The History of Communication Technology


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By Jonathan Klingeman,

When considering networks, we as Americans have been fortunate enough to experience some of the greatest networks in the history of the world: the telephone, telegraph and railroad, to only name a few. And now today, our society thrives off the largest and most widely accessible network, the internet. American citizens should all be familiar with the internet in order to gain a specific understandings of its inside and outs.

What It Is
The internet is most commonly known as the global network of networks. Connecting computers from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to Rome to Tokyo has been the true and best way to improve communication across the nation. The internet not only connections different types of computers, but improves both direction and indirect communication. With the internet, people are now able to use communication as a new way to live, act and communicate.


Graphic Structure of Network

One of the best parts about the internet is the vast amount of knowledge that the information produces. Though the actual amount of usable, trustable knowledge is limited, answers to all questions can be found on the web. With the help of libraries and research engines, the internet is also a fantastic tool for finding statistics, reports and other numbered pieces of research in a matter of an instant.

How It Works
The actual structure of the internet is very simple, yet complex at the same time. All computers connected locally by smaller networks that connect with larger networks that eventually connect to the largest “pipe.” Data is sent back and forth over the internet by a technology called packet-switching. Data is broken down into small bits of information and makes its way to and from the intended destination. Packets take the best and available route which is not necessarily the same route for each pack. This is the reason that depending on how many others are using the internet, some pieces of a web site may not show until the others catch up.

The Major Trunk Lines in the U.S.

Internet Management
Trillions and trillions of pieces of data are sent back and forth at any given moment of the day so it’s hard to believe that each packet isn’t lost during its travel. Though there is no central authority, each packet is assigned a specific route that it will take during its travels. Each node or the piece of packet data travels to the internet service provider. The provider sends the node into the main trunk, then back to another “ISP” then finally to the end computer.

Each packet is given a specific tracking number during its travel and can be tracked in The Internet Traffic Management Center in Alexandria, Va. Though the center rarely will follow one piece of data, it can track volume and separate congestion of data if the need ever presents itself.

Packet Tracking Center in Virginia

The internet has a deep history that first shows its beginnings during the Cold War. Once the U.S.S.R had launched the Sputnik satellite, the United States began to panic that it might not be as up to date with national security as it would like. With this launch, the U.S. began to do research on other forms of communication that would be able to withstand war.

In 1963, a company called RAND (which derived its name from the words research and development) began to figure out the problem with which the U.S. had presented. The company eventually developed a form of network that was tested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1969. It connected research labs across the country including UCLA, Stanford and Utah. By 1970, the Department of Defense had created its own “network” and called it ARPANET.

The popularity of this network communication began to soar. It wasn’t a year gone by that ARPANET had also become a social network. Communication between people over computers was finally born. As other companies and government agencies began to see the usefulness of the ARPANET, they too began to tap into the benefits. The Department of Energy and NASA were only a few that joined in by 1979. By 1980, universities had all joined the ARPANET.

In the early 1990s, the ARPANET had finally disappeared as it had completely been taken over by the National Science Foundation’s net which began to take users away in 1986. This network was much faster than ARPANET and was ultimately more reliable for communication and data sharing.

Finally a new form of network was born. In 1991, a scientist at a physics research center in Switzerland created what is known today as the “www” or World Wide Web. With this new protocol, any computer with the proper software was able to connect to this new network of networks. The new network quickly began to be sweep popularity into the public.

With the new boom, communication and economics were soaring. Many e-companies were taking advantage of the brand new business model. Companies such as and eBay were seeing the great profit and revenue potential and began to build their web sites; yet, the good would only last so long for a short time.

At the beginning of the new millennium, hundreds and thousands of start up businesses had begun to shut down and fail. There were a great deal of buy outs and mergers during this phase; however, some of the big companies were able to keep up with the trends and still make a successful company into today.

Today’s Usage
The internet had its biggest boom after the turn of the millennium. In fact, the United States saw over 2 million new users each month in 2001. The popularity also carries into businesses as most schools, hospitals, businesses and corporations rely on the internet for its daily functions. Today, over 70 percent of U.S. citizens use the internet either at home or at work. However, the internet has reached a stagnant growth over the past few years.

Internet Penetration in the U.S.

Growth has leveled off for many reasons including the fact that those without the internet simply can’t afford the service, a computer or simply don’t have interest in using the new technology. With nearly an 80 percent usage, our country should have no shame. And with the development of broadband, even more users are connecting. Dial-up usage has practically disappeared in both the United States and Canada. People simply want to do more with the internet.

U.S. Broadband vs. Dialup

Canada Broadband vs. Dialup


The internet has proven to be one of the best technologies developed to date. Our country has changed its daily operations due to the internet. The future will continue to develop the internet’s technology and open even more doors for improved ease. Though the country still hasn’t reached a pure 100 percent saturation, our government under the Telecommunications Acts of 1934 and 1996 will continue to strive for universal service for all Americans in all places.

How the Internet Works - Video


Schement, J. R. (2008, February). Internet: The Universal Structure. Presented at a COMM 180 lecture at Penn State University.