The first working computers in the 1950s and 1960s were large mainframe machines. In some ways, they were like large calculating machines. The U.S. government, the military and businesses and institutions used them for specific tasks. For example, they might be used to handle the payroll.
As more uses were found for computers, the need to transfer data from one computer to another became a concern. In 1969, the U.S. government sponsored a program to explore ways for computers to transfer data over telephone lines. The first Internet was created with four computers linked together.
Of course, computer use increased beyond anyone’s expectations. Standards were developed that describe how data was to be transferred between computers. A common language for commands and communications emerged. Operating programs such as MS-DOS, UNIX, Macintosh and Windows came into existence.
The Internet quickly expanded beyond government and military uses. The PC became the standard form of computer. Private agencies acted as hosts for Internet usage. Around 1982, there were 213 hosts; by 1986, there were 2,300; today, there are millions.
The role of computers expanded so quickly that the U.S.S.R., which had discouraged computer use, found itself left behind by the U.S.A. Part of the reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was that they had fallen too far behind the United States in high tech areas to ever catch up.
One of the most popular uses of the computer is electronic mail, or e-mail. You can send a letter by computer over the Internet to anywhere in the world in seconds or less. And it doesn’t cost anything extra. Now data can be transferred great distances almost instantaneously.
Another major Internet use is the World Wide Web. In the early days, all web pages were text only. In the 1990s, it became possible to make web pages interactive and multi-media. Interactive means that readers could click on items on the web page and get more information. They could also communicate directly with the web-page owner. Multi-media means that web pages were no longer text only. They could also have graphics, film/video, and audio. This has helped to turn computers into popular entertainment.
Nowadays, people spend hours every day surfing the net. However, there are some problems. For some people, computers are addictive. Many businesses are trying to control employees using the net during working hours. Since the Internet includes just about every kind of information, not all of it is good. You can find directions on how to be a criminal or a terrorist. There are scam artists who want to cheat you out of your money. There are also aggressive, pornography salesmen, not to mention people who want to kill your computer with viruses.
Since the Internet is not closely regulated, it is up to individual users to follow computer etiquette. Parents need to supervise their children’s use of the net. Although the Internet has some disadvantages, many people see the net as one of the greatest inventions of modern times.