|The revolutionary virtual network we know as the Internet has rapidly enhanced worldwide communication and access to all sorts of information and services.
It has come a long way from its initial concept during a time when computers took up entire rooms just to store a relatively small amount of information. The Internet is about people sharing knowledge and is accessible to all - no matter where you live.
So how did it start?
The idea was conceived in the early '60s as a network for the American defence department. Its purpose was to act as a nuclear resistant method of exchanging intelligence during times of war. The RAND Corporation was responsible for proposing the idea publicly in 1964.
Their proposal outlined the construction of a network that didn't need to be controlled by a central authority. Instead it would be made up of nodes (interconnection points on a computer network), of equal status, which could all create, send and receive packets (units of data) of information resulting in the creation of high-speed supercomputers.
Even if part of the network had been destroyed, the packet of information would be sent to another node until it reached its destination. The National Physical Laboratory in Great Britain set up the first test network on these principles in 1968.
By 1969, the beginning of the network had been created with four nodes. The network was named ARPANET after its Pentagon sponsor, and in just three years it had increased to 37 nodes - meaning more information could be transmitted faster. As this network grew, it became clear that instead of being used for long-distance computing, its main traffic was news and personal messages via electronic mail.
Soon mailing lists were invented, which allowed identical messages to be sent to multiple addresses at one time. One of the first mailing lists was created for science fiction fans. Within 10 years these had developed into discussion forums or USENET.
As ARPANET expanded worldwide, a standard of communication was set called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), which is still used today. Put simply, this connected the growing network of nodes so that information could be accessed by more people. The word 'Internet' was then born, describing this collection of networks that formed ARPANET.
By the mid '80s, the computer industry had been revolutionised - the personal computer was now a reality and many universities used email and newsgroups. Soon companies were in hot pursuit of this new communication tool. With this surge in use came a fascination with breaking the system's security and software was developed to protect businesses.
In the early '90s the World Wide Web was formed, heralding the start of the Internet as we now know it. It soon changed radically. Since it started, the information that was sent was text only, but then Oxford graduate Tim Berners-Lee devised a computer code called HTML that allowed programmers to combine words, pictures and sounds on web pages. Soon, the first browser that supported graphics was released.
Since then, there has been an unprecedented growth in new technology. We've seen everything from banks to books on the Internet, experienced international nervousness over Y2K and the phenomena of the 'dotcom'. And still, more and more people want to log on and become part of this technological revolution.
It was with this in mind that Bush Internet was formed through a joint venture between ALBA plc and Virgin.net. The idea was to bring the Internet into people's homes without the need for a PC. Now you can communicate across the world, as well as shop and surf the web, simply by using your TV. Science fiction is now a reality.