This is What Would Happen If the Internet was Discovered in the 90s

June 12, 2020
First Published On: June 12, 2020

Throughout the 20th century, great thinkers envisioned a vast network of interconnected storage that could be accessed via search. It seemed a daunting task to bring together mechanized systems across the world together. The first steps towards building the modern web came during the 1960s when the concept of 'packet switching' was introduced. Packet switching is a method of data transmission where data is broken into smaller parts and sent through various routes and assembled before delivery. It is used even today and can be considered the building block of the internet.

In the late 1960s, the United States Department of Defense funded the research for ARPANET, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. ARPANET utilized packet switching and allowed multiple computers to communicate within a network. The technology expanded rapidly but lacked proper protocols. To this end scientists, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. The TCP/IP standardized data transmission across multiple computers. It was adopted by ARPANET on January 1st, 1983. After the adoption, researchers began to assemble what they called the network of networks, which would soon become the modern internet. In 1990 the internet we know and love was created in the form of the World Wide Web by researcher Tim Berners Lee. The World Wide Web is a system that allows access to data online through hyperlinks and websites.

Today, the internet is an integral part of our daily lives. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without the internet, our daily schedules could be crippled. We rely on the internet from the essential things, such as remembering dates and purchasing groceries to vital tasks such as monitoring nuclear plants and business meetings. All this has become possible since the internet blew up in the mid-90s. It is now almost impossible to imagine life without the internet. 

So what would happen if the internet had been invented in the 1970s? For starters, this would likely advance our technology by almost 20 years. To what extent, though? Well, that's what we want to discuss today.

Here is how the invention of the internet during the 70s would (likely) impact our lives.

Communication

Last decade, every 9 out of 10 American homes had a telephone. In modern times only every second home had a telephone. The reason behind this? Internet, of course. The easy access to IM and text messages has made telephones pretty much irrelevant. Modular telephones saw development in the 1970s. If the internet had been invented in the 70s, then it is safe to say that by now, telephones would be near extinct. Already we are extremely reliant on internet provided services such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, Snapchat, and FaceTime for day to day communication. Text messages are easy to type out on the go and minimize small talk. With a twenty-year head start, technologies like pagers and early cell phones would be developed much faster and minimize the use of telephone significantly by modern times.

Education

Today, the internet is vital for education. Search engines are the lifeline of students, entire assignments and projects are assigned via the internet, and many interactive activities are done online. From discussion forums to digital classrooms, the internet is already a major impact on education. Digital degrees are provided to more and more students every year, and survey hints that students today are not interested in gaining the 'college experience' anymore, they just want their degrees. As the years progress, we are bound to see digital education become more mainstream. If the internet had been developed in the 70s, we would see this rate accelerate even more. With the prices of education at an all-time high and rent and living expenses skyrocketing it is logical to assume that we would see much more popularity for online education

Search Engines

We google everything. Google became so popular that it is now an adjective used to describe the action of searching something on the internet. However, if the internet had been invented in the 70s, we would not have Google to count on everything. Before Google exploded into the scene, there were already many other search engines. Archie was the first commercial search engine, and it would set the stage for many iterations to follow. Altavista, Yahoo, Hotbot, and many others would follow suit only to blown out of the competition by Google. In the 1960s, Gerard Salton and his teams at Harvard and Cornell University started experimenting on Salton's Magic Automatic Retriever of Text (SMART). The tool utilized several important concepts such as Term Frequency, relevancy feedback mechanisms, for example. Salton is often referred to as the father of search engines. It is likely that an early dawn of the internet would have seen SMART become more efficient and mainstream in the years that would follow.

Music and Politics

The 70s was impacted by a major political scandal and the rise of rock n roll and punk rock. Politics and music would never have been the same had the internet dawned early. Rock and Punk music were on the rise but were most influential in televisions and discos. Rockstars like Elvis Presley and The Beatles were all the rage back in the day, and television appearances were among the most-watched. Internet in that era would have made them even more popular. This would likely cause widespread popularity of Rock music. Similarly, another major impact would be made in the world of politics. President Richard Nixon was involved in the Watergate scandal. Nixon abused his presidential power and tapped the communications of political rivals. No doubt, the Watergate scandal would have been affected by the use of mainstream internet. Nixon spent almost two years defending and battling accusations. The use of the internet would have sped up investigations news and fastened the pace. This tradition has already become mainstream with politics across the world being broadcasted on the internet and would undoubtedly be integrated more with polls, rankings, international opinions on domestic affairs, international policies, and so on.

Modern Technology

When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone in 2007, he launched a technological revolution. It united three key features; cell phone functionality, music system, and an internet communicator. The aftermath of the iPhone would see tech companies around the world jump onto the bandwagon of touch screen smartphones. Today more than 2 billion people worldwide use Smartphones, and this statistic is expected to increase by 2020. Already approximately 3.2 billion people have access to the internet. With a 20-year head start, technology would have been forced to evolve much faster. It is likely that at this point, we would see our daily lives completely integrated with the internet, as is already the trend. We use it for shopping, paying bills, communication, education, leisure, business, office work, etc. Devices such as cellphones, laptops, and tablets would probably be created much early on, paving the way to more advanced forms of communication by now and standard ISP packages reaching connections of Terabits per second for commercial use.

Social Media

Today Facebook and Instagram reign supreme as the social mediums to connect people. Personal pages, businesses, and groups thrive on social media. However, we likely wouldn't have these specific social media to use. Simply because their founders wouldn't have been born in the right place at the right time. The earliest form of social media was called 'Six Degrees' and was founded in 1997. As the internet went global, so did social media birthed giants like Facebook and Twitter. This isn't to say there would be no social media, but the ones we used would be much different than the ones we use today. Social media would be integrated more intimately into our lives.