Lo and behold, the invention that changed everything…on this day

President Obama and others looking at computer screen (AP Images)
President Obama at an event to promote Internet connectivity in schools (AP Images)

1969 was a year of breakthroughs in science and technology. Everyone knew it was a major happening when man landed on the moon, and when the jumbo jet took its maiden flight. But very few noticed what turned out to be the most important advance that year. On October 29, 1969, the Internet uttered its first word.

On that day, Leonard Kleinrock, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, sent a message from his campus computer to one at Stanford University up the coast. The content of that first message? “Lo,” which is as far as Kleinrock got in typing “login” before the Stanford computer crashed. Today the computer scientist jokes that “lo” could very well have stood for “lo and behold,” a prophecy of the changes to come.

That event, often identified as the birth of the Internet, touched off a technological revolution that has transformed the way we communicate and participate in our world. With the click of a mouse, nearly 3 billion people around the globe connect and collaborate with one another every day. Thanks to online crowdfunding, small businesses and entrepreneurs can skip the step of applying for a bank loan to get their start. The Internet is even improving global health care by making possible medicine via mobile devices.

Global map showing Internet traffic flows (Facebook)
This map shows how social media sites like Facebook connect people in different countries. (Facebook)

But there’s a debate about the future of the Internet. Right now, people from around the world work together to make decisions about how the Internet functions. Engineers, business owners, politicians, advocates, students, teachers and others all help develop technical standards and protocols and increase user access to keep us all connected.

Some people want to limit who has a say and leave it to governments alone to decide how the Internet runs. This could stifle innovation and growth and lead to increased censorship and control.

“Millions of people helped create this Internet,” Kleinrock once said in an interview with CNN. It’s up to us to keep the Internet open so that millions more can, too.

Show your support for an open Internet and join others who believe the Internet belongs to everyone.