by Lora Beard

ARPANET stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. APRANET was developed by ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), which was a branch off of the United States Department of Defense. The United States Department of Defense started APRA during the Cold War.

By 1968 a complete plan was approved for ARPANET and a ‘Request for Quotation’ was sent out to over one hundred companies. Most of the companies did not take the project seriously and only twelve companies bothered to submit bids, of the twelve only four were considered in the top rank. The deal was eventually made with Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc.
ARPANET worked using what is called packet switching network; this was the precursor to modern day internet. Packet switching is used even now for directing data and voice communication when transferring information.


The ‘Interface Message Processors’ (IMPs) were small computers that made up the network. Each IMP performed store and forward packet switching functions. The IMPs connected to each other via modems, and every modem was attached to a leased line. (The modems hooked up to the IMPs originally ran at 50 kbit / second) “Host” computers connected to the IMPs via custom bit serial interfaces to connect to ARPANET. Every IMP could support up to a total of four computers and could communicate with a maximum of six IMPs over the leased lines.

The computer team at Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc. started with only seven people but managed to rapidly put together the first working system. The project took them only nine months to finish with both hardware, software (including the packet switching, obviously), and installation. The first permanent ARPANET link, however, was not established until 1969, between the IMP at UCLA and the IMP at SRI.

Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (usually referred to as just J.C.R Licklider) was the head of the Command and Control programs at ARPA. By that time he had already envisioned a computer network that would allow users to communicate via a network. He had written several memos about his ‘Intergalactic Computer Network’ idea at his previous job for Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc. His ideas written on the notes contain almost everything that is the internet of today. Licklider left ARPA before any work was completed toward the project.

Robert Taylor was the head of ARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office. Taylor worked with Licklider in order to organize the plan for ARPANET. Taylor’s work resulted in ‘Interface Message Processors’, which are now called routers.


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