Sharon Weinberger: How nuclear fears helped inspire creation of the internet – Aeon Essays

‘How much money do you need to get off the ground?’ Herzfeld asked.

‘A million dollars or so, just to get it organised,’ Taylor replied.

‘You’ve got it,’ Herzfeld replied.

And that was it. The conversation to approve the money for the ARPANET, the computer network that would eventually become the internet, took just 15 minutes. The ARPANET was a product of that extraordinary confluence of factors at the agency in the early 1960s: the focus on important but loosely defined military problems, freedom to address those problems from the broadest possible perspective and, crucially, an extraordinary research manager whose solution, while relevant to the military problem, extended beyond the narrow interests of the DoD. An assignment grounded in Cold War paranoia about men’s minds had morphed into concerns about the security of nuclear weapons and had now been reimagined as interactive computing, which would bring forth the age of personal computing.

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