IELTS READING LEVEL 6.5 – The Origins of the Internet

The Origins of the Internet

by ReadWorks

 

All of the men were nervous as they waited. But Len Kleinrock was the most nervous. The year was 1969, and just over 20 people were crowded into the room. A group of pale men in their 20s and 30s, the computer scientists stood beside executives from big telephone companies. The men tapped their feet impatiently. They waited.

The computer itself loomed along the wall, 15 feet wide and 35 feet long. A long grey cable snaked from the computer to a smaller machine, the router or “switch,” in the corner. The two machines were important, but the real reason the men had gathered was the activity happening in that long grey cable. They were about to see whether information could successfully flow between a computer and router, for the first time in history.

At the center of the group was Len Kleinrock, the 35-year-old star of computer networking. Kleinrock was a professor at UCLA and was the one who had engineered this system. “Everybody was ready to point the finger if it didn’t work,” said Kleinrock. “Happily, the bits began to flow from the host to router. I like to refer to that day as when the Internet took its first breath of life, first connected to the real world. It’s like when a baby is born and has its first experience of the outside world.”

For Kleinrock, that moment had been almost a decade in the making. He originally became interested in the problem of network connection while working on the East Coast. He recalled, “I looked around at MIT and Lincoln Laboratories [sic]: I was surrounded by computers and recognized that one day they’re going to have to talk to each other. And it was clear that there was no adequate technology to allow that.”

At the same time that Kleinrock was growing absorbed in the problems of network connection, the United States government was ramping up its investment in science and technology research. The Soviet Union’s famous launch of a satellite called Sputnik had been an embarrassment for the United States-the United States thought that it should be the leader of space travel. Eisenhower created a branch within the Department of Defense to ensure that the scientific leadership of America wouldn’t be eclipsed again in the future. This new organization, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), became one of the major engines of technological innovation throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1962, while Kleinrock was finishing up graduate school, ARPA created a new department devoted to computer science. The head of this division was J.C.R. Licklider, a fellow scientist at MIT who also worked on network structures.

“He was one of those visionaries who foresaw the advantages of combining humans with computer,” said Kleinrock of his former colleague and boss. “He created a concept called man-computer symbiosis, recognizing that if you put the two together, you could get very significant results.” Licklider ran into political problems at ARPA and ultimately left to return to MIT, but not until he had planted the idea of networking as a concept worthy of funding.

Bob Taylor took over ARPA’s computer science division in 1966 and reinvigorated the project. Taylor had been funding different projects in computer science departments at universities across the country and realized it was growing too costly to give each department the machines and resources to do every task. What he needed was a way for geographically far-flung research centers to somehow share each other’s computing resources. Taylor needed to create a network. The man he brought in to build it, Larry Roberts, happened to be Kleinrock’s old officemate at MIT.

“We were all intimately familiar with each other’s work, so when they asked, Roberts said, ‘Look, I know exactly what this technology should be, and I know it can work. Len Kleinrock has already proven it,'” recalled Kleinrock. “And bang, the project came to life. After a number of years, it came to action.”

And so it was that all of the men were crowded into the room watching a long grey cable. An air conditioner hummed in the background, fighting against both the heat outside and the heat generated by the massive machine in the room. Cheers broke out when they saw that the information was flowing, but the real test was to come a few weeks later.

The first message between two computers was sent on October 29, 1969. This time the room was empty, except for Kleinrock and one other engineer. They didn’t know that it was such an important milestone, so there was no camera or tape recorder. The two men were trying to log onto a computer at the Stanford Research Institute and successfully got through two letters of the message “login” before the system crashed.

“It was not until this thing called the Internet hit the consumer world that we recognized this network was really important. At that point we looked back and said, ‘What was the first message ever sent on the Internet?'” Kleinrock remembered. “Samuel Morse sent, ‘What hath God wrought?’ Alexander Graham Bell said, ‘Come here Watson I need you.’ Neil Armstrong had his giant leap. These guys were smart and they understood media. We had no such concept, but the message we created, ‘lo,’ [short for ‘login’] that’s the most prophetic, succinct, powerful message we could have come up with by accident.”


Vocabulary

 

concept       con ·cept

Definition

noun

  1. a general idea or thought.

The concept of marriage is different in different countries.

My youngest child has difficulty learning new concepts.

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. a distinct, novel idea that has been arrived at through consideration.

The company was looking for an exciting concept that would increase sales of its cars.

The earth being round was a novel concept to many in the fifteenth century.

  1. a personal or generally-held way of conceiving something; idea; notion.

Your concept of a good marriage is not the same as mine.

