Ancient Jewish Sages used to say that the Universe was built on two principles: Rigour and Generosity.
Quite amazing, nowadays these words of wisdom turn out to also precisely illustrate how the internet was built by humans to become the global network of networks we all know and use today.
But while the way rigour and strictness applies in internet’s structure is quite easy to grasp, the way generosity contributed might remain little known if not completely ignored.
So for today we thought about rendering justice to its importance and tell you few words about it.
Among the multitude of inventions and developments adding up to form the internet, some key inventions were crucial because not only the net couldn’t exist without them but also because they would by themselves be enough to make a running network.
Namely, the TCP/IP network communication suite of protocols, the UNIX Operating System, the C programming language, the DNS and the main elements of the WorldWideWeb: hypertext, web-servers and web-browsers.
The Internet suite of protocols includes the TCP and the IP protocols (due to being the first ones developed they both lended their names to the entire suite now commonly known as “TCP/IP“) is actually the totality of “grammar rules” universally accepted as standard for computers to use when they are “speaking” to each other.
TCP/IP was developed on end 60’s and early 70’s by Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn at UCLA then Stanford University, during their involvement in one of projects initiated by the US military advanced research and development agency known as DARPA.
Just a quick subjective side-note: TCP and IP protocols came to being due to the heavy influence (credited as such by Vint Cerf himself) from a similar French project named CYCLADES, its team including the key-contributor Louis Pouzin as well as the Toulouse University trained scientist Gerard Le Lann.
The UNIX Operating System (released in 1971) was conceived and written in just 2 years by just 4 developers, one of them being Dennis Ritchie.
Because assembly-language seemed limitative to him, Ritchie went on creating the C language, a high-level programming language which, once in place, allowed him to re-write “his” UNIX using “his” C language, thus making UNIX portable.
Portability adding to its native intrinsic powers, allowed UNIX to get wide-spread and to become one of the most (if not the most) influential Operating Systems in the world.
And some 20 years later Linus Torvalds created the UNIX-like, free and open-source Operating System named LINUX.
C in its turn, became the most influential programming language in the world, not only due to the multitude of softwares written in it but also by directly or indirectly influencing the subsequently created programming languages.
Therefore, the combined importance of UNIX and C can probably be only under-estimated.
Like this pale example: Apple’s OS X and iOS Operating Systems are based on UNIX, the ANDROID Operating Systems are based on LINUX which is based on UNIX, and all Windows Operating Systems, though not UNIX-based, were/are almost entirely written in C, C++ and C# languages.
The Domain Name System, better known by its accronym, DNS, is a naming system for any devices (computers, printers, tablets, etc.) connected to the internet.
Basically, each device belonging to a TCP/IP network is identified by an IP adress in the form of a 32-bit number expressed in a dotted-decimal notation.
But numbers like “172.16.254.1” are hard to remember and are also meaningless for one who wants to know in a word what resources can be found there so a worded name like “www.BigDiscounts.com” comes in handy.
Well, in early 80’s, Paul Mockapetris invented the DNS so human users can have a pretty good idea on what kind of resource can be found on “www.BigDiscounts.com” and be able to get there without having to care if it’s located at “172.16.254.1” IP adress or if it has recently been moved to say, “126.96.36.199“.
And to have an even better idea, this applies to email adresses too.
This is why DNS is so important for a network and in reality it is so complex that DNS servers form their own network within the internet.
In 1989, a British computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee working at CERN (world’s largest particle physics laboratory, which at the time was also the most important European internet node) reunited some existing inventions such as TCP/IP, hypertext, DNS, and so forth and “glued” them together using his own inventions like the first webserver and the first web-browser. He wrote in C language on the UNIX-derived NeXTSTEP Operating System of a NeXT workstation (a product of Steve Jobs NeXT Inc. Company, during his exile period from Apple) to make up the World Wide Web.
This is why today anyone can access resources like text, multimedia or files belonging to the immensely huge global “library” named WWW and navigate through them by as simple action as a click.
OK, so now let’s finally get to our main point, does any of the above have something to do with generosity?
Oh yes, by all means!
Because none of the inventors above ever claimed a patent for their crucial inventions.
They could have but instead they deliberately chose not to.
They’ve passed up fortunes foreseeing that, should they ask to get paid for each use of their inventions, they would risk to make them prohibitive, unattractive and ultimately unable to reach the big goal which is universality.
So legally, as none of the inventors claimed for patents, their inventions automatically became public domain and thus, instead of probably a few privileged users, we are all now the privileged users of the internet and able to give it dimensions according to our numbers.
The famous contributors on internet creation we’ve mentioned here are just the easiest to be spotted but many others dedicated their time, efforts and brilliance to create important things without willing to obtain spectacular rewards for what they’ve done.
And besides, let’s also remember the mass of anonymous authors whose reunited efforts led to open-source software development, to open-standards creation, to the existence of the multitude of freeware tools or to the building of vast, highly-valuable knowledge free resources like the Wikipedia.
Practically, today there are free softwares for any purposes and free knowledge-resources for any domain that anyone can use at will, without having to fear legal consequences.
As for us, knowing all this we strive to bring our modest contribution too, by providing a Free Edition for each and every of our general public applications, be it for this moment PaperScan and the ORPALIS PDF Reducer.
We would be very pleased to know you are enjoying them.
See you next week, folks!
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