This Day in Information: Birth of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Internet

Today in 1768, the first weekly installment of the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was published in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the Preface to the Encyclopaedia, William Smellie, the 28-year-old editor (and author of many of the entries), expressed his hope that this new kind of encyclopaedia or dictionary, containing not just short definitions but also lengthy essays and systematic treatment of all arts and sciences, would benefit a great number of people: “We will … venture to affirm, that any man of ordinary parts, may, if he chuses, learn the principles of Agriculture, of Astronomy, of Botany, of Chemistry, etc., etc., from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.”

Today in 1967, The United States Department of Defense issued a four-month contract to Stanford Research Institute (SRI) for the purpose of studying the “design and specification of a computer network.” The study will result in the creation of the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet.

The FCC’s history site says: “ARPA, along with the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was to regain technical superiority for the United States. Some of those employed by ARPA realized the only way this goal could be achieved was to bring together the brain-power resident in discrete pockets at universities and research institutions spread across the United States. To maximize this sharing of brain-power, it quickly became clear that significant advances in computing technology were required. These computing advances had to provide avenues for both the sharing of ideas and the sharing of computing power and programs.”

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