The history of the Internet can be traced back to the early 1950's-1960's, when the first packet switched networks were designed and implemented in a cooperative effort between multiple universities and DARPA, a United States defense agency. In 1969, their cumulative effort, dubbed "ARPANET," went online for the first time, connecting two computers at University of California (Los Angeles) and Stanford University using the analog telephone lines of the day. While the first test was considered a failure, crashing the network after the g' in login' was entered, it is still considered one of the greatest landmarks in computing history, right next to the invention of the transistor in 1958 by Jack Kilby (Texas Instruments). Within two months, two more computers were added to the network (At University of Utah and University of California, Santa Barbara).
Just two years later, the University of Hawaii unveiled its new creation: ALOHAnet. This was the first major attempt made to use RF transmissions for wireless communication. ALOHA operated on free band UHF frequencies using "ALOHA random access," the predecessor to modern medium access techniques like token ring and CDMA. This breakthrough allowed students in Hawaii to instantly communicate with colleagues on other islands (and even the mainland via satellite).
By 1972, many other network models had been created, tested, and implemented throughout the United States. It became gradually harder over time to use this Internet precursor, because networks were not able to communicate with each other due to the differences in protocols. Knowing that this was not a sustainable model, the Transmission Control Protocol RFC was published in 1974, creating the first network standard. It took another 9 years before the TCP/IP specification was approved by DARPA for use on ARPANET. The Internet was officially born.
Prior to the late 1980's, the Internet was still "closed to the public." It was a research tool used by the government and private research institutions (and the second generation of hackers). In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee (CERN) wrote the HTML protocol, transforming the Internet from a text-based terminal into a well-formatted, user-friendly "page". In 1992, Congress passed the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act, which finally allowed public commercial networks to access private research networks. By this time, there were a few Internet Service Providers (ISPs, "The World" being the first in the USA) who were able to connect home users to the networks via dial-up. After this act was passed, the Internet was fully opened to the public for the first time.
In just over 50 years, the Internet has evolved at an exponential rate, growing from a single client-server point-to-point connection into a massive, interconnected network of billions of devices, all transmitting immense amounts of data. This "World Wide Web" has become the centerpiece of our society, and the go-to place for anything can imagine. We can only speculate what the Internet will be like in another 50 years, but if we follow our current trends, I believe that we will have developed a tool that we won't be able to live without.
Gromov, Gregory. " Roads and Crossroads of the Internet History." NetValley. Web. 27 Sep 2011. http://www.netvalley.com/cgi-bin/intval/net_history.pl?chapter=1.
"Internet History." Living Internet. 2010. Web. 27 Sep 2011. http://www.livinginternet.com/i/ii.htm.
Zakon, Richard H'obbes'. "Hobbes' Internet Timeline 10.1." Zakon Group LLC, 10 Dec 2010. Web. 27 Sep 2011. http://www.zakon.org/robert/internet/timeline/.