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SAGE: The Ancestor of ARPANET & The Modern Internetby@tyler775
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SAGE: The Ancestor of ARPANET & The Modern Internet

by Tyler Mc.July 26th, 2023
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ARPANET was a project that was responsible for the modern internet and communications as we know them today. It was originally created due to all of the problems that came about during the cold war. Decades of research were done by the United States government around computer communications due to the fear of a nuclear attack.
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ARPANET was a project in the past called the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network but was given the short name ARPANET which is far easier to say. ARPANET is a project that was responsible for the modern internet and communications as we know them today. Still, it was originally created due to all of the problems that came about during the cold war.


Decades of research were done by the United States government around computer communications due to the fear that the Soviets could one day decide to use jet bombers to launch a nuclear attack against the United States of America & its allies. If something like this happened, a lot of traditional centralized communications and methods for quickly - or slowly - sending information could go down. Heck, even traditional sabotage on a less extreme scale could allow certain critical communications to go down, something the US government could not afford to have happen during the Cold War.


However, before ARPANET was created, there was a true precursor to both it and the modern internet that rarely gets any mention in the history book!



In response to these fears, the United States government created a system known as SAGE, or the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, that was still running during the nineteen sixties, and the system worked by using computers and servers to track any incoming enemy aircraft. The system also made it easier for personnel to coordinate a proper military response and included 23 “direction centers” with a massive mainframe computer created for each. SAGE required about six years to be fully implemented, and at the time, the system cost sixty-one billion US Dollars to be put into practice!


SAGE was ‘semi-automatic,’ meaning that it was not fully automatic and still required a decent amount of human assistance for the system to be fully operational. While the program was fully operational in the 1960s, there were reports all the way back in July-December of 1958 discussing the program and the changes that such a program would have on the United States Air Force as a whole:


"USAF also set down a new schedule (see table preceding). This schedule was to be included in an entirely new SAGE schedule (Schedule A) to be prepared by the SAGE Project Office. The phasing was to be as follows. The last combat center, AN/FSQ-8, to be installed under SAGE Schedule 7 (Improved), was to be at McChord AFB (25th Air Division). Subsequent combat facilities and equipment were to be cancelled with the exception of (1) one AN/FSQ-8 that was to be converted to an AN/FSQ-7, using FY 1959 funds, to be installed at the Sioux City DC, and (2) the combat center building at Minot." - 1958 Report from the Office of Information Services about changes SAGE would bring to the USAF


SAGE truly is a program that might be horrifying to some for its military applications, but it allowed for the civilian internet that we have today and the computer systems that many of us simply treat as a part of our everyday life at this point without a second thought…