The child had heard the word “loyalty,” but she didn’t really understand the concept.

Spanish cognate

concepto: The Spanish word concepto means concept.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. The basic concept described here, however, seems to explain why an airplane can fly.
  2. The colonists considered educating boys and girls two distinct concepts. Sending a girl to school was seen as irrelevant by many.
  3. Sports provide a great way to understand some concepts in physics. Physics, after all, is the study of matter, motion, force, and energy.
  4. Then, the concept of fair trade requires living and work conditions for laborers that are safe and clean. Fair trade certified operations promise better lives for the people doing the work.
  1. “The roller coasters are perfect examples of some of the basic concepts of mechanical physics in action, and it’d be fun to combine the rides with some informal science discussions,” their dad enthused.
  1. Darwin’s book also addresses the perhaps less well-knownconcept of artificial selection. Today artificial selection is more often called “selective breeding.” Selective breeding involves breeding animals or plants for a specific, typically desirable trait.
  2. “The whole concept of the museum is to try to reach a younger audience that learns information differently,” historian Thomas Schwartz told WR News. He says the special effects draw students into the museum’s history.
  3. Mutation is a fascinating concept, so it’s not surprising that artists and writers have latched onto it as a metaphor. Creators of superheroes like the X-men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have used the idea of extreme mutation as a narrative device to provide commentary on racism.
  4. A period from American history that exemplifies this concept is the New Deal Era. During this period the American people, their government, and various companies across the country, embarked upon several different, untested courses of action to combat the Great Depression, and lift the country out of a downward spiral.
  5. Instead, they started their careers as newspaper printers and bicycle-makers, then applied the design concepts and scientific principles they learned along the way to their ultimate innovation: a system of controls to fly the plane and keep it from crashing. It is this invention that gained them notice as inventors, and the admiration of the world.

 

innovation       in ·no ·va ·tion

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. a new method, approach, idea, or the like.
  2. the act of proposing or implementing such a new method or the like.

Spanish cognate

innovación : The Spanish word innovación means innovation.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. The world was slow to accept Louis Braille’sinnovation. Indeed, during his lifetime, his method was not widely accepted.
  2. Art and architecture took off during the Renaissance. Many new ideas influenced design. The Duomo, with its grand dome, is a perfect example of new ideas and innovation.
  3. Of course cost is often a factor when looking to build any structure. On a budget, designers may have to put aside their grand plans for elaborate design or innovation and stick to the basics.
  4. A group of technology leaders was organized by the Lemelson-MIT Program. Those leaders recently made a list of the top 25 innovations from the last 25 years. An innovation is a new invention or a new way of improving something.
  5. They weren’t even inventors to begin with. Instead, they started their careers as newspaper printers and bicycle-makers, then applied the design concepts and scientific principles they learned along the way to their ultimate innovation: a system of controls to fly the plane and keep it from crashing.
  6. The decay of radioactive material deep in the earth’s core is responsible for not only the Rocky Mountains, but the formation of cities and societies that have lived there for generations, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, which serves as a beacon to the natural wonders of America and Canada. It’s responsible for mountains that serve as barriers, bringing to life divisions in culture unique to each side, while also posing a challenge to be crossed and burrowed into, spurring on scientific innovation in the process.

 

network       net ·work

Definition

noun

  1. a system of people or things that are connected.

He has a network of friends whom he has known since he was young.

  1. a group of radio or television stations, or a company that controls such a group.

Some television networks in the United States are ABC, CBS, and NBC.

This network owns several television stations.

  1. a system of computers that are connected to other computers.

The Internet is the largest computer network in the world.

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. a system or process that involves a number of persons, groups or organizations.

The university has a network of libraries.

Their network of spies was operating all over Europe.

  1. a group of radio or television stations, usu. a group transmitting the same programs, or the company that controls such a group.

The Columbia Broadcasting System, or CBS, is one of the major U.S. television networks.

  1. any physical system of interconnected roads, lines, canals, or the like that resembles a net.

A vast network of highways crosses our country.

  1. a system of computer terminals that are connected to one or more computers.

The Internet is a vast computer network.

intransitive verb

  1. to create a network of people, groups, or other resources that can enable the achievement of individual or group aims.

One purpose of these conferences is to enable people in the same field to network.

transitive verb

  1. to create a network in or for.

The technician networked the office computers.

