point. Is the start when four computers were first networked together and exchanged information between research centers on the west coast, or is it when the technology became available to the public?

While many sites yesterday claimed it was the birthday of the Internet, one of the key players involved in its beginnings instead describes it as the 40th anniversary of when the Internet received rules.

Most of us don’t think of the Internet as having rules. On the contrary, we think of it as a blank canvas where anything is possible. But, if we didn’t have a common language to turn numbers, letters and symbols into pictures on a page, we wouldn’t get very far.

Stephen Crocker wrote a great Op-Ed piecefor the New York Times yesterday. He was a student at UCLA included in the original research project and he wrote the first RFC, or Request for Comments. Basically, it was a document to create common rules for the Internet. Crocker wrote that he was afraid of acting like an expert and making someone angry and that’s why he titled it a request for comments.

The odd thing is that the original RFC’s were sent back and forth via snail mail and photocopied. Each RFC receives a unique number and today there are more than 5,000.

I couldn’t help but get caught up in Crocker’s description of hiding in a bathroom and writing the first document. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know sit there, knowing you were involved in something that could change history, and then, 40 years later, seeing how it’s an integral part of our daily lives.

Maybe it’s my job, or just my curious imagination, but I’m continually fascinated by the power of the Internet and its affect on our lives. I’ve thought about unplugging for a few days and experiencing life offline. Of course, the fact that I run KWWL.com makes that impossible. And I think I would feel lonely and disconnected.

I am part of the last generation that will remember life without the Internet. I clearly remember the first time I sat down and had the ability to browse the world wide web. I was terrified I would do something wrong, embarrassed that all my friends already seemed to know what they were doing, but insanely curious about the possibilities. And I only remember that first day in the computer lab, when I was in 7th grade. After that, all I remember is e-mail and chat rooms and Google.

Now I have friends that have to lock their computers because their four year old will climb up in the chair and get online.

Whether you’re an April 7 or January 1 follower, I think it’s worth taking a moment to think about how the Internet has changed our lives.

-jj

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