Where Wizards Stay Up Late - The Origins Of The Internet


Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon




Simon & Schuster, 2006 Edition

Where Wizards Stay Up Late - The Origins Of The Internet

I cannot recommend this book enough. When Wizards Stay Up Late is dense with both the history and technical evolution of the Internet we know today. From its beginnings in ARPA (now DARPA) during a time when government funding for off the wall science projects was encouraged to its days as a grand experiment in the computer science departments of various top universities and finally to its expansion across the nation and overseas to become collectively the Internet, this book has it all. Along the way, the author covers the beginnings of many networking concepts and technologies that are still the core of the Internet today (though at much later versions). We get to see the early days of the TCP/IP protocol suite, the first use of the ‘@’ sign for email, the first virtual community, the first spam email, and even the first open source community developing the prototype Adventure game together over the network. As a technology enthusiast, I could not put this book down and was giddy with anticipation for the next first to be revealed.

What struck me most about this book was how amazingly organic the Internet’s evolution was. It was not created with any military purpose in mind (there is a common myth that the Internet was designed to add redundancy to our infrastructure to allow it to survive a military strike). In fact, it was designed simply as way to share computing resources and data between research groups. Once the connection was there however and in the hands of computer scientists eager to test out the capabilities of the system, things quickly evolved. Fortunately, the nature of the network required an interdepency that forced each group of scientists and academics to form a sort of democratic group to try and herd the technology in the right direction. Through that group the TCP/IP protocol evolved naturally as needs arose. As the network grew more useful and more reliable, other networks began to pop up and connect into the main backbone. There is no exact date to when the Internet first officially was born. Eventually, the network had just grown large enough that people started referring to it collectively as the Internet.

This book was a joy to read and should be a staple on the shelf of anyone who works with technology. As more and more governments and organizations look towards regulation of the Internet to solve our security problems, it is important to keep in mind the spirit that got us to where we are today.

For those interested in a deeper look at the material covered in this book, I did a more thorough summarization here.


Throughout my 10 year career I have worked as a web developer, systems administrator, software engineer, security analyst and now cybersecurity engineer. I currently develop software applications to automate security vulnerability and compliance scanning and reporting for a multinational financial institution.