A Brief History of the Internet

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Remember those educational videos about photosynthesis or the American Revolution that your teachers used to show you in middle school? The videos would explain battle maneuvers through a series of dots and arrows, and for the rest of your life you'd think of the United States' war for independence as basically a very elaborate football play.

Well, graphic designer Melih Bilgil's video about the invention of the Internet feels a little bit like that, albeit sleeker and streamlined — the animated equivalent of an Ikea store. (See the 50 best websites of 2008.)

The video follows the Internet's creation from 1957 (the first year programmers were able to work remotely with supercomputers) to Feb. 28, 1990 (the day various computer networks were connected and the Internet was born), and all of the acronym-heavy, military and university projects in between.

Bilgil tells Internet's story with basic black shapes, which he calls "PICOL" icons. He hopes the icons will one day become universal symbols that people of all languages can understand. "If you see the same signs often, you automatically learn them and can read them like letters without thinking," he explains. Bilgil wanted to make an instructional video to show off his new symbols, and he chose the Internet as his topic.

There's only one problem: the Internet is kind of boring. The video is eight and a half minutes long, and no matter how hard Bilgil tries, it's tough to make phrases like "accelerated knowledge transfer" and "interface message processor" visually interesting. The part about the Cuban Missile Crisis (illustrated with missile-shaped dots and arrows) is pretty cool because, well, it involves missiles. Apparently, the U.S. military developed a decentralized computer network so there wouldn't be a main hub for Russians to take down with a bomb. I never knew that before; now I can thank communism for creating the Internet.

The video stops at the year 1990, right when things on the Internet started to get interesting. What about chatrooms? Instant messaging? Whatever happened to America Online's "You've got mail!" guy? And most importantly, when did the Internet evolve from something used largely by universities and the military into a portal for porn? Bilgil fails to include an animated diagram of that.

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