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Lesson 1.3
The Internet & The Web

Lesson 1.3
The Internet & The Web

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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wd_lesson1.3_birthoftheweb About 10 years after Sputnik was launched, NASA had grown very popular because of missions like Apollo 11 in 1969 (when we put a man on the moon) and Apollo 13 in 1970 (when our astronauts got stuck in space for a few days). But if you remember from Lesson 1.2, there was a little, forgotten research group, called ARPA, that began another project. NASA was a big deal, but ARPA quietly worked on something else that would change the world. 

ARPA began studying communication. First, they thought about how humans communicate. They thought about person-to-person conversations where two people talk back and forth. Then they imagined the challenge of adding a third person to the conversation. And a fourth. And a fifth. If humans can find a way to communicate in large groups, ARPA thought, then surely computers can be programmed to do the same thing. So they built a small network of computers and called it the ARPANET.

Remember that the people who joined the ARPA group were mainly just teachers and students from colleges around the country. And why? Because teachers are supposed to be the experts of their subject areas. For example, a math teacher knows math. A science teacher knows science. And an engineering teacher knows engineering. ARPA was made up of all the smartest people in the country who actually knew how to make and build things.

During this lesson, you will learn about the history of the ARPANET project, which colleges and universities were the first to connect, and how ARPANET eventually led to what we now know as the Internet. You will also learn about a nuclear engineer who went onto the Internet in 1991 and shared his new plans for something he called the World Wide Web.


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For nearly 10 years after the Sputnik Launch, ARPA had almost been forgotten. When it came to technology, everyone thought about NASA and our race to put a man on the moon. But in 1967, after a decade of looking at ideas, ARPA received $500,000 to start their first major classified project. That’s a LOT less money than they had before, but at least it was something. They called their classified project the ARPA Network, or ARPANET for short. Remember that a network is the connection of two or more computers and ARPA was practically the only group on the planet who saw this as important enough to invest time and money.

Since this was a classified project, only four kinds of people were allowed to know about it:

1. Specific teachers/professors from the best schools in the country

2. A handful of engineering students from those best schools

3. Certain government employees who needed to know

4. Certain military officials who were allowed to know.

Other than that, ARPANET was classified and the rest of the world had no idea that ARPA was even working on improving communication with technology. ARPA was trying to make it so that people could communicate through computers. But this had NEVER been done before.


After two years, there were only four schools connected to ARPANET. Three schools in California and one in Utah.

1. Stanford University near San Francisco (SRI)

2. University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB)

3. University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)

4. University of Utah (Utah)

The connections looked a little something like this. (Classroom Maps)

One of the teachers at Stanford SRI went “online” for the first time in 1968 to share an invention that he had built with part of his research team. He wanted other teachers and other students to see this great new device called a computer mouse. Prepare yourself for one of the very first “online” videos here (Clip #2 and #3 to start).


By 1970, ARPANET had 15 schools connected and the map looked like this. Six years later, ARPANET was reaching most of the major colleges and universities in the United States. It was even reaching some of the military bases around the country. By 1976, it looked more like this.

PROCESSING QUESTION #1: Why would schools and military bases be connecting to ARPANET and not everyone on their personal computers?



Vinton Cerf, The “Father of the Internet”

Connecting to ARPANET wasn’t as easy as just plugging a computer into a phone line. The network had to have rules or it wouldn’t work. These rules, if you remember from the last lesson, were also called protocols. And during the years that ARPA was building their network, they kept noticing glitches and problems, so they kept setting up new protocols.

If you wanted to send information to someone, what kinds of rules were in place to make sure it got there? For example, the @ sign/symbol was created in 1972 as a way of separating someone’s email address from the computer system they were using. For example, meant “jacobsmith” was the email address and “” was the computer, server, or system where all the email files (inbox, sent, etc) were being stored.

To solve some of these problems and find new solutions, ARPA hired a teacher from Stanford by the name of Vinton Cerf to be in charge of all the new protocols for ARPANET. He had been a student at UCLA when ARPANET first came alive in 1969, so he knew it very well and he also knew its flaws.

