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Lesson 1.2
The Birth of a Network

Lesson 1.2
The Birth of a Network

LEARNING GOAL: The Basics of Web History

Students will understand how the Internet evolved from a classified government research project into a world wide resource with the help of highly educated teachers and students.

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After the end of World War II, 400,000 American lives had been lost and we were tired. All of that time and money the government had spent on research and technology had definitely made a difference, but after the war was over, research and technology didn’t seem that important anymore. At least not for a few years.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Soviet Union began a research and development team and even managed to build their own atomic bombs. Eventually, they put a satellite in space, which made Americans really nervous because it seemed like Soviets were spying on them from above. And that’s when, once again, the “sleeping giant” woke up. The United States and the Soviet Union began competing with each other in research and science, but since both countries had nuclear weapons, we call this period (1945-1991) the Cold War. Neither of them ever fired on the other, but the race to be the best would last for more than 50 years.

During this technology race, a small agency was created in the United States to begin research on new ideas and new projects. This agency was called ARPA and they would eventually be the organization that built the Internet. In this lesson, you will learn about ARPA, why it was created, and some of the things they figured out about communication in the early days of their research.



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For the first 10 minutes of class, your job is to research different paths, or routes, from one location to another. If that sounds a little strange, don’t worry. You’ll understand soon. Follow the directions below to get started.

networkprotocolsStep #1 – Go to Google Maps and look up 1818 Longwood Lake Mary Blvd.

What is found at this address?

Step #2 – Now find directions from 1818 Longwood Lake Mary Blvd to Milwee Middle School.

What is the fastest route?

Step #3 – The fastest route doesn’t always work. Sometimes there are accidents. Sometimes the roads are blocked. Using Google Maps, find at least 10 different routes from 1818 Longwood Lake Mary Blvd. to Milwee Middle School.

Please come up with and choose reasonable routes. For example, going all the way to Georgia or North Carolina or Canada isn’t reasonable, but it might be reasonable to drive a little out of the way to reach I-4 or the 417 in order to eventually come back to Milwee.

Write down all of your routes and save them somewhere. You can write them onto a Microsoft Word document. You can write them onto a piece of paper (there are pencils and paper up front).

Step #4 – Once you have 10 different routes, go back through each of them and make sure that they will work. Come up with different reasons why certain routes might not work, even if they appear to work on a map.

Step #5 – Understanding Why – When someone sitting at one computer presses “send” on an email, that message is turned into a packet of information that begins to go toward a destination. In order to reach that destination, the packet must follow a path, or a route. But with thousands of computers sending their own packets of information, sometimes the fastest routes get congested (sort of like a traffic jam), so the packets of information have to go follow alternate routes, which may sometimes be slower. This process of two or more computers trying to communicate back and forth is called a network. And every network has a set of rules, or protocols, that instruct that packet on where to go at every turn. These protocols can be pretty messy. Just take a look at this complicated network protocol and see if you can make sense of it.


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After those two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, the whole world sat up and started paying attention. The Soviet Union began its own research team and within four years (1949), had their own atomic bombs ready for war. This meant that two important countries, the United States and the Soviet Union, both had weapons that were powerful enough to wipe out entire cities.

As you can probably imagine, there was quite a lot of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Soviets (Russians) didn’t trust Americans. And Americans didn’t trust the Soviets. Both countries always feared the other would try to aim a nuclear weapon at one of their cities. And even though this never happened, the period from 1945-1991 was called the Cold War because no bombs were ever dropped and no missiles were ever fired.

Between 1945, when the United States dropped two atomic bombs, and 1957, about twelve years passed with very little scientific research. The OSRD was no longer being funded in the same way that it had during the war and so very little was being done.


On October 4, 1957, President Eisenhower received news that the Soviet Union had just launched an object into space. Rumors spread through every American newspaper that this “object” had cameras that could spy on Americans. The United States went into a slight panic. Some claimed that they could see the object at night and called it “the eye in the sky.” Why would Americans have been so freaked out?

