Milestones in the Development of the Internet and Its Significance for Education (Source: PBS Net Timeline and Hobbes Internet timeline)

The Internet began as an experiment funded by the United States Department of Defense to promote networking research. Called the ARPANET, it originally connected the Stanford Research Institute, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. Scientists immediately found the connectivity extremely useful in collaborating via email, and other universities and government research centers were soon connected. At this stage in the Internet's development, access was only available for private citizens as students or faculty at these schools.

Before access to the Internet became widely available, computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and online services such as CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online provided online content and connectivity. These were primarily "character" based systems that allowed people to connect via modems and phone lines in order to share files and exchange messages, participate in chat rooms and forums on a wide variety of subjects. As technology permitted, the character-based interfaces of personal computer operating systems evolved into GUI and WYSIWYG - the Graphical User Interface and What You See Is What You Get. At the same time, the Internet was gathering momentum. When the two technologies collided with the introduction of the World Wide Web and graphical web browsers, the Internet exploded in popularity. Most of the content and functionality of the online services and BBS's quickly moved to the Internet.

1969 - Defense Department commissions ARPANET to promote networking research. First hosts of the ARPANET installed connect Stanford Research Institute, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. CompuServe time-sharing service is founded.

1970 - 1973 The ARPANET is a success as scientists access remote computers, collaborate and share data. Email gains popularity fast.

1971 - ARPANET now connects 23 universities and government research center hosts in the United States.

1973 - ARPANET establishes international connections to University College in London, England and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway.

1975 - The MITS Altair 8800 is hailed as the first "personal" computer. Paul Allen and Bill Gates develop BASIC for the 8800 and Microsoft is born.

1976 - Queen Elizabeth sends the first royal email message. The Apple I is brought into a school for the first time by Liza Loop at the LO*OP Center. (Her Open Portal Schools article, written in 1986 and updated in 1998 is an eye-opener.)

1977 - Apple introduces the Apple with 16K of RAM .

1979 - The first USENET newsgroups are established and people around the world are soon discussing the thousands subjects electronically. CompuServe becomes the first service to offer electronic mail capabilities to personal computer users.

1980 - IBM asks Microsoft to develop BASIC for its personal computer to be introduced next year. CompuServe is the first online service to offer real-time chat online with its CB Simulator.

1981 - The ARPANET grows to 213 hosts with a new host added approximately every 20 days. NSF provides seed money for CSNET (Computer Science NETwork) to connect U.S. computer science departments. The IBM PC is introduced in August

1982 - The term "Internet" is coined.

1984 - The Apple Macintosh is introduced with a GUI - graphical user interface.

1985 - Apple launches ACOT - Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow. Microsoft Windows 1.0 ships in November. America Online is launched under original name, Quantum Computer Services, who's first online service is "Q-Link."

1987 - Internet hosts grow to more than 10,000.

1989 - Internet hosts exceed 100,000. "America Online" service is launched for Macintosh and Apple II.

1990 - The ARPANET fades into history. Internet hosts now exceeds 300,000.

1991 - Commercial restriction on Internet use is lifted. Point-and-click navigation of files on the Internet is born in "gopher." Also, World Wide Web software released by CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. High Performance Computing Act, authored by then-Senator Gore, is signed into law. Quantum Computer Services changes name to America Online, Inc.

1992 - Internet hosts exceeded 1,000,000.. First audio and video broadcasts take place.

1993 - Mosaic, the first graphics-based Web browser developed at the NSF-funded National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is released. President Clinton and Vice President Gore get e-mail addresses. Traffic on the World Wide Web explodes. The White House commits to connecting schools via the Internet in Technology for America's Economic Growth: A New Direction to Build Economic Strength. The symposium "Reinventing Schools: The Technology Is Now" discusses integrating technology and the Internet into new instructional models for the classroom. Windows version of America Online launched.

1994 - Netscape Communications Corp. is formed. White House goes on-line with "Welcome to the White House." The Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 calls for the creation of a national education technology plan. According to the National Center for Education Statistics 35% percent of public elementary and secondary schools, and 3% of instructional rooms, have access to the Internet.

1995 - The Web now comprises most of Internet traffic. The Internet taken over by commercial sector as NSFNET reverts back to its research origins. U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement's Technology Innovation Challenge Grant program begins.

1996 - Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Internet hosts in the network-of-networks near the 10 million mark, and approximately 40 million users in almost 150 countries are online. E-commerce takes off as more than $1 billion per year changes hands online. Internet related stocks begin to soar. President Clinton and Vice President Gore announce Next Generation Internet initiative. Telecommunications Act of 1996 signed into law, which among other things, established the "E-Rate" funding of Internet connectivity for schools and libraries. In February, the White House announced the Technology Literacy Challenge. To support the initiative, in June the Department of educaton released the nation’s first national educational technology plan, Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge.

1997 - The FCC begins implementing the E-rate and rules unanimously to provide all K-12 schools and public libraries up to $2.25 billion a year in discounts for telecommunication services ranging from 20%-to-90% on a sliding-scale formula.

1998 - Internet hosts number almost 37 million and web-sites over 4 million. The first round of the E-Rate applications receive more than 30,000 applications requesting total discounts worth $2.02 billion.

1999 - Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-1999 According to the National Center for Education Statistics 95% percent of public elementary and secondary schools, and 63% of instructional rooms, have access to the Internet. In the fall, the U.S. Department of Education begins a year-long review of the national educational technology plan, Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge from 1996. Several white papers are commissioned and the Forum on Technology in Education: Envisioning the Future is held in December.