On this date in 1969, the inaugural message was transmitted on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a packet-switching network developed by the United States Department of Defense. The internet’s deep ancestor, ARPANET originally consisted of four Interface Message Processors (IMP), which were sewn together by leased line modems that transferred an astonishing 50 kbit per second. By early December 1969 — two months after the first message was sent — all four nodes of the original network were linked together.
I’ll be honest. Almost none of the words in that last paragraph make any sense to me. But the content of the first message may be viewed below the fold.
Once ARPANET was up an running, it was only a matter of time before DoD employees were passing around chain letters — a pastime that soon cloyed — and receiving strange notices from a certain Prince Michael Okoye of Nigeria, who had recently come into the possession of $27 million, the result of deliberate over-invoicing of certain contracts awarded by the the state-run oil company he’d successfully managed for many years. By January 1970, several ARPA programmers were surprised to learn that Richard Nixon was a secret Muslim who refused to pledge allegiance to the American flag.
Fortunately, the internet — which descended from ARPANET — was considerably less silly.
For the truly geeky, a .pdf of the first ARPANET message can be seen here.