Internet history

Home > Archives>

March 2006 Newsletter


Welcome to the Internet History Newsletter, brought to you by the website.

In this edition;

=> Internet celebrates 1 billion users
=> Death of the telegram
=> Steam driven Internet?
=> Origins of Ping

Tell a friend about the Internet History newsletter!
The simple way to subscribe is to

No need to add a name or a header or anything - we will get the message!

In our last newsletter, we outlined what we thought would be remembered in Internet history about 2005 - but we forgot one important thing.


As one email we received puts it - "Some time in 2005, we quietly passed a dramatic milestone in Internet history: the one-billionth user went online. Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don't know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we're likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai.

According to Morgan Stanley estimates, 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America, where it all started in 1969 when two computers -- one in Los Angeles, the other in Palo Alto -- were networked together.

It took 36 years for the Internet to get its first billion users. The second billion will probably be added by 2015; most of these new users will be in Asia. The third billion will be harder, and might not be reached until 2040.

In 2002, NUA estimated that we had 605 million Internet users. Since then, Internet use has grown by 18% per year -- certainly not as fast as the 1990s, but still respectable.

Overall, the Internet's growth has been truly remarkable. Ten years ago, the 'net was mostly used by geeks; now it's the default way to do business in many countries. In our U.S. and European B2B studies, many business professionals said they visit a company's website as the first step in researching potential vendors."


And 2006 will be marked for the death of the telegram. If you are under 30, you may have never heard of a telegram or seen one - but for many years it was the primary form of fast, written, long distance communication.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006 (AP)
Western Union -STOP- Ends Telegram Service By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press Writer

" For more than 150 years, messages of joy, sorrow and success came in signature yellow envelopes hand delivered by a courier. Now the Western Union telegram is officially a thing of the past.

The company formed in April 1856 to exploit the hot technology of the telegraph to send cross-country messages in less than a day. It is now focusing its attention on money transfers and other financial services, and delivered its final telegram on Friday.

"The decision was a hard decision because we're fully aware of our heritage," Victor Chayet, a spokesman for the Greenwood Village-based company, said Wednesday. "But it's the final transition from a communications company to a financial services company."

Several telegraph companies that eventually combined to become Western Union were founded in 1851. Western Union built its first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861.

"At the time it was as incredible and astonishing as the computer when it first came out," said Tom Noel, a history professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "For people who could barely understand it, here you had the magic of the electric force traveling by wire across the country."

Telegrams reached their peak popularity in the 1920s and 1930s when it was cheaper to send a telegram than to place a long distance telephone call.

People would save money by using the word "stop" instead of periods to end sentences because punctuation was extra while the four character word was free.

Telegrams were used to announce the first flight in 1903 and the start of World War I. During World War II, the sight of a Western Union courier was feared because the War Department, the precursor to the Department of Defense, used the company to notify families of the death of their loved ones serving in the military, Chayet said.

With long distance rates dropping and different technologies for communicating evolving -- including the Internet -- Western Union phased out couriers in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

By last year, only 20,000 telegrams were sent at about $10 a message, mostly from companies using the service for formal notifications, Chayet said.

Last week, the last 10 telegrams included birthday wishes, condolences on the death of a loved one, notification of an emergency, and several people trying to be the last to send a telegram.

"Recent generations didn't receive telegrams and didn't know you could send them," Chayet said.

Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse Code, sent the first telegram from Washington to Baltimore on May 26, 1844, to his partner Alfred Vail to usher in the telegram era that displaced the Pony Express. It read "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?"

"If he only knew," Chayet said of the myriad of choices today, which includes text message on cell phones, the Internet and virtually free long-distance calling rates.

"It definitely was an anachronism," Noel said. "It's amazing it survived this long."


If you are I need of a good laugh, you might like to explore the following site

Which explains the history of an industrial steam driven Internet. I particularly liked the depictation of little children called pings who were employed to travel up and down the steam driven pipes of the Internet to make sure they didn't rust up.(the name arising from the noise they made as the brushes cleaned the pipes).

Of course the whole site is fantasy, but good fun!


But it did lead me to think - what was the origin of the word ping and its use in Internet?

If you are a technical person, you probably know what a ping is - or maybe if you have had trouble with a connection somewhere and rung a help desk, they may have asked you to "ping" another site to see if the connection was working.

So I asked the experts on the origin of ping , and got several responses.

Someone suggested it was adopted as a term because Internet pioneers watched too many World War 2 submarine movies. Someone else suggested it had origins in sonar technologies. Someone else suggested it was definitely to do with ping pong - you bounce a "ball" at a site, and it bounces back. Fairly convincing, that.

But thanks to Jon Snader for the full story. Ping was invented by Mike Muuss. If you really want to know,the full story is here - and sonar origins wins the day.



Why not create a link from your site?. is an award-winning site that explains the History of the Internet, email, the World Wide Web and related developments in plain, easy to read language.It hosts a growing collection of national Internet histories and links to a range of excellent resources. Let your friends and associates know!


We'd like to hear from you and work with you to extend the range and effectiveness of this site. Write to

This newsletter was brought to you by the Internet History Project, a not for profit effort dedicated to exploring the various ingredients which came together to create the Internet Phenomena. For more information, visit

We welcome your feedback! Drop us a note at


Subscribe here!


Privacy | The Internet History Project 2004.