PROCESSING QUESTION #2 (five minutes): Pretend that you and your team ARE inside the mind of Vinton Cerf. You were in the room at UCLA when that display video came through from Stanford SRI. You are excited about the potential that this technology has for changing the world and making it easier to communicate, but you’re concerned. ARPA has been talking about adding more schools and more computers to the ARPANET, but you believe that adding more computers to the network will create some serious problems unless ARPA sets up a few rules, or protocols. They just hired you to be in charge. What kinds of protocols would you come up with to make it easier for a lot more computers to successfully connect and communicate with each other? 


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Over the last two lessons, we’ve been talking a lot about world history. Today, we’re going to talk about the Internet and little bit about how it works. As we learned from Lesson 1.2, sometimes information is too big to share all at once and it has to be broken up into smaller parts called packets. But what if those packets don’t get put back in the correct order or sequence?

For example, if you send a text to a friend that says “Meet Me at 3 by the Front Office,” but when it arrived on your friend’s phone, it said, “Me 3 Front at the Office by Meet,” your friend might get confused. Everything would be out of order. Just think about how frustrating auto-correct can be from time to time. If your text says the wrong thing, your friend on the other end might think you mean something different than what you actually wanted to say.

The reason the Internet is successful is because it can take information from one location (even if that information is really big, like images, videos, or large text files) and move that information to another location. The way it does this is to break down large information files into smaller file packets, and then put it all back together in the correct order by the time it arrives at its destination at another computer.

The Internet has rules, or protocols, that guarantee information packets will be put into the correct sequence and arrive at the correct destination. Follow Steps 2-5 to show that you can also put information in the correct order, or sequence.


Go up to the front table, pick up an index card and a pencil, then number your card 1-10 on left. Every student must have an index card and the cards will be turned in for DDP credit. Winning teams will be allowed to dig in the candy jar.


Look at the 10 events listed below. These events have not been listed in the correct order. Try to remember the order that they happened in history. You may look back at Lessons 1.1 and 1.2 if that will help.

Vannevar Bush works on the Manhattan Project

World War II Ends

The Soviet Union Builds an Atomic Bomb

Beyonce was Born

NASA is Created for Space Research

ARPA is Created for Government Research

U.S. Drops Two Atomic Bombs on Japan

Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor

World War II Begins

Sputnik Was Launched


When you think you know the correct order of the events above, go ahead and write them down in the correct order on your index card (1-10).


When you have them all written down, check with your team to see if your cards match. If they do not match, see if you can figure out which of you have the correct order and which of you need to make some changes.


If you and your team have agreed on the same sequence of events, feel free to read ahead in the Class Discussion below. The teacher will put the correct order on the screen after every team has reached an agreement.


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Protocol #1 – Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

Any file with any information will take up space. Text may not take up a lot of space, but if you write pages and pages of text, then yes… of course it will take up a lot of space. Images will take up even more space, followed by audio files and video files that take up a HUGE amount of space. Vinton Cerf realized that big files, if they were going to be shared across multiple computers, would need to be broken up. Sort of like a puzzle full of pieces (or, like a history full of events that are out of sequence). And if those small packets were to be broken up, then somehow, they would have to be put back together. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) was a rule that instructed the network to break up large amounts of information into smaller packets of information, send them to a single destination, and put them back together in the correct order or sequence (kind of like that Team Challenge).

Protocol #2 – Internetwork Protocol (IP)

Moving files of information from one location to another means that each location needs an address. If you try to send information across a network, but that information doesn’t know where to go, then it will never get anywhere. The Internetwork Protocol (IP) was a rule that said every computer, or server, needed an address, or a location number. That’s why sometimes you hear people talk about a computer having an IP Address.

The combination of TCP and IP (TCP/IP) are what allowed ARPANET to work 40 years ago and they are still the protocols that make the Internet work today. And since Vinton Cerf was in charge of setting these rules, most people today call him the “Father of the Internet.”


