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Internet, a turning to modernity

Standfirst: Internet has changed lifestyle, mentality and thoughts of people around the world. If any future historian writes the history of human civilisation he will divide the age into two parts – before and after internet
Chinmay Prasun Biswas
Internet, a turning to modernity

Internet is a very popular and widely used word in today’s world among people irrespective of age, educational qualification, social status, economic ability, political ideology, religious belief and so on. In many cases, it has become a part and parcel of modern life but the process began 51 years ago.

On 29th October 1969, Charles Clyne, a student of California University was trying to send five letters (L, O, G, I, N) to his friend William Duval sitting at Stanford Research Institute, 568 kilometres away from California. Both of them had computers in front of them. Clyne typed L on his key board. To know whether it reached the other end he had to talk to his friend over telephone and reply came ‘yes.’ He typed O, dialed again, got the same answer and felt glad but just after typing G the system collapsed.

This event of sending two letters and being stumbled at the third one sowed the seed of the most modern system of connectivity in the history of civilisation. After many years, success in sending two letters crossing a distance of 568 kilometres in 1969 is today’s internet, the smartest mode to connect people all over the world. If modernity is taken for a running river, then internet is a bridge and users and non-users of internet are standing on two opposite sides of that river. Grossly speaking, users of internet are known as modern but non-users are not. Internet has changed lifestyle, mentality and thoughts of people around the world. If any future historian writes the history of human civilisation he will divide the age into two parts – before and after internet. It is not only necessary but also urgent to look back at the system that has completed half century.

Today’s internet, as a mode of communication, is not a revolution but an outcome of evolution. Human beings are very skilled to invent and adapt different systems of communication and this ability has placed human beings as superior to all other animals. Language is the most important part of verbal and written communication but other animals lack it. Journey to internet from calligraphy to internet through telegraph, telephone, teleprinter, fax, radio link and wireless is a very long one.

Many people say that science, in fact, is a war child which can’t be ignored fully. On 4th July 2012 when higgs boson (god particle) was discovered in CERN Laboratory, physicist all over the world became overwhelmed with joy, some of American physicists sighed because they could also achieve the success if end of cold war between America and Russia did not nip an American initiative in the bud. Moreover, coincidentally, 4th July is the independence day of America. Study of molecular physics is always a massive activity of breaking molecules from small to smaller particles. For collision it is essential to run the molecules a long way which is very costly. Sharing the expenses, many war hit countries of Europe jointly founded CERN at Geneva in 1954 to curtail America’s monopoly in study of molecular physics. The large hadron where higgs boson was discovered at Sern, was the largest ever man-made machine prepared by 1000 scientists of 100 countries.

Long ahead of inventing higgs boson America took an initiative to build a machine three times bigger and three times more powerful than large hadron collider. President Ronald Wilson Regan approved the project to build super conducting super collider but after digging a 22 km tunnel and spending $ 200 crore the project was abandoned in October 1983. American administration held the view that as Soviet Union had fallen and cold war had ended, there was no more necessity to prove America’s supremacy. If super conducting super collider had been built then America could be the proud owner of inventing higgs boson.

If end of cold war is the reason of collapse of collider then its beginning is also the root of invention of internet. In October 1957 when cold war was in full swing, befooling America, Russia launched Sputnik to space. Experts say that it was shock of the century to America because America could not believe socialists Russia’s tremendous underhand development in space expedition. Being angry American president Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower commented, “This is intolerable” and on 7th February 1958 Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), now known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was formed to develop the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in American universities and laboratories financed by government.

For this purpose costly computers were purchased but no result was received because huge computers worked in their own language. One computer could not understand the language of another due to lack of inter computer connectivity and a network was felt essential. To provide financial support for preparing ARPA network budget allocation of ballistic missile was curtailed but arms scientists were dissatisfied with this decision. To satisfy them it was informed that if Soviet missiles damage one particular computer then others will preserve information because all computers will be equipped and inter-connected with advanced information sharing technology. 

Use of computer was not so wide in 1969 but initiative to develop ARPAnet marked the beginning. Leonard Clainrok, a professor of California University commented, “Computer is now at its infancy but once it will spread out. May be many companies like today’s power and telephone will come forward to deliver computer service to doorsteps of people.” He was very much prudent in his assumption. Huge number of people are now using computer.

However, the rose has thorns also. Alongwith success of internet, forgery, state’s surveillance on individual liberty, fake news, pornography, slander all these are running through internet. Initially Clainrok thought that all these would be overcome after crossing infancy of internet but after some years he said, “Now there is no scope to believe it because internet has become a platforms to exhibit the lowest instincts of human beings.”

1969 of America is full of many incidents – American police’s attack on homosexuals in New York in June, Apollo’s landing on the moon with Armstrong, 4-day music festival of Woodstock attended by 4 lakh people ignoring rain and mud but invention of internet was the most important of all. Public memory is still bright. That room no. 3420 of California University from where Charles Clyne sent two letters to his friend William Duval for the first time on 29th October, 1969, has been preserved intact as a museum. As birthplace of internet it attracts many people. Whatever be the outcome, it marked the beginning of change. Standing in front of that 51 year old computer and handwriting on blackboard visitors remember astronomer and writer Karl Sagan’s speech, “Science is the art of managing our future.”

The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes  

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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