In the Beginning: ARPANET
The story of the Internet, and networking in general, can be traced back to the late 1950s. The US was in the depths of the Cold War with the USSR, and each nation closely watched the other to determine which would gain a military or intelligence advantage. In 1957, the Soviets surprised the US with the launch of Sputnik, propelling us into the space age. In response to Sputnik, the US Government created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), whose initial role was to ensure that the US was not surprised again. It was from ARPA, now called DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), that the Internet first sprang.
ARPA was the center of computing research in the 1960s, but there was just one problem: many of the computers could not talk to each other. In 1968, ARPA sent out a request for proposals for a communication technology that would allow different computers located around the country to be integrated together into one network. Twelve companies responded to the request, and a company named Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN) won the contract. They began work right away and were able to complete the job just one year later: in September, 1969, the ARPANET was turned on. The first four nodes were at UCLA, Stanford, MIT, and the University of Utah.