What was your first internet activity?

First message in the Arpanet 50 years agoWhen the Internet was launched

1969 is a year full of great events. Woodstock becomes a beacon against the Vietnam War. New political times are dawning in the Federal Republic.

Willy Brandt: "We want to dare more democracy"

And - accompanied by an unprecedented media spectacle - Neil Armstrong is setting foot on new territory.

"It was a completely normal day"

In the computer laboratory at the University of California in Los Angeles, or UCLA for short, everything is running as usual. Also on October 29th.

"It was a completely normal day. We just installed the second node computer for the Arpanet, which later became the Internet."

Recalls Leonard Kleinrock, then professor for computer networks at UCLA. There he led the construction of the Arpanet.

Leonard Kleinrock and his students sent a first message about the predecessor of the Internet in 1969 (AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck)
"As a research organization for the American military, Arpa has funded projects all over the United States. This is how technology foci arose, for example computer graphics at the University of Utah or high-performance computing in Illinois. All research facilities were to be connected to one another so that computers and computer programs could be shared . "

It was to become a nationwide network for science, so that at that time unspeakably expensive computer capacities could be used regardless of location. The scientists worked out a new process in order to be able to use the expensive telephone lines optimally - the so-called packet switching. Instead of having to switch an expensive connection line for each individual application, the data is sent in separate packets over shared lines.

Kleinrock and his colleagues had worked feverishly

"With packet switching you can share the whole thing. And you can also forward the packets individually via other channels, which simply makes things much more stable. And that is a technology that has now established itself in the sense that all lines today actually run via parcel services. "

Explains Anja Feldmann from the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Saarbrücken the advantages of package delivery. This technology is still the fundamental basis for the Internet as we know it today. Kleinrock and his colleagues had worked feverishly on such packet switching computers - on the Internet they are called routers - in order to try them out on the evening of October 29, 1969.

Kleinrock stands behind Charly, his student at the input keyboard. At 10:30 p.m. they try to log into a computer at Stanford University, which is more than 500 kilometers away from Los Angeles.

A strong message

"Imagine this irony of the story: We used the telephone system to make it superfluous in the end. Off we went. Charly tapped the L and on the other end of the phone line was Bill Duval and said, got the L ..."

"Got the L! Typed the O. Got the O? Yup, got the O! Typed a G. Got the G? Crash !!!!"

"So the very first message on the internet was 'lo' as in 'lo and behold', or 'behold!'. We couldn't have asked for a stronger message than this simple 'lo'."

This failed "lo" was the starting shot for the Internet. In the 1970s and 1980s, more and more computers - especially at research institutions - were integrated into the network. And in addition to the Arpanet, other data networks were created, such as Bitnet or the German Research Network. Thanks to the universal packet switching technology, they were all gradually merged into the global Internet. This is how the network of networks was created, with an estimated four billion users worldwide today.