This morning, my ten year old son Raphael asked me why he could not print a drawing of a dinosaur from his computer to the home network printer. As we tried to find out why the computer could not reach the printers IP-address on the home dLAN network, he asked me what IP was.
I took the opportunity to explain the internet protocol by showing him a video that was developed by Ericsson Medialab in 1999. The video was made to explain the internet to telecom industry professionals, to help them understand the concepts in the transition from analogue technologies. Now fifteen years later, I think the video remains great and as the basic concepts of the internet are so solid and stable all the information in the video still holds for explaining how internet works today. It is a good introduction of what internet is to a curious child.
As many of us know, the internet as a concept was invented 49 years ago, in 1965, as a government invention for secure communication in the Cold War. For years, scientists and researchers used it to communicate and share data with one another. Today, we use the Internet for almost everything and the number of devices with an IP address is counted in billions.
For many people it would be impossible to imagine life without the internet. Already in 1965 the key building blocks and concepts were put in place that allow for the scale and many uses we have found for internet technologies. By now in 2014 and unlike technologies such as the light bulb or the telephone, the Internet of today has no single “inventor.” Instead, it has evolved over time.
When I was a child in the 1960s and 1970s, we used analogue telephone and analogue TV. When I started working in the 1980s, we had computer terminals with printers instead of displays and we used telefax for sending images and text. The world my son is growing up in is so incredibly different and there will be so many new technological and social patterns that our pre-internet world will look impossible to his generation when he grows up.
Oh, what the problem was with my sons computer? He had managed to get a backdoor virus installed, which once found was swiftly removed by Norton 360, and thanks to the secure delivery mechanisms of the internet protocol, the drawing was then printed.