We take the Internet for granted, and it has become so integral to daily life that even people who can remember the time before it was everywhere can't really fathom how we got along without it. But when you think about it, the online universe has only really been something we consider a normal component of everyday existence for about 15 years or so. Online communication existed long before that, but it took several decades for the average person to catch up. In fact, the first steps toward the Internet began on this day in 1969, when the first online transmission was sent via ARPANET.
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was a cooperative project between a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United States Department of Defense. The idea was to design a network that would allow simple communication between computers. Though millions of computers are currently connected via the Internet today, that first network consisted of only four systems, one each at UCLA, Stanford, the University of Utah and the University of California Santa Barbara. The system had been in development since 1962, and by 1969 it was ready to transmit. The first ever message sent on this day in '69 was sent by UCLA student Charley Kline, who was trying to send the word "login" to the computer at Stanford. He got as far as "lo" before the system crashed on him.
Since then, online communication has made major leaps forward every few years or so. The first e-mail was sent by 1971, and by 1980 the number of linked computers had grown exponentially. The personal computer represented another leap forward, and when America Online became a must-have program for everybody in suburbia, the online world finally took over most of our daily lives. Now we're free to keep tabs on people from high school, read news about Mel Gibson and trade "Weird Al" Yankovic songs with each other. The future is now!