This Map Shows the Extent of the Entire Internet in 1973
Before the modern internet, there was ARPANET.
ARPANET was the first internet-like network, and it was developed to allow multiple computers to share data across vast geographical distances. Interestingly, the researchers that worked on ARPANET are credited with developing many of the communication protocols that the internet still uses today.
Today’s map comes from David Newbury, who shared a keepsake from his father’s time as a computer science business manager at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1970s. We added a legend to help explain the symbols on the map.
A Brief History of ARPANET
ARPANET was funded in the late 1960s by a branch of the U.S. Military called The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), with the original purpose being to allow researchers at different universities to use their limited computing resources more efficiently.
Before ARPANET, if a researcher at Harvard wanted to access a database at Stanford, they had to travel there and use it in person. ARPANET was used to test out a new communication technology known as packet-switching, which broke up data into smaller “packets” and allowed various computers on the network to access the data.
With ARPANET researchers could:
- Login to another computer miles away
- Transfer and save files across the network
- Send emails from one person to several others
On the map above, you can see the network only had computers in the United States, but later that same year, a satellite link connected the ARPANET to Norway, creating the beginnings of a global network.
A Network of Networks
In 1983, ARPANET adopted the TCP/IP protocol standards which paved the way for a “network of networks”, and the internet was born. Several years later, ARPANET would be decommissioned and the new internet would begin to flourish.
Below you can see what the early internet looked like in 1984:
A Big Jump
These maps take us back to a simpler time when social networks, mobile phones, and unlimited access to the world’s information did not yet exist. Even 12 years after the first message was transmitted on the ARPANET, there were still only 213 computers on the network.
Fast forward a few decades later and the change in scale is mind-boggling – the modern internet has 1.94 billion websites and 4.1 billion internet users globally, resembling a digital universe.
One can only imagine how quaint the ARPANET will look a few more decades from now.
An earlier version of this article said the ARPANET was first connected internationally to the United Kingdom, but in fact, it was with Norway.
The Shape of the World, According to Old Maps
What did ancient maps look like, before we had access to airplanes and satellites? See the evolution of the world map in this nifty infographic.
The Shape of the World, According to Ancient Maps
A Babylonian clay tablet helped unlock an understanding for how our ancestors saw the world.
Dating all the way back to the 6th century BCE, the Imago Mundi is the oldest known world map, and it offers a unique glimpse into ancient perspectives on earth and the heavens.
While this is the first-known interpretation of such a map, it would certainly not be the last. Today’s visualization, designed by Reddit user PisseGuri82, won the “Best of 2018 Map Contest” for depicting the evolving shapes of man-made maps throughout history.
AD 150: Once Upon A Time in Egypt
In this former location of the Roman Empire, Ptolemy was the first to use positions of latitude and longitude to map countries into his text Geographia. After these ancient maps were lost for centuries, Ptolemy’s work was rediscovered and reconstructed in the 15th century, serving as a foundation for cartography throughout the Middle Ages.
1050: Pointing to the Heavens
The creation of this quintessential medieval T-and-O Beatine map is attributed not to an unknown French monk, but to the Spanish monk Beatus of Liébana. Although it shows several continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—its main objective was to visualize Biblical locations. For example, because the sun rises in the east, Paradise (The Garden of Eden) can be seen pointing upwards and towards Asia on the map.
1154: The World Turned Upside Down
The Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi made one of the most advanced medieval world maps for King Roger II of Sicily. The Tabula Rogeriana, which literally translates to “the book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands”, was ahead of the curve compared to contemporaries because it used information from traveler and merchant accounts. The original map was oriented south-up, which is why modern depictions show it upside down.
1375: The Zenith of Medieval Map Work
The Jewish cartographer Abraham Cresques created the most important map of the medieval period, the Catalan Atlas, with his son for Prince John of Aragon. It covers the “East and the West, and everything that, from the Strait [of Gibraltar] leads to the West”. Many Indian and Chinese cities can be identified, based on various voyages by the explorers Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville.
After this, the Age of Discovery truly began—and maps started to more closely resemble the world map as we know it today.
1489: Feeling Ptolemy and Polo’s Influences
The 15th century was a radical time for map-makers, once Ptolemy’s geographical drawings were re-discovered. Henricus Martellus expanded on Ptolemaic maps, and also relied on sources like Marco Polo’s travels to imagine the Old World. His milestone map closely resembles the oldest-surviving terrestrial globe, Erdapfel, created by cartographer Martin Behaim. Today, it’s preserved at the Yale University archives.
1529: A Well-Kept Spanish Secret
The first ever scientific world map is most widely attributed to the Portuguese cartographer Diego Ribero. The Padrón Real was the Spanish Crown’s official and secret master map, made from hundreds of sailors’ reports of any new lands and their coordinates.
