Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | History

Birthplace of the Internet

Internet, ARPANET, UCLA, Los Angeles, 1969

ARPANET processor and terminal at UCLA in 1969. Photo from the Michael Wingfield Collection in the Kleinrock Internet History Center repository at UCLA Library.

By 1966, the closest thing that resembled what is today the internet was a three-way network between System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, University of California, Berkeley, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That network, however, required users to simultaneously login to separate terminals with separate interfaces in order to communicate at the same time. That, today, would be like needing a separate computer to visit each individual website. Seeing this as cumbersome at best, Robert Taylor, head of the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the Department of Defense, proposed development of a network in which a single terminal could interact with multiple remote locations at the same time. Thus was born ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). A development contract was awarded to Bolt Beranek & Newman of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first four terminals of ARPANET were positioned at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, University of California, Santa Barbara, and University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

At some point past 10 p.m., on October 29, 1969, the first connection was made over the ARAPNET between UCLA and SRI. In room 3420 Boelter Hall, UCLA graduate student Charley Kline, under the supervision of Leonard Kleinrock, professor of engineering, typed the first message. A telephone connection was also open between the two locations in order to verify that messages were getting through. Kline, however, was only able to send the letters “L” and “O” of “LOGIN” before the system software crashed. Kleinrock attributed the bug to SRI's software. Thus was born the internet.

Kleinrock described the interaction by telephone with Bill Duvall at SRI:

"We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI.
We typed the L and we asked on the phone,
'Do you see the L?'
'Yes, we see the L,' came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, 'Do you see the O.'
'Yes, we see the O.'
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed."

--The story behind the birth of the internet on the third floor of Boelter Hall
by Kate Nucci, Daily Bruin, 2019

In 2011, UCLA opened the room where this historic event occurred, 3420 Boelter Hall at UCLA, as part of the Kleinrock Internet History Center. At the time of this writing, though, we were unable to find information as to how to visit the room.