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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

10 - Licklider’s Intergalactic Computer Network


It seems reasonable to envision, for a time 10 or 15 years hence, a “thinking center” that will incorporate the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval.... The picture readily enlarges itself into a network of such centers, connected to one another by wide-band communication lines and to individual users by leased-wire services. In such a system, the speed of the computers would be balanced, and the cost of gigantic memories and the sophisticated programs would be divided by the number of users.

J. C. R. Licklider

The network is the computer

Today, with the Internet and World Wide Web, it seems very obvious that computers become much more powerful in all sorts of ways if they are connected together. In the 1970s this result was not so obvious. This chapter is about how the Internet of today came about. As we can see from Licklider’s (B.10.1) quotation beginning this chapter, in addition to arguing for the importance of interactive computing in his 1960 paper on “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” Lick also envisaged linking computers together, a practice we now call computer networking. Larry Roberts, Bob Taylor’s hand-picked successor at the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), was the person responsible for funding and overseeing the construction of the ARPANET, the first North American wide area network (WAN). A WAN links together computers over a large geographic area, such as a state or country, enabling the linked computers to share resources and exchange information.