It all started with one mans dream and the fear of the cold war.
Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider became interested in information technology and moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1950 as an associate professor, where he served on a committee that established the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
The MIT Lincoln Laboratory was created in 1951 as a federally funded research and development centre of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This was prompted by the Air Defence Systems Engineering Committee’s 1950 report that concluded the United States was unprepared for the threat of an air attack.
The beginning of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s development of innovative technology began in 1954. That’s when the US Air Force wanted to develop the “Semi-Automatic Ground Environment” (SAGE) system. They wanted a continental air defence system to protect the US against a nuclear bomber attack from the Soviet Union.
Since early 1955 the US Air Force and Navy were working on “Project Orbiter”, which involved the use of a Jupiter “C” rocket to launch a satellite. They intended to launch a satellite by the spring of 1958.
The United States Military became involved in the Vietnam War conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975. Towards the end most of the military budgets were steered towards this cold war conflict.
In 1957 Joseph Licklider left MIT and went to work for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), an architectural acoustics design firm. He persuaded them to buy computers and began hiring young talented computer engineers to the BBN staff. As BBN became more focused on computers, they earned a reputation as a computer consultation firm. Whilst at BBN, Joseph Licklider conceived a concept for an “Intergalactic Computer Network”, an idea that laid the foundation of the Internet.
They say that the concept of the Internet started around 1957 because various research groups wanted to have direct contact with each other. They needed to interact and share data and information with each other. They wanted to communicate with other computers, which were not stationed on their particular computer network. Ideas about the concept of down loading from a network began. However…
On the 4th of October 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and lead the Space Race. Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3, 1957 and carried the first living passenger into orbit, a dog named Laika. The Soviet Union now had the capacity of producing ICBM’s, (InterContinental Ballistic Missile), with nuclear warheads. With the advent of ICBM booster rockets they could attack from space.
The cold war was heating up. The Project Orbiter succeeded and the United States deployed its first satellite. Explorer 1 (1958 Alpha 1) was launched on January 31, 1958 in response to Sputnik.
The US Department of Defence became concerned about the threat of nuclear attack. On February 7, 1958 through the Department of Defence Directive 5105.15 the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was created. Roy W. Johnson a manager from the General Electric Company (GE) became ARPA’s first director between 1958 and 1959.
ARPA’s mission was to keep US military technology more sophisticated than that of the nation’s potential enemies. The task of the agency was to establish and maintain a worldwide lead in science and technology. ARPA was to concentrate on major national issues, including space, ballistic missile defence, and nuclear test detection.
In July 1958, MITRE was founded as a private, not-for-profit corporation to provide engineering and technical services to the US Federal Government. The MITRE Corporation was formed from the Computer System Division of the MIT Lincoln Laboratories. This was done to fulfil the US Air Force request to build SAGE and now they could conduct the software development of the SAGE digital computer system.
MIT and IBM developed the IBM AN/FSQ-7 computer to run the SAGE centres. The SAGE semi-automated control system for tracking and intercepting enemy bomber aircraft was operational until 1983.
On August 15, 1958 ARPA formally initiated a rocket development program which was to become the Saturn Project.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act on July 29, 1958 and replaced its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The agency became operational on October 1, 1958. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted all the military aspects of fundamental rocketry or space research transferred to NASA.
ARPA started to loose control of its rocket development test sites. Roy W. Johnson resigned from ARPA in 1959. He felt that ARPA had to reshape itself by detaching itself from the Pentagon and focus on long-term research efforts, in contrast to the Defence Department’s short-term goals.
In October 1959 Major General Don R. Ostrander (USAF) became the deputy director of ARPA, which was located in the Pentagon. On December 8, 1959 he was named Director of NASA’s Office of Launch Vehicle Programs and became responsible for launch vehicle development and operations.
Although the idea of an Internet was conceived its formation was on shaky grounds. However, the space race technology sparked the need to develop computer networks. The 1960’s will witness the start of the Internets development.