For a great deal of us, there is nothing more vital and more essential in our daily lives than the Internet. It has replaced the books and newspaper as our source of information and the telephone and written letter as a source of communication, and it is currently in the process of revolutionising how we are entertained, how we shop, as well as many other aspects of life. Considering what an awesome power the internet has become in our lives, it is hard to believe that, less than half a century ago, the word did not even exist.
Beyond our word not existing in any form until the late 1960s, it did not even acquire the meaning that we now solely associate it with until the mid-1980s. Originally, the word was a shortened combination of the prefix inter-, meaning among or between, and the word network, meaning, in this instance, a complex interconnected system or group of people.
Looking at the facts though, with 3 billion people currently connected to the Internet (40% of the world’s population) on approximately 10 billion devices, simply and initially “connecting people” has become rather an understatement. Economically speaking, the Internet has had a truly revolutionising effect that continues to grow: looking at the British economy, the share of the internet within British GDP has grown from 8.3% in 2010 to an estimated 12.4% in 2015, meaning that, as time passes, a greater share of economic activity is occurring through the internet. Further considering the potential growth of smart, internet-connected and managed devices – the so-called Internet of Things – which is estimated to add over £1 trillion to the global economy and be double the size of the current smartphone, PC, tablet, and wearable market in 5 years’ time, the Internet is guaranteed to be a even greater part of our lives moving forward.
The first known usage of the word comes in 1968, from the IEEE Conference Proceedings, where it was written that, “Almost all records that describe individuals..may be expected to be automated in the future. First, by centralized computers..and eventually by internetted computer systems with access from a large number of remote terminals.” As stated before, our modern interpretation of the word as different objects/devices communicating occurs in a 1984 issue of Defense Electronics Magazine, “Repeated tests have demonstrated Roland’s lethality and ability to internet with other short-range air defense units.” Finally, by 1994, we were beginning to see the adaptation of the internet for a more private, civilian use, as The Globe & Mail (Toronto) writes, “A number of providers want you to Internet to their services.”