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Celebrating American Inventions: The World at Your Fingertips

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Internet

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re using the Internet. You’re one of the more than 2 billion Internet users worldwide - a number that has grown by 566 percent since 2000!

It seems absurd, now, that there was ever a time before the Internet existed. Today, there are Internet-enabled smartphones, wireless Internet connection exists in restaurants and coffee shops across the country, and often it’s difficult to even imagine accomplishing tasks or homework without access to the Internet.

This wasn’t always the case, though. There was a time when the Internet was a distant dream, far from reality. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the United States government started looking into what we know now as the Internet.

The government commissioned a research program to investigate technologies for communications via computer networks. The creation of this program, known as ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) marked the beginning of a new era of computer exploration.

In 1973, Vinton Cerf, an American computer scientist known as the “Father of the Internet,” developed the TCP/IP Protocol Suite, a complicated name for what is essentially the system of protocols that underlie the workings of the Internet. This new system, created with American engineer Robert Kahn, improved the efficiency of the network and allowed different networks to connect - essentially creating what we know as the Internet today.

Though the World Wide Web came later, with the contributions of the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the creation of TCP/IP and the Internet by Cerf and Kahn allowed the idea of a global network to become a reality - and has transformed life as we know it today.

To learn more about the Internet, you can visit the kid-friendly site “The History of… The Internet”.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.