Reagan and George H.W. Bush Years: 1980–1992

Invention of the Internet and Its Global Implications

The invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web provided Americans and people around the world with unprecedented ways to communicate and access information, further hastening globalization.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the United States was a booming industrial power. By 1992 the United States had become the center of another revolution that would transform how people lived and worked—the computer age. Computers were made possible by developments in electronics since the end of World War II. During the 1950s and '60s the government, academic institutions, and private companies began developing computers, mostly for the purpose of military defense and research. NASA employed computers from the early days of space exploration, including the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. These early computers were massive in size and communicated with one another through code relayed across limited local networks. The invention of the microchip resulted in smaller, more efficient personal computers. Without a user-friendly communications network, however, they were highly impractical for most consumers.

The computer age was ultimately made possible by the development of the Internet, a worldwide electronic network for computers to communicate at high speeds. A person with a computer could now use the Internet to access the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web was a subsection of the Internet developed in 1989. It was designed as a place to store, retrieve, and transmit text-based documents. That place would come to be known as cyberspace. By 1989,15 percent of American households had personal computers and would soon be using them to "surf the Web."

The Internet and the World Wide Web became the engines of a global economy. Globalization is the free trade of goods, ideas, and services around the world. It was made possible by consumers' newfound ability to connect with other people around the world instantaneously with the click of a button. Geographical borders were no longer barriers to the exchange of goods, ideas, and money. Computers made communication and the production, transportation, and payment of goods much faster and more efficient.

The early days of the Internet were a time when anything seemed possible. Many people considered the Internet to be a great tool for the democratization of knowledge. Any person with access to a computer could jump on to the information superhighway to learn about almost any topic. The Internet would become, some predicted, a great sphere for the open exchange of ideas. Over time it accomplished that and also became a highly commercialized marketplace. In addition it developed a dark side, where unchecked opinion and rumor often overshadowed the truth, and unsavory or criminal activities took place.

Internet Users Worldwide, 1996-2015

After the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991, Internet use grew exponentially.