For the record, Aug 31st 1991 was NOT the day the internet was named, became a reality, started getting used, nor really any other milestone in my experience.
ARPANET: there already was a connection of major computer systems. In the early 1980s, I would call in to M-net, a large public access BBS, [ arbornet.org ], and from there we could telnet to other systems like lusty, the Washington U computer, UMich, UI, etc. It was a little like Pre EU Europe: different places, different rules, and travel could be… complicated.
NSFNET: A government project intended to see if military, commercial and civilian sources could benefit from direct interconnection. As this huge government project progressed, more and more major systems could easily talk to each other. AOL, Genie, Lusty and M-net all got direct access to each other. I don’t care what these Tim fans say, for me, the internet was NSFNET.
80s: I was hanging with the Xanadu crew, who were tasked with developing Hypertext. Originally, this project was a super bibliography thing. You clip out test from something you read and all the bib information comes with it . However, the power of it became apparent immediately and it replaced telnet and gopher as the preferred reader. HTML grew organically out of Hypertext.
April 15, 1995: THIS was the day the internet moved from “wild west” to full statehood. NSFNET was still holding things together, and because of government rules, you could still only discuss internet addresses numerically. There was a budding URL system in place, and of course the big provider had their own versions like the AOL “keywords” system. But April was the first review meeting scheduled and instead of trying to upgrade NSFNET, the board wisely decided to just get out of the way. Starting on April 15th, the internet went down for a few days and didn’t run right for a few weeks as everyone reconnected to each other. While this was happening, the first URLs started appearing on TV, it was now legal to discuss them openly. This was the somewhat painful birth of the internet.
Unix: Back in the 60s Bell systems was developing Multix, a massive OS with a lot of big dreams. As a testbed for the not ready to run OS, they developed a much simpler (and more terse) platform. This had none of the beauty and grace planned for Multix, and was even neutered in it’s power, except in connectivity (as it was other devices that often needed testing). It was affectionately dubbed Eunix, or just Unix. With the unusual capabilities provided by Unix, systems were able to connect with multiple other systems, devices, and more. Unix became the standard OS of interconnected computers: fast, light, cheap, stable. Arguably, it’s release was the harbinger of the internet.
Another issue I have with 1991 being the dawn of the internet. Look at this timeline. Way over on the left in the early 70s. TCP/IP. TCP was a “transfer control protocal”, a type of application designed to make sure your data gets from here to there. The Other two letters? Internet Protocal.
Don’t believe the hype. Tim Berners-Lee did not “invent the internet,” and CERN did not invite the rest of us to join them. it was companies like Bell Labs (Unix), Apple and Compaq (HTML), IBM and Altos (mini computers), AOL, Genie, Compuserve; It was the computer departments of a large number of colleges; It was ARPANET and NSFNET; and most importantly, it was every computer user from 1970 to 1995. We built the internet. We shared our lives, our stores, our porn and cat pictures, we made it useful to the rest of the world.