On 29 October 1969, two letters – LO – were typed on a keyboard in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and appeared on a screen at the Stanford Research Institute, 314 miles away.
The computer scientists had intended to type LOGIN, but the connection was lost just before the G. Nonetheless, this was the first time a message had been sent over a telephone line between two computers.
It was not called the internet – that name was not coined for another five years. It was called Arpanet, for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, and was developed by scientists in the US Defense Department.
Nor was it the World Wide Web – that was created by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, now Sir Tim Berners-Lee, at Cern, the Geneva physics laboratory that now houses the Large Hadron Collider, 20 years ago in March.
And email had existed for a few years before that, between different terminals on single mainframes; the first true email sent between different computers was not sent until 1971.
But 29 October is as good a birthday as any. Those two letters, typed by an undergraduate at UCLA called Charley Kline on an “interface message processor”, were the precursors of everything from the eBay Buy It Now button to LOLcats, Kara’s Adult Playground (we won’t link to that) to Google Wave.
They say life begins at 40. It will be extremely interesting to see where the next 40 years take us.