5. The Email System Was Invented by a Fourteen Year Old Boy from New Jersey
At the age of 14-years old, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai began building the system that was later patented as EMAIL. After responding to a call by the National Science Foundation, Shiva joined a program to educate youth in computer programming. He was inspired by a friend of his parents who worked as a particle physicist to create electronic mail, and at the time, Shiva just thought he meant sending electricity through paper. Shiva observed how the mail system worked at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey, and copied it into an electronic format, something that had never been done before. The idea of an inbox or an outbox folder also came from the University mail system. Electronic mail had to be simple and resemble the old system or else no one else would use it. When Shiva was older, he considered dropping out of high school when his teacher insisted that he stay and send his email concept into what is now known as the Intel Science Awards. Shiva did and he won one of the honors awards. Shiva didn’t realize the significance of what he’d invented until later in life.
Because the system was modeled so closely to the actual paper mail systems used by organizations, the email we use today has not changed very much from its development in the 1970’s. Shiva insists that despite the threats from text messaging and Facebook, email is here to stay because it is still a part of the old style of interoffice communication.
4. Wi-Fi Changed the Internet Forever
Wi-Fi and the Internet are often uttered in the same breath, but they are not the same thing. Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that allows devices to communicate over a wireless signal. Wi-Fi works similarly to how a radio does, and in fact, it is actually just a high-frequency radio signal. Like everything related to the Internet, Wi-Fi has several inventors and even more parts. Vic Hayes is generally accepted as one of the leading figures in Wi-Fi because he created the standards that made Wi-Fi possible in 1997. However, Wi-Fi as we use it also credited to a group of scientists in Australia. They invented a chip which improved the signal of Wi-Fi so that it would solve the most common issues and become easier to use. This chip came from the scientists’ work in radio astronomy. The Australian agency who employs these scientists recently sued nine different companies including T-Mobile and Lenovo to win a settlement of $229 million after a 10-year long campaign to gain recognition for their invention. The court never decided on the case because the companies decided simply to pay the Australians a settlement. It is very difficult to prove who did and did not invent Wi-Fi because so many companies and agencies were working on it at the same time and there has been no clear indication as to who actually ‘invented’ it first.
3. The Other Side of the Internet Is the Darknet
Also known as the Deep Web, the Darknet is the part of the World Wide Web that cannot be found by standard search engines. Soon after the development of ARPANET, secretive networks began to develop alongside side it. To reach the Darknet, users need to use a special browser like Tor. Tor was created by the US Naval Research Laboratory to help people use the web without being traced. Websites on the Darknet accessed through Tor use a .onion suffix instead of .com – like on the World Wide Web. This makes the sites hard to trace and hard to find – unless you already know about them. One of the reasons the Darknet grew so quickly was because maintaining the storage of data after the advent of the Internet protocol suite was a huge problem. The Darknet has been estimated to be anywhere from two times to one hundred times larger than the World Wide Web.
In 1999, a University of Edinburgh student named Ian Clarke submitted a project titled Freenet to his tutors as a final project. They found it quirky and underwhelming and only gave him a B for his work. However, Ian Clarke’s project was downloaded by 2 million people world wide, and it was the first software program to deliver anonymous paths through the darkest parts of the Internet. Two years later, the Tor browser arrived. A product of the US Navy, it was meant to protect operatives working overseas. Despite the goals of some developers, the anonymization tools have been misused by both criminals and terrorist groups around the world. Yet, the Darknet still provides a way for journalists, activists and ordinary citizens to communicate important and sensitive information with each other without detection from oppressive governments or other enemies of free speech. It even created a pathway for a new currency which lay outside of both nationalized and private banks.