Review of Janet Abbate's Inventing the Internet

1017 words 5 pages
Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999, 258 pages

Janet Abbate’s Inventing the Internet explores the history of the Internet as "a tale of collaboration and conflict among a remarkable variety of players." (3) Abbate’s writing concentrates on the Internet’s development through social and cultural influences. The book explores the evolution of the Internet from ARPANET to global networks. The Internet’s expansion has existed within an interworking web of innovators; government and military, computer scientists, graduate students, researchers, cable and phone companies, network users, etc. The details given by Abbate affirm the book’s claim that the Internet was not
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When ARPA decided in 1969 to connect the supercomputers scattered among university campuses, it had no political or financial difficulty attracting the best computer scientists from all over the United States. The originality of ARPANET is this basic freedom, in contrast to market laws and official control. Inventing the Internet highlights ARPA and its brilliance, which seems to violate both the hands-off approach and the state-intervention ideology. ARPANET was born in an atmosphere of total confidence within a community whose total purpose was to connect the computer equipment from as many universities as possible, while striking the least restricting of standards. Packet-switching technology was the tool that seemed to execute the fewest constraints so ARPANET was based on packet switching instead of the circuit-switching technology that characterized all other telecommunications networks in the world. Along the way, users and other developers took computer networking in directions that ARPA did not intend. Users rapidly made e-mail the most successful network application. Other countries tested the Internet with varying protocols and applications. The community of scientists hard-pressed the National Science Foundation into action that overshadowed ARPA's in the 1990s. As new applications and pressures arose, the United States government moved toward privatization of the Internet in the 1990s. This development and the commercialization of personal