(By Timothy B. Lee/Vox) The internet increasingly pervades our lives, delivering information to us no matter where we are. It takes a complex system of cables, servers, towers, and other infrastructure, developed over decades, to allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family so effortlessly.
Here are 40 maps that will help you better understand the internet — where it came from, how it works, and how it’s used by people around the world.
How the internet was created
Before the internet, there was the ARPANET
ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet, was an academic research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, a branch of the military known for funding ambitious research projects without immediate commercial or military applications. Initially, the netowrk only connected the University of Utah with three research centers in California. ARPANET was a test of a then-novel technology called packet-switching, which breaks data into small “packets” so they can be transmitted efficiently across the network. It also had a more practical goal: allowing more efficient use of expensive computing resources. Computers scientists sometimes used ARPA money to buy computers, and the agency hoped that ARPANET would allow universities to share these expensive resources more efficiently. One of the first ARPANET applications was Telnet, which allowed a researcher at one ARPANET site to log into a computer at another site.
1970: ARPANET expands
By the end of 1970, ARPANET had grown to 13 nodes, including East Coast schools like Harvard and MIT. Among the early nodes was Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN), an engineering consulting company that did the engineering work required to build ARPANET. Each ARPANET site had a router known as an Interface Message Processor. These cost $82,200, or half a million dollars in today’s money.