In reality, the Soviet Union had launched a basketball-sized satellite, called Sputnik, with a small radio frequency that just beeped and beeped. It had no cameras and no special features. It was just an object they were tracking in space. You could say that Sputnik sort of “woke up the sleeping giant” again, but this time, without any violence. Once word spread that Sputnik was in the sky, the United States government went out and got some more teachers and students from the best schools in the country. And just like during World War II, a new research team was formed.


Within a few months of the Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower started the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a classified operation with almost no limits on what they could research or what they could build. With the help of Congress, the president gave them $2 billion to start researching new projects. But for the first year or so, ARPA just looked at ideas and couldn’t get much done. Sort of like how some of you might look at an assignment and not know where to start for a little while.

When the president saw that ARPA wasn’t getting much done, he created a new agency called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, otherwise known as NASA. Part of that $2 billion that had originally gone to ARPA was now going to NASA. At least for a little while, it seemed like ARPA might never get anything done. After all, everyone knows NASA because they built rockets and shuttles to space. But what very few know is that little ARPA finally found a new project that would eventually lead to one of the single most important technologies in human history: the Internet.


When two or more people or machines share information, or data, this is called a network. After a few years of getting nowhere, the people over at ARPA started thinking about communication. One of the first things they started talking about was Point 2 Point Technology. What this means is that it is possible for a one person to talk to another person, but if a third person enters the conversation, the original conversation gets interrupted.

CLASSROOM DEMO#1: Three volunteers who know each other and all have cell phones (Point2Point)

networkprotocolsTopic #5 – BUILDING A NETWORK: IDEA #2

Another idea that ARPA started talking about was routing protocols. If information is going to travel from one place to another, it has to follow a path, or a route. If that path gets interrupted or broken, there has to be a rule, or a protocol, that tells the information where to go instead. As you may have seen during the opening SOLO work today, network protocols can get pretty messy because they involve a lot of different directions. Here is an example of a complicated network protocol that exists for the modern Internet.

CLASSROOM DEMO#2: All Students Minus One, All Mini-Globes (Routing Protocols)


One of the other ideas that ARPA started talking about was called packet switching. Information comes in different sizes. The larger a piece of information, the harder it is for that information to get to its destination. Sometimes the information has to be broken down into packets that get moved. Consider that if we had to move all of the computers in our classroom to another room, we would have to move them in pieces. Even if the room that they are going to will ultimately look the same in the end, the computers have to be taken apart and put back together again. Information, depending on how large or small it is, moves the same way. And again, we call this packet switching.


Now that we have a better understanding of how computers were taught to communicate through a variety of network ideas, we also need to learn how the various files that move between computers can also come in different sizes. Today, we’re going to set up a few folders and build a few files. Web Design II is going to be helping out a little bit today during this exercise.

Step #1: Open up your U:Drive and create a new folder called WebDesign

Step #2: Go into your WebDesign folder and create five new subfolders called:

1. images

2. pages

3. misc

4. projects

5. css

Step #3: Go to your Start Menu and search for “Notepad,” then open up Notepad (not Notepad++)

Step #4: Make sure there is nothing typed into your Notepad, then follow the teacher’s instructions on saving the file as “filesize” to your “misc” folder.

Step #5: Go to your “misc” folder and right-click on the “filesize” file you just created, then go down to Properties and look at the size. On a computer, files are measured in “bytes,” so how big is it?

Step #6: Now go back to your Notepad and type a single letter, save your work, and check the file size again. How big is it now?

*Every character, or space, that is used (including space itself) equals 1 byte

Step #7: Now go back to your Notepad and type “Four Score and Seven Years Ago,” save your work, then check the file size. How big is it now in bytes? Does that match the number of bytes you typed?

Step #8: (Time Permitting) A Similar Demo in Paint with a single pixel image.

Reset Workstation (2-3 Minutes)

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