Nerds 2.0.1 — A Brief History of The Internet

Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet is a documentary series written and hosted by Mark Stephens under the pseudonym Robert X. Cringely as a sequel to Triumph of the Nerds. The series follows on by documenting the development of ARPANET, the Internet, the World Wide Web and the resulting dot-com bubble of the mid and late 1990s…


The ARPAnet began as a government program thought up in the halls of the Pentagon. In 1969, only four computers were connected to the ARPAnet, but it grew and advances in computer technology made it faster and easier to use. Better networking protocols and applications were developed, especially e-mail, and more people were convinced that it was going to be a success. At the beginning of 1989 over 80,000 host computers were connected to what was now called the Internet. That same year, after some solemn thought, the aging ARPAnet was turned off signaling a transfer of the Internet from the hands of the Nerds to the Suits.

In the 1980′s, personal computers became a common fixture in homes and offices. Supplying business with computers and software grew into one of the biggest industries in less than a decade. Soon, networking became the profitable business and the engineers trained on the ARPAnet went out to start some of the fastest growing high-tech companies in history. Bob Metcalfe, one of the pioneers of ARPAnet, developed a better way of networking personal computers together and founded 3Com. Four 27 year-olds from Stanford and Berkeley formed a company named Sun and built networkable workstations that could crunch numbers faster than many mainframes. Taking advantage of Metcalfe’s invention, four programmers in Utah wrote a network operating system (Netware) and resurrected Novell Systems into a multi-billion dollar software company. A married couple working at Stanford developed an improved way to connect different networks together and operated a multi-million dollar company, named Cisco, from their house until venture capitalists took over and propelled it to a multi-billion dollar business. The Internet opened a gold rush in the 1980′s that built huge fortunes and toppled old empires. Passionate engineers and savvy venture capitalists built a new economy that would lay the tracks for the Information Super Highway.

The rise of the personal computer by Apple and IBM introduced the rest of the world to computing. At first, computers were the tools of technically inclined nerds, but new applications drew other people to the keyboard. With an affordable modem, people could connect with other computer enthusiasts and commercial online services. It all began when Tim Berners-Lee, a computer programmer at CERN in Switzerland, invented HTML — the tool that began the ‘World Wide Web’.