After Sputnik’s launch, many Americans began to think more seriously about science and technology. Schools added courses on subjects like chemistry, physics and calculus. Corporations took government grants and invested them in scientific research and development. And the federal government itself formed new agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), to develop space-age technologies such as rockets, weapons and computers.
THE BIRTH OF THE ARPANET
Scientists and military experts were especially concerned about what might happen in the event of a Soviet attack on the nation’s telephone system. Just one missile, they feared, could destroy the whole network of lines and wires that made efficient long-distance communication possible. In 1962, a scientist from M.I.T. and ARPA named J.C.R. Licklider proposed a solution to this problem: a “galactic network” of computers that could talk to one another. Such a network would enable government leaders to communicate even if the Soviets destroyed the telephone system.