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Date Added: June 09, 2007 09:47:55 AM

In the space of a few decades, the Internet -- the network of networks of computers -- has become an integral part of our lives. What seemed magic – global communication in the blink of an eye - has become rather ordinary to generations of Internet users… Through the Internet, information is constantly accumulated, accessed and used by millions of people. It is increasingly tapped for marketing, for research, for communication, and for entertainment.

The Beginning
The early development of the Internet was influenced by the Cold War competition for primacy in science and technology, sparked off by the Soviet Union’s successful launching of Sputnik. The US Defense Department organized the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which did initial groundwork in developing ARPANET, the first version of the Internet.

In the early 60s, visionaries were focusing on the use of such machines to enhance human mental capacity and performance through a system of storing and retrieving data. The first proposal for a global computer network came in 1962 from MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider, who became instrumental in actually developing the network while working for ARPA.   Another MIT man, Leonard Kleinrock, took the lead in developing the theory on sending batches of information or packets through interlinked computers.

ARPANET developed the technology that, with time, would enable it to metamorphose into the Internet, including and primarily the vital Request for Comments or RFC process. The year 1969 was the actual start of the Internet, when four university computers were successfully interlinked and became known as ARPANET. At first it was used only by scientists, computer experts, and librarians who had special training in its use but ARPANET expanded rapidly with the addition of other university computers.

Rapid Growth: Internet in the 70s and 80s
A rudimentary e-mail system was developed by 1971 and in time, it became the fastest growing form of global communication. APRANET already had a total of 15 nodes and the rules for networking were slowly being standardized.  By 1973, APRANET had expanded to England and Norway.

The growing availability of personal computers and modems spurred the growth of the Internet in the 80s. ARPANET was transformed into the “Internet” and the term became widely used. The Internet was defined as interlinked networks that use the standard Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). By the mid-80s, the Internet alone included a thousand nodes while other similar networks (for example the FidoNet) were established. The Domain Name System was also developed.

Rapid Technology in the 90s
In the past life changing technological developments were few and far between.  Now technological developments are causing upheavals in the way we live in the space of a few years.  We are subjected to constant change and we are faced with the need for constant adaptation. By 1986 the public could access the Internet, and not just scientists and other people with special training using elaborate codes. Information that they could otherwise not access was now easily available and it was not limited to one country but extended to all countries.  By the 1990s, accessing data was made even easier for Internet users who could now use the browser of their choice in getting whatever information they wanted from the World Wide Web.

The establishment of the Internet Service Provider also marked a significant step forward in the development of the Internet, which expanded to an astounding 300,000 hosts or nodes. By 1992 the number had further exploded to more than a million hosts and Internet traffic posted an almost 342,000 percent growth rate. By 1994, the Internet was being used to market products and services. By 1996 40 million people in 150 countries were considered Internet users. In the new millennium, the Internet, which started out as a military network, was transformed into an academic network, is now available to the human community. However the Internet is not always a blessing.

On one hand the Internet satisfies the legitimate desire of people for free access to information, especially when other sources of information are not available or restricted by government and other institutions.  It is a valuable tool for students and others who want to use Internet data for their formal academic work and  for their efforts at deepening their education. 

Ordinary people use the Internet for more information on their health, on products and services offered by business websites, their rights and choices, and other concerns.  An increasing number use the Internet to express their opinions, support certain demands and causes, and engage in democratic dialogue. Many Internet users uphold an ethical code or stance that promotes the right to free speech, to access to information that affects them, and free exchange of ideas. Several governments, wary of the Internet, have already taken steps to control people’s access to it. Human rights organizations have already reported these incidents.

On the other hand, there is the problem of ensuring that people such as sexual predators should be prevented from using the Internet to abuse children and the like. However this is difficult to do with the way the Internet receives and transmits information.

Technology has made the Internet possible and enabled its expansion to all aspects of human life.  However technology will not suffice and cannot answer the ethical problems related to the Internet and its use. People have to shoulder that responsibility. To develop Internet ethics people have to remember the following:

The Internet is not a separate but an integral part of human society. Therefore, laws and practices that are internationally accepted should be observed and respected even in the Internet. One example is respect for child rights, including protection from sexual predators that use the internet. Respect for all cultures and opinions should also operate in the cyber realm, since Internet users come from all countries, and vary in their religion, ethnicity, color, sexual orientation and political persuasion. Governments, organizations and individuals should bear their own responsibility for keeping the Internet a useful tool for human advancement.

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