  1. to produce (a television show) on a network.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. The tip came in late on Christmas Eve. Members of the AlQaeda terrorist network had executed a man in public, and then retreated to a house in a residential neighborhood in Mosul, Iraq.
  2. The U.S. government also took action. U.S. forces invaded the nation of Afghanistan, searching for Osama bin Laden. He was the leader of Al Qaeda, the terrorist network that coordinated the September 11 attacks.
  3. Wiseman has never actually visited the Mentawai Fault. She uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to observe it instead. The GPS is a network of 31 satellites orbiting the globe that monitors Earth’s surface, including its tiniest movements.
  4. Experts argue that too many schools are banning social networking Web sites without thinking about their educational benefits. “Social networking Web sites can help connect students in the United States to their peers in other countries, providing invaluable lessons in foreign cultures,” explains Hirsch.
  5. Sallach had lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects part of the immune system called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of channels throughout the body that fight infection. In people who have lymphoma, the system’s cells become abnormal and form tumors.
  6. A growing percentage of the world’s Internet users access the Internet not through their computers, but with their cell phones. According to ITU, there were an estimated 5.9 billion cell phone subscriptions in 2011. Mobile phone networks are now available to 90 percent of the world’s population.
  7. Shep T., 14, first joined a social networking site so that he could stay in touch with his friends from summer camp during the year. “I have not tried to join any other networking sites, but I know people that have tried to and couldn’t because of their age,” he says.
  8. While in Springfield, John Brown became deeply involved in helping transform the city into a safe and significant stop on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a secret network of houses and routes used by black slaves in the United States to escape north to the free states and Canada.
  9. Jansen has even tried giving one of his beasts a brain-as any mad scientist should. A piston with a hole in one side can switch a flow of air on and off, imitating the on and off positions of a computer’s electric switches. “With this basic device, you can make networks comparable to electronics,” says Jansen. He has built a network of hissing valves and pistons that can count a strandbeest’s steps so, in theory, the beast knows how far it has walked.
  1. “The people of Congo deserve their fair share, but reform is tremendously difficult because politically the nation is so unstable,” he says. “Militias control different coltan supply networks. They fight with each other. They trade with each other. Power shifts all the time. Then one person gets shot, and the whole network gets redefined.”

Name: ___________________________________ Date: _______________
Comprehension Questions
1. What was Len Kleinrock attempting to do for the first time in history?
A. He was attempting to build a computer.
B. He was attempting to send a telephone message.
C. He was attempting to exchange information between a computer and a router.
D. He was attempting to combine humans and computers.
2. How does the author describe the mood of Kleinrock and the others in the room with him?
A. They were nervous and impatient.
B. They were bored and tired.
C. They were angry and frustrated.
D. They were cheerful and relaxed.
3. Read the following sentences: “The Soviet Union’s famous launch of a satellite called Sputnik had been an embarrassment for the United States-the United States thought that it should be the leader of space travel. Eisenhower created a branch within the Department of Defense to ensure that the scientific leadership of America wouldn’t be eclipsed again in the future. This new organization, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), became one of the major engines of technological innovation throughout the 1960s and 1970s.”
Based on this information, what can be concluded?
A. The Department of Defense was separate from the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
B. The United States and the Soviet Union worked closely together on science and technology research despite their political differences.
C. The United States government was hesitant to support science and technology research because it was too expensive and complex.
D. The United States government heavily supported science and technology research as a way to keep its leadership in the world.
4. Why was it important for computers in different locations to be able to communicate with each other?
A. America and the Soviet Union needed to be on touch over scientific issues.
B. Scientists were getting bored with the work they were doing.
C. It was too expensive for computers in different places to do every task on their own.
D. It would make it easier for the Americans to spy on the Soviet Union..
5. What is the main idea of this passage?
A. Len Kleinrock’s work led to the creation of the Internet.
B. The United States lost the technological race to the Soviet Union.
C. Len Kleinrock hoped to create the Internet, but his attempt failed after the computer system crashed.
D. The Internet was created as a result of an enormous accident.
6. Read the following sentences: “The Soviet Union’s famous launch of a satellite called Sputnik had been an embarrassment for the United States-the United States thought that it should be the leader of space travel. Eisenhower created a branch within the Department of Defense to ensure that the scientific leadership of America wouldn’t be eclipsed again in the future.”
As used in the passage, what does the word “eclipsed” mean?
A. surpassed
B. destroyed
C. punished
D. wasted
7. Choose the answer that best completes the sentence below.
The United States was eager to invest more in science and technology research,_______after the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik.
A. because
B. instead
C. finally
D. particularly
8. Why had Len Kleinrock and the other computer scientists gathered to observe the computer and the router?
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
9. What did Bob Taylor, who was in charge of computer science at ARPA, need to do in order to reduce the cost of different computer science projects at universities across the country?
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
10. Why was Len Kleinrock’s work on network connection a significant development in computer science? Use information from the passage to support your answer.
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________

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