Marking history: Internet makers get recognition

Wednesday - 5/18/2011, 10:02am EDT

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

ARLINGTON, Va. -- So, who really did invent the Internet?

It wasn't one person but a group of people working for a branch of the Department of Defense known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency. A good part of it was based along Wilson Boulevard in Arlington where Francis Neidenfurer worked back in the 1960s.

"One thing ARPA did was to shovel a lot of money back and forth, and it's the money that invents things, isn't it?"

Robert Young also worked on the ARPA-NET as it was called.

"There were numerous military applications when the ARPA-NET came on line which was about 1973. "

Young says ARPA was there to come up with "the latest crazy ideas that no one else would fund."

The first e-mail went out over the net in 1978. The National Science Foundation eventually Internet research but it wasn't until the invention of the personal computer in the 1990s that the Internet exploded.

So, what's the next bit invention that will revolutionize the world?

"I really don't know," says Eric Willis another ARPA-NET vet.

"It's gone so far from the beginning that it's almost impossible to extrapolate from here."

The ARPA-NET inventors are getting two historical markers right on Wilson Boulevard where their office used to be. One will tell their story in English. The other will be binary code.

Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)