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The Internet becomes accessible


Birth of the browser : getting the information out there

Just as a public library would be useless without a catalogue of all its books, the World Wide Web would be impenetrable without programs for searching and retrieving information. A 'Browser' is the generic name for a program that allows you to explore the wonders of the Web and make sense of it all.

The first ones were purely text-based, but Mosaic was different; it understood pictures and graphics and was hugely successful. It also paved the way for programs like Netscape and Internet Explorer that we use today.

The advent of browsers and the widespread adoption of information standards meant that most browsers could understand most information, and made the World Wide Web accessible to ordinary PC users.

And because the information now included images and audiovisual multimedia content, it became both interesting and useful to ordinary PC users.

Most users don't care what the browser does. All that matters is that a Web page opens or a file is downloaded when you click on a link or type in an address. 

Retina recognition

The online society : how safe is your password?

Online access is anonymous; to the host computer you could be anybody - or impersonating anybody. That's why password protection is vital to protect your privacy and personal assets.

When you log on for telephone banking, Internet shopping, booking a cinema or concert ticket or use any kind of ATM or shared computer terminal you need a user ID and password.

Most people use direct key strokes to write in their user names and passwords when surfing the Internet.

They shouldn't - this is not particularly secure.

Thieves can observe the PIN code you enter, then steal your bank card by force, and use it immediately. Computer keyboards can be 'bugged' too; a secret program in the computer captures all password codes entered.

That's why biometric methods are becoming the preferred proof of identity. Your fingerprint and the retina pattern of your eye are totally unique. Devices are coming onto the market to read these personal signatures and ensure you really are you.

Vinton gray cerf

Vint Cerf (born 1943) : opening the doors of the Internet

Vinton Gray Cerf was co-designer of the mechanisms known as TCP/IP that enabled the Internet's capability to be used by everybody.

Cerf dreamt of becoming a scientist as a ten year-old boy in California, after being inspired by the book 'The Boy Scientist'. He studied computer science and worked as a programmer in the sixties and seventies with ARPA - the organisation that was already then laying the foundations of the Internet with the ARPANET.

Realising that the rules controlling how Internet traffic flowed were becoming fast outdated, Cerf dreamt up a new set of standards to replace it. He hooked up with Bob Kahn to develop the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and, a little later, the Internet Protocol (IP) as well.

The protocol freed up the amount of traffic the Internet could carry, and although it was intended strictly for serious pursuits, the new bandwidth opened the doors to all the content available today.

Kahn, Bob

Bob Kahn (born 1938) : connecting the wired world

Bob Kahn was co-designer of the system for handling data communication between computers known as TCP/IP.

Kahn shone as a computer genius at Princeton University. He had periods of work at AT&T's Bell Laboratories and teaching electrical engineering at MIT, before joining the ARPAnet project, which was laying the foundations of the Internet, in 1972.

He gave the first demonstration of ARPAnet - a network of 40 computers - which introduced the concept of the Internet to the world at large. But the structure couldn't handle huge traffic loads, and Kahn joined forces with Vint Cerf in 1973 to write the software called 'communication protocols' that would allow any computer to talk to any other, no matter what hardware or software they used.

The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) was expanded later to include Internet Protocol (IP), and this software underpins the Internet we use today.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

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