In 1966, Robert “Bob” Taylor, an employee at the U.S. government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, had an insight that led to the creation of the internet: “[Bob Taylor’s] most enduring legacy, however, was … a leap of intuition that tied together everything else he had done. This was the ARPANET, the precursor of today’s Internet.
“Taylor’s original model of a nationwide computer network grew out of his observation that time-sharing was starting to promote the formation of a sort of nationwide computing brotherhood (at this time very few members were women). Whether they were at MIT, Stanford, or UCLA, researchers were all looking for answers to the same general questions. ‘These people began to know one another, share a lot of information, and ask of one another, “How do I use this? Where do I find that?”‘ Taylor recalled. ‘It was really phenomenal to see this computer become a medium that stimulated the formation of a human community.’
“There was still a long way to go before reaching that ideal, however. The community was less like a nation than a swarm of tribal hamlets, often mutually unintelligible or even mutually hostile. Design differences among their machines kept many groups digitally isolated from the others. The risk was that each institution would develop its own unique and insular culture, like related species of birds evolving independently on islands in a vast uncharted sea. Pondering how to bind them into a larger whole, Taylor sought a way for all groups to interact via their computers, each island community enjoying constant access to the others’ machines as though they all lived on one contiguous virtual continent.