1599: The Wright Idea
English mathematician and cartographer Edward Wright was the first to perfect the Mercator projection—which takes the Earth’s curvature into consideration. Otherwise known as a Wright-Molyneux world map, this linear representation of the earth’s cylindrical map quickly became the standard for navigation.
1778-1832: The Emergence of Modern World Maps
The invention of the marine chronometer transformed marine navigation—as ships were now able to detect both longitude and latitude. Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, a French geographer, was responsible for the 18th century’s highly accurate world maps and nautical charts. His designs favored functionality over the decorative flourishes of cartographers past.
Finally, the German cartographer and lawyer Adolf Stieler was the man behind Stieler’s Handatlas, the leading German world atlas until the mid-20th century. His maps were famous for being updated based on new explorations, making them the most reliable map possible.
Is There Uncharted Territory Left?
It is worth mentioning that these ancient maps above are mostly coming from a European perspective.
That said, the Islamic Golden Age also boasts an impressive cartographic record, reaching its peak partially in thanks to Muhammad al-Idrisi in the 11th century. Similarly, Ancient Chinese empires had a cartographic golden age after the invention of the compass as well.
Does this mean there’s nothing left to explore today? Quite the contrary. While we know so much about our landmasses, the undersea depths remain quite a mystery. In fact, we’ve explored more of outer space than we have 95% of our own oceans.
If you liked the visualization above, be sure to explore the world’s borders by age, broken down impressively by the same designer.
Mapped: The Territorial Evolution of the U.S.
From the Thirteen Colonies to present-day USA, this animation is a detailed look at how borders have shifted throughout the nation’s history.
Mapped: The Territorial Evolution of the U.S.
The sun (almost) never sets on the American Empire.
The United States is the third largest country in the world, with a vast territory extending beyond the borders of the contiguous states. To be exact, the United States is made up of 50 states, nine uninhabited territories, five self-governing territories, one incorporated territory, and one federal district (Washington D.C.). The boundaries of the country haven’t changed much in recent years, but the lines on the map have shifted numerous times in history, through both negotiation and bloodshed.
Today’s above animation, by u/Golbwiki, is the perfect visual aid to understand how the United States evolved from the Thirteen Colonies to its current form.
Here are five of the largest expansion events in U.S. history.
1803: Louisiana Purchase
Napoléon Bonaparte didn’t just have a huge impact on Europe, he also altered the course of history in the New World as well. The French General was waging an expensive war in Europe, and began to view the Louisiana Territory as a burden – as well as a potential source of income. In 1803, he offered up all 828,000 square miles for the famously low price of $15 million.
This massive land purchase comprises nearly 25% of the current territory of the United States, stretching from New Orleans all the way up to Montana and North Dakota.
1819: Adams–Onís Treaty
Spanish explorers first established a presence in Florida as far back as 1565, but 250 years later, Spain had done little to cement its foothold in the region. The Spanish realized they were in poor position to defend Florida should the U.S. decide to seize it.
In 1819, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams negotiated the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially transferred Florida to the United States after years of negotiations. There was no official cost of purchase, but the U.S. government agreed to assume approximately $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain.
1845: Texas Annexation
The newly created Republic of Texas, which broke away from Mexico in the Texas Revolution, was peacefully annexed by the United States in 1845. In one fell swoop, the U.S. acquired 389,000 square miles of former Mexican territory.
1848: Mexican Cession
Shortly after the Texas Annexation, tensions between Mexico and the U.S. flared up anew.
Congress declared war on Mexico over a boundary dispute in 1846, and after a relatively brief armed conflict – known as the Mexican–American War – the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.
The treaty recognized Texas as a U.S. state, and the United States took control of a huge parcel of land that includes the present-day states of California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Mexico received $15 million in the arrangement, but saw the size of their territory halved.
1867: Alaska Purchase
In the aftermath of the Crimean War, Alexander II began exploring the possibility of selling Alaska. Similar to Spain’s foothold in Florida earlier in the century, the Russian Emperor recognized the possibility of American incursions into the territory, which they were not in a good position to defend against.
We must foresee that [the U.S.,] will take the afore-mentioned colonies from us and we shall not be able to regain them.
– Grand Duke Konstantin of Russia
After an all-night negotiation session on March 30, 1867, Alaska was sold to the United States for $7.2 million – the equivalent of $109 million in 2018. Alaska officially became a state in 1959.
Scratching the Surface
The examples above are only a brief overview of the complex evolution of shifting territorial claims in America.
For those who want to take a deep dive into the shifting borders of America, here is an extremely thorough animation, also by the same author:
Of course, colonial expansion in North America didn’t occur in a vacuum. For an Native American perspective on this topic, check out this animated map.
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