Even before the development of the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) system by banks, financial institutions, retailers, technology corporations, bank card companies, and governments to enable a cashless financial system (see previous sections), an electronic network was being created for a completely different purpose, but its foundation would ultimately make EFT possible. In the early 1960s, research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and conducted at several universities to investigate how computers could be linked together for transmission of information and data. This work was initially done to allow academic research sites to collaborate on projects and jointly use their growing computer capabilities to better effect. The effort resulted in the formation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) in 1969, which was one of the first packet switching networks as well as the progenitor of the basic communications protocols crucial to the rise of the Internet. ARPANET’s name came from a combination of the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now called DARPA) and the word network. At first this computer network was only linked between two academic sites in California, but its success quickly spread to other locations throughout the U.S. By 1971, there were 15 computer sites at major universities linked by ARPANET. Ten years later the number was 213 linked sites, including locations throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1982, the protocols that were used for network access called the transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) were standardized, and network communications finally could be done seamlessly on a global basis.
The rise of the Internet is generally agreed to have had its beginnings back at the development of the ARPANET system. The software protocols that were developed and the methods of networking, including the linking of smaller local area networks (LANs) having several types of configurations into larger wide area networks (WANs) (also called internetworking which was later changed to just internet) formed the basis for what was to become the complex interconnections making up the Internet of today.
During the 1980s, the early Internet was generally confined to government and university sites, but the interconnections between computers expanded dramatically over the decade. In 1986, the National Science Foundation provided Internet access to a number of its supercomputer sites and increased the transmission speeds over the network to 1.5 Mbit/s and then to 45 Mbit/s using copper and fiber optic lines (Mbit/s = megabits per second or millions of bits of digital data). By 1987, the data transmission rates of the major fiber optic network cables were extended to 1.7 Gbit/s, which accommodated the increased traffic over the system due to expanding links within the global network (Gbit/s = gigabits per second or billions of bits of data). These higher transmission speeds combined with the routing of transcontinental cables to Europe, Japan, the Far East, and Australia represented the beginnings of the network necessary to support worldwide EFT and other data transfer applications. Thus, the foundation of the system that the Antichrist would use to create the economy of the Mark of the Beast was being laid through thousands of miles of cabling which connected millions of computers.
Today, the main trunks of the Internet consist of fiber optic cables that are able to operate using wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM), which means that many simultaneous transmissions can take place within a single cable by using separate wavelengths of light to differentiate each signal. Only one cable of a large bundle of fiber optic lines might consist of over one hundred WDM signals with a combined data transmission rate of over one terabit/second (Tbit/s = terabits per second or trillions of bits). Recent record transmission speeds achieved by researchers under controlled conditions indicate where the Internet may be heading in the future. The New Scientist magazine reported in 2013 that the University of Southampton transmitted at a rate of 73.7 Tbit/s through a special photonic crystal fiber with a hollow core structure. Some companies, like Google, now are even bringing fiber optic cable connections to homes and businesses to create an Internet in the near future capable of at least 1 Gbit/s speeds directly to users. This will allow virtually any data, text, video, or any other near-real-time communications to occur at the speed of light directly to users across the globe.
The wiring of the Internet facilitated a countless number of communications networks to use the same basic transmission trunks. Using encrypted data, password protection, and the appropriate firewalls, secure network transfers over the Internet could be done by researchers, financial institutions, corporations, governments, and even private individuals to create multiple simultaneous applications performed over the same system. Thus, the Internet became the foundation to connect many different computer networks and services having unique purposes, but all operating through controlled data transfers over the same system at the same time.
The World Wide Web
One of the most unique Internet applications with extraordinary impact originated with the work of Tim Berners-Lee in 1980 while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. He started to develop software to create a database wherein certain fields on one page could be linked to other fields on other pages through hypertext links. If someone clicked on one of the links, they would be taken to the designated point in the database on another page. In his efforts to standardize the presentation of data between researchers, Berners-Lee created in the mid-1980s a paged system using hypertext links that he first called the information mesh, but he later changed the name to the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web, HarperCollins, 2000, p.23).