Around the time that Vinton Cerf was meeting with his researchers to come up with rules and protocols for ARPANET, the Department of Defense was put in charge of ARPA, which meant that the organization had to change its name from ARPA to DARPA (Defense). But no one was going to suddenly change ARPANET to DARPANET because, well, that just sounded silly.

After the Internetwork Protocol was set up a few years later, it was common to hear people say that they were “connected to the Internet” with an IP Address. And by 1980, even the engineers who had built ARPANET were telling other researchers to just call this big network of computers the Internet. With that, ARPANET was dead and the Internet was alive. Below is a really fast review of what we just talked about with a few extra pieces of information.



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Tim Berners-Lee, Father of the Web

During the 1980s, even though the Internet had been born, Americans did not have personal computers or laptops because for the most part, they didn’t exist yet. Whatever computers did exist were treated like machines for smart people. You had to be a bit of a nerd to work on a computer. And even though the Internet was no longer a classified project, the only places with connections to the Internet were places that had computers, like colleges, research buildings, military bases, and a few government offices. Some of these “smart people” from the colleges and the government even built an alternative, global network that they called USENET with similar protocols, or rules, as the Internet.

One of these “smart people” was Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who worked at a nuclear research center in Switzerland. He started working on a new language for the Internet that he called Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML. And as the decade came to a close, he began thinking about how to share his new language with others around the world. In order to do this, Berners-Lee invented something that would soon become just as important as the Internet: the World Wide Web.


On August 6, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee came into his office in the middle of the beautiful Swiss Alps, connected to the Internet, and changed the world forever. He created a new space for information on the Internet that he called the World Wide Web, or WWW. Regular people could use this space, he believed, if they were willing to write their information with a common language or code (HTML). But more importantly, it would only work if regular people were willing to share information with each other by using the same space, just like researchers and engineers had been doing for more than 30 years. In order to make this World Wide Web possible, Berners-Lee wrote a page with some basic information, then actually put it into the space he had created (WWW).


If the World Wide Web is basically just a big space on the Internet for sharing public information, then putting things ONTO the web means borrowing part of that space. The classroom is filled with bricks and most of those bricks are either empty or occupied. Bricks that are occupied mean the space is taken. Bricks that are empty are available. Not permanently, but temporarily.

Today, you will choose a brick in the classroom that will be YOUR brick for the rest of the semester. You may not draw on it, but you may place information on it. Sort of like a website about yourself. Before the teacher gives you further instructions, look around the room and without telling anyone, decide which brick you want to borrow for the semester. After that, you will be given about 10 minutes with paper and pencils to creatively answer the following question and then get it placed on your brick:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?


Creating a World Wide Web with lots and lots of free space was one thing. Putting information on it was another. This was the first official “web” page that Tim Berners-Lee published.

Soon after this first page was published to the World Wide Web, he published a second page. But this one had information about how to actually write a web page with HTML and how to do exactly what he was doing. This was how his page about HTML looked.

PROCESSING QUESTION (one minute): When you look at these first pages that Tim Berners-Lee created, they seem pretty boring. Black and blue text on a white background. But there was something about this kind of text that made it different than anything anyone had ever seen. With your team, see if you can figure out and identify what made this text different from the text, say, that someone might read in a book.


htmlThe web could only ever work if different pages connected to other pages with something Tim Berners-Lee called hypertext links, or anchors. A page with no connections was just taking up space on the world wide web. But a page that linked to other pages would make the web bigger and more valuable to the people who used it.


Now that our discussion is over and you have seen that web pages are all about writing information in a common language and putting those pages into a space on the Internet called the World Wide Web, the time has come for you to learn the language. But the first step in learning that language is to see it in action. Go back to that second web page that Tim Berners-Lee created and listen to the teacher’s directions. We’re going to look at a few different source codes, just so that you can see how common HTML is across ALL web pages and ALL web sites even today.


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