What the Internet is and where it came from-
The Internet, often referred to as the "net", is actually a simple computer network, the world's largest one. A computer network is two or more computers hooked together that can share information. Some computer networks consist of a main computer with many "little" remote computers that feed off of it. The internet is a very large network of networks.
Whenever you go somewhere, everyone mentions the Internet. You see web addresses (Universal Resource Locators, URL's) on every commercial you see, and everyone is putting their e-mail address on their letterheads. The truth is that the net is growing more rapidly than television did in the late fifties. The Internet is used for many things these days and is guaranteed to grow in the future. This is because some use it for Electronic Mail (e-mail), a fast, free, and easy way to stay in touch, and some use it for Surfin' the Net to find information, have fun, or discover new things. Some use it for Newsgrouping with a system called Usenet where online bulletin boards obtain messages for everyone to see worldwide. And last but certainly not least, some use it for entertainment through a system called IRC which hosts thousands of users that can chat between themselves at any time of the day, wherever the users are in the world.
Part 2-Where the NET came from-
The grandfather of the Internet was the ARPANET, a project funded by the Department of Defense(DOD) in 1969 with two purposes: as an experiment in reliable networking and to link the DOD and military research contractors, including colleges involved in military-funded research. The ARPANET started small with 3 computers in California and 1 in Utah, but quickly grew to seize the continent.
In 1980, universities started to move from individual computers to time-sharing machines, each of which served hundreds of simultaneous users. Because users had gotten used to the advantages of time-sharing systems, such as shared directories of files and e-mail, they wanted to keep those same facilities on their workstations because, although time-sharing systems had many faults, there were some advantages that people liked.
Some of the new workstations ran UNIX, a popular type of operating system that was developed at the University of California at Berkeley. The government gave the contract to the Berkley to improve computer networking so the software version of UNIX they gave included all the necessities to hook up to a network. Because the workstation manufacturers also began to develop network hardware, all you had to do to get a working network was to string the cable to connect the workstations, something that universities could do cheaply because they generally had students do it.
The colleges then, rather then attach a couple of computers to the ARPANET, attached whole networks to it. And in a couple of years, the ARPANET became flooded with users to such an extent that it was in danger of collapsing.
After ARPANET, the National Science Foundation (NSF) decided to set up five supercomputer centers for research use. NSF thought that they could use the ARPANET to send their programs to be run through their supercomputers and then send back the results. The plan to use the ARPANET didn't work out for many reasons: some technical, some political. So the NSF, wanting to build a new political empire, built a much faster network of computers to connect the supercomputing centers: the NSFNET. Then it arranged to set up many regional networks, with the NSFNET connecting all the regional networks.
The NSFNET was a great success. By the nineties, so many business had abandoned the ARPANET and fled to the NSFNET that, after 20 years, the ARPANET had become obsolete and, in effect, "crashed and burned." The supercomputing centers for NSFNET turned out to be not as effective as hoped: most of the supercomputers didn't work and the ones that did were so expensive to use that most potential customers decided that a few high-performance workstations would work just as well. Luckily, by the time the supercomputers were on their way out, the NSFNET had become so entrenched with users, that it lived on without its original purpose. By 1994, several large commercial Internet networks had grown in power within the Internet. Some of these were quite large, and some were specialist companies. Because of the increase in "traffic" on the Internet, NSFNET had been wound down, with its traffic taken over by commercial networks. So the commercial companies started selling access to this network of networks, and people rushed to it. It is now known as the INTERNET.