Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Did The British Invent The Internet?

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 8, 2010

Interesting article on BBC News about early British computer pioneers.

By splitting data into packets and threading them on the same line, the carrying capacity of that link could be boosted and the whole network made more powerful.

Roger Scantlebury, who worked with Dr Davies, presented the ideas about "packet switching" to a conference in the US, where they were picked up by the creators of the nascent Arpanet, the fledgling internet.

Does that mean Britain invented the internet?

"Yes and no," said Mr Scantlebury. "Certainly the underlying technology of the internet, which is packet switching, we did invent."

British researchers also worked on hyperlinks, another crucial Internet technology, way back in the early 1970s.

David Yates was project manager of a program called Scrapbook which rolled together word processing, e-mail and hypertext - a system that incorporated many elements of the World Wide Web.

Scrapbook went live on 28 April 1971...Scrapbook helped people across the 28 acres of the NPL campus collaborate or projects without having to sit next to each other.

Clearly, the British had developed many of the technologies that went into the Internet. And Tim Berners-Lee, is a Brit and he invented the world wide web...

So maybe the British did invent the Internet but with typical British modesty, didn't want to blow their own horn. At least until now.

Please see: BBC News - Alan Turing and the Ace computer


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