Internet History Program
The growth of the Web and Internet has transformed the ways we use and share information, perhaps as completely as the printing press did beginning half a millennium ago. There is no end in sight.
Yet many of the records of this epic transformation—and the little-known 100 year history of brilliant innovation leading up to it—are rapidly disappearing.
Today's online world is becoming the first mass medium to incorporate nearly all previous forms of communication, from books, to money transfers, to television. But few, including key decision makers and even networking professionals, are familiar with its evolution, or the dozens of earlier systems with lessons still to teach.
The CHM Internet History Program records the history of computer networking including the Web, the internet, and mobile data. Launched in 2009, it is one of the first general programs in this area by a major historical institution. The program covers networking as both a technical invention and a new form of communication with a growing impact on society.
Founding curator Marc Weber has researched the history of the Web since 1995, and co-founded two of the first organizations in the field. The Program works with CHM staff, trustees, and advisors with special expertise in networking, including many pioneers. It also collaborates with a number of peer institutions.
You can help the Program identify materials world-wide in need of preservation including software, screenshots, documents, and oral histories.
The Networking and Web galleries of the Museum's signature exhibition Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing are among the first major permanent exhibits to address these great inventions of our time. Mobile Computing and several other galleries include related parts of the story.
The Internet History Program is actively building on the extensive networking materials and exhibits at CHM, a unique base with roots going back more than three decades, as well as materials assembled by the Web History Project.
To support the Program financially or to volunteer your time, please use the Museum’s Get Involved page and note that you are interested in the Internet History Program. You will be able to follow our upcoming online discussion groups. If you are a pioneer or first-hand source you may also become a contributor.
Please send suggestions or questions to the Program’s founding curator: Marc Weber.
The history of computer networking contains three main stories, or levels. We focus on the top two:
Online systems (like the Web), from the 1950s forward. We collect materials on:
- Information systems like the World Wide Web and its predecessors
- Networked applications, from FTP to email to multiplayer games
- Roots of online systems in timesharing, hypertext, and pre-computer information retrieval systems
- Mobile applications
Networks (think Internet), from the 1950s forward. We collect materials on:
- "Networks of networks" like the Internet and its predecessors
- Wide area networks like the ARPANET and its competitors
- Local area networks like Ethernet and its competitors
- Wireless and mobile networks
"Wires": The telecommunications infrastructure first laid in the mid-19th century for the telegraph and telephone. We have a few representative items, but mostly work with peer institutions that systematically collect this history.
The museum preserves materials that capture the history of networking, including:
- Software, data, and sites
- Photographs, films, and videos
- Physical artifacts
- Personal and business papers and letters
- Technical notes and project documentation
- Oral histories of pioneers and significant participants, preserved using video, audio, and transcripts
Topic Groups and Advisors
These groups consist of pioneers and experts who advise the Internet History Program, and who may participate in our upcoming discussion groups.
- Commercial Networking
- Early Networks
- Early Web
- Electronic Publishing and e-books
- Journalism and Blogging
- Legal History of Networking
- Mobile data
- Networking in Science
- Online Systems
- Sensor Networks and Smart Dust
- Virtual Worlds
- Voice over Networks
- Web Design
- Wikis and Commenting Systems
- Historians and researchers
ResourcesNetworking History Resources