Big Government Didn’t Build the Internet!

“The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike.” Crovitz writes, “The truth is a more interesting story about how innovation happens — and about how hard it is to build successful technology companies even once the government gets out of the way. For many technologists, the idea of the Internet traces to Vannevar Bush, the presidential science adviser during World War II who oversaw the development of radar and the Manhattan Project.

“In a 1946 article in The Atlantic titled ‘As We May Think,’ Bush defined an ambitious peacetime goal for technologists: Build what he called a ‘memex’ through which ‘wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.'” Even if you don’t know what that means, what it did in the scientific technology community is: “That fired imaginations, and by the 1960s technologists were trying to connect separate physical communications networks into one global network — a ‘world-wide web.’

“The federal government was involved, modestly, via the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Its goal was not maintaining communications during a nuclear attack, and it didn’t build the Internet. Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, sent an e-mail to fellow technologists in 2004 setting the record straight: ‘The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.'”

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