The TCP/IP protocol has celebrated its 30th birthday of its support for the Internet as we know it
The new year has begun with celebrations of the fact that the Internet is now three decades old, after ArpaNet was switched from using the old Network Control Protocol (NCP) to the new Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) 30 years ago on 1 January, 1983.
For those who don’t know, ArpaNet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was effectively the precursor to what is now the modern day Internet.
The ArpaNet web
The ArpaNet network had in actual fact been commissioned by the US Department of Defence (DoD) back in the 1960s as way to connect military systems together. But it used the vulnerable Network Control Program (NCP), which meant that the network could exhibit a single point of failure. Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn worked on developing the TCP Internet standard to make ArpaNet more robust.
At the beginning of 1983, after a lot of hard work, ArpaNet was finally switched on using the TCP/IP protocol, and in the process it became the world’s first operational packet-switching network. Until that time, previous networks had used circuit switching, whereby data and voice communications for example would be carried across a dedicated connection. Imagine for example the old telephone networks, which used a dedicated line to connect two devices at each end, such as a telephone receiver at each end of the telephone line.
Packet-switching allowed for a much more efficient, robust and flexible solution, as data could be gathered into “packets” and transmitted across a single communication link as and when capacity was available. This allowed the communication link to be shared by many other users, and also allowed for data packets to be routed to multiple destinations, independently of other packets.
The introduction of this packet-switching concept was vital, as it paved the way for the Internet and the way it linked computers all around the world. Sir Tim Berners-Lee for example would then go on to use ArpaNet to host the system of interlinked hypertext documents he invented in 1989, which then of course became known as the World Wide Web.
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