NSF Website on Birth of Internet
In the mid-1980s, NSF decided the time was right to try to link its regional university networks and its supercomputer centers together. This initial effort was called NSFNET. By 1987, participation in the new NSFNET project grew so rapidly that NSF knew it had to expand the capacity of this new network. In November of that year, it awarded a grant to a consortium of IBM, MCI, and a center at the University of Michigan called Merit to create a network or networks–or internet–capable of carrying data at speeds up to 56 kilobits a second. By July 1987, this new system was up and running. The modern Internet was born.
I came to the U.S. on Sept. 3, 1987 from India to begin my Bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University. I remember logging on to the Merit network that same month from the campus computer lab. Since, at the time, everything about computers was totally new to me (other than the Sinclair ZX Spectrum+, my home computer), I had no idea until today that this was a brand new network and more importantly, the first “network of networks.”