I'm 40, which means I'm younger than the internet. But that also means I'm old enough to remember a few of the more interesting moments in the history of what is now the dominant force in our lives. It's how we work, connect, shop, and communicate. But that wasn't always the case.

Here's a brief look back at some of the more interesting moments in the last 50 years of the internet.

1969: The Internet Is Born

It didn't look anything like it does now, but then again, none of us do when we're born. The internet, on the other hand, didn't even have the same name. Back then it was known as Arpanet, and it was born when a UCLA student named Charley Kline attempted to login, but instead the system crashed after entering "LO." That was it. That was the first message ever sent via what was the tiny network that would become the internet we know today.

1971: The First Email Is Sent

Ray Tomlinson sent himself a test message, though no one knows what it says--not even Tomlinson. He sent it to himself, so the world may never know for sure. 

1992: The First Selfie Is Uploaded

I guess it wasn't technically a selfie, since it was taken by Tim Berners-Lee, one of the early inventors of what we know of as the internet. But, the first ever photo uploaded to the internet was of an all-female comedy/pop band from Switzerland called Les Horribles Cernettes standing in front of a blue background back in 1992.

1994: The First Internet Cafe Opens

Believe it or not, there was a time when people didn't have internet in their homes. In fact, many of them gathered in storefronts where the entire business was letting you use a computer with an internet connection--often rented by the minute. The first one opened in the U.S. in Dallas, Texas 25 years ago. 

1994: Netscape Navigator

Apparently the internet's 25th birthday was a big one because in addition to the internet cafes, this was the year Netscape Navigator was born. Back then, it was the first web browser in widespread use, which made it much easier to actually access content online. While it was basically extinct just eight years later, it was the Chrome and Safari of its time. 

1995: AOL Reaches 1 Million Users

I suspect many of the people reading this column have no frame of reference when I say that at one point, America Online (later AOL) was the internet. Like, the entire thing. I mean, sure, there were websites, but most of them were bad, and most of what you did online was chat with your friends, send emails, and view a few different websites. You did all of that within AOL. 

1997: Google Launches

Google wasn't the first search engine. There were others like Yahoo and AltaVista, and the honor of being first goes to a site called Archie that launched seven years earlier. But Google changed things to the extent that today there are an estimated 6 billion searches a day, which drive as much as half of all internet traffic. 

2000-ish: Broadband Internet

I still distinctly remember the sound of AOL connecting over a phone line. In the early 2000s, broadband internet started to replace dial-up, which meant that not only was the internet faster, you could be always connected without waking up the family. 

2012: Facebook Reaches 1 Billion Users

There was a time before it felt inevitable that Facebook would someday rule the world. Launched back in 2004, it took eight years to get to 1 billion users. It's taken less than that to get to 2.5 billion, which just shows you how fast it's growing. Whether that's good or bad is yet to be seen. 

2017: Barack Obama's Tweet Gets 4 Million 'Likes'

The most-liked tweet ever came two years ago and might just give you hope that the internet hasn't turned out all that bad 50 years later.

Published on: Nov 1, 2019
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