In 1990, Berners-Lee collaborated with Robert Cailliau and they proposed merging the World Wide Web with the Internet using the system of hypertext links and paging that Berners-Lee had developed during the 1980s. By the end of 1990, Berners-Lee made available the first standard protocols and coding language to allow the Web to operate over the growing Internet system: the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the HyperText Markup Language (HTML). He also produced the first Web browser with an incorporated editor for creating Web pages, which he called simply WorldWideWeb. Armed with these protocols and software anyone could then create Web pages that could be accessed across the Internet with the browser software. On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee added a seminal post on the alt.hypertext user’s newsgroup site that announced the birth of the World Wide Web Project and the very first web page was made available through CERN’s servers (see a copy of that page here: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html). On that date, a revolution of information transfer had begun, but no one could yet fathom its ramifications.
In the spring of 1993, CERN released the source code of the WorldWideWeb browser and editor and made it available on a royalty-free basis to any developers or users that wanted to exploit it. From that point on, the Web blossomed throughout the Internet on a global basis. By the end of 1993, there were over 500 Web servers and all communications through the World Wide Web grew to 1% of total Internet transmissions. In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was founded with Berners-Lee as its Director to be the main international standards group governing Web development. During the 1990s many businesses and independent groups of developers got involved to expand the capabilities of Web creation. This included the development of software to code and create Web sites and pages, which quickly resulted in the establishment of countless commercial and noncommercial Internet sites within the World Wide Web.
This work led to a tremendous explosion of companies being formed exclusively on the Web, while established ‘brick and mortar’ companies created Web sites to compete in this market. So fast did this revolution grow that by the end of the 1990s, the world marked the first boom and bust of the new ‘dot-com’ age as many over-valued companies crashed when Internet hype and exuberance was not met by their corporate financial results. This did not deter the continued expansion of the Web, however. The acceleration of Web-based commerce was not going to be stopped, as companies all over the world could suddenly access new customers simply by setting up shop on the Internet.
By the turn of the century, everyone with a computer wanted to be connected to the Internet and be a part of the new Web experience. Entirely new applications and methods of communication resulted from this revolution: e-mail, instant messaging, electronic bill payment, peer-to-peer networking and file sharing, streaming news and video, Internet shopping, blogging, social media sites, wireless Wi-Fi connections, electronic books, magazines and articles, downloadable software, online gaming, digital music and movies, video cams, data and information repositories beyond anything ever imaged possible—and the list goes on and on. And what really made all of these resources and capabilities usable were the Internet search engines that actually facilitated the rapid finding of specific types of information on the unimaginably huge World Wide Web.
By mid-2013, after 20 years of Web growth, the number of sites on the Internet was estimated to exceed 630 million with billions of users accessing them on a regular basis. The World Wide Web had experienced an explosion of growth that has rarely been seen associated with any other human endeavor. It also has perpetuated the dramatic growth of electronic Internet connections into all parts of the globe, even into third and fourth world countries. So pervasive has the Web become that its name is now virtually synonymous with the Internet; although in truth the Internet was made before it and actually made the Web possible.
However, with the benefits of this new system also came a dark side that developed alongside the good qualities of the Web, including the evil of online scammers, spammers, hackers, and identity thieves. Where the best features of the Web promised many good things to all comers, criminals and crooks quickly got involved and created many things bad, including easy access to drugs, addictive or licentious behavior, a new and simple means for terrorists and people plotting to do evil to communicate worldwide in secret, easy buying and selling of stolen or elicit materials, and vast pornography and prostitution hubs all existing in the dark corners of the Internet. In addition, actual human trafficking, child exploitation, and slavery also operated within the secret corners of the Net.
Despite the fact that technology itself cannot be good or evil on its own, just as with anything else invented by humans, good or evil people can use it for their own devices. Thus, while the rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web definitely foreshadow and will be seen to facilitate the rise of the Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast, the electronic network and all of its systems and protocols is not in and of itself, evil. We shall soon see in subsequent sections, however, that the Internet has an aura about it that envisions the last world empire as well as a spirit of ‘666’ within its protocols and name, which will characterize the Beast of Revelation. As the story of the Mark continues, everyone will soon see how the economy of the Beast will operate within this growing technology network as well as the very real role that the number 666 will play within its systems.
Next: The Identification Problem