Edward Elliot explains how Sputnik helped to launch a technological revolution.

The year was 1957 and the Soviet Union stunned the world with a news announcement that it had successfully launched a satellite into outer space. It was not long after that time when more Soviet satellites were launched.

The Soviet's Sputnik program consisted of four satellites, three of which reached an Earth orbit. Sputnik 1, launched on Oct. 4, 1957, became the first artificial satellite to successfully orbit the Earth. It was a metallic sphere about 2 feet across, weighing 184 pounds, with long "whiskers" pointing to one side, and stayed in orbit for six months before falling back to Earth. Its rocket booster, weighing 4 tons, also reached orbit and was easily visible from the ground.

The second Sputnik satellite was launched on Nov. 3, 1957, and carried a dog named Laika into space. Biological data was returned for a week before the animal had to be put to sleep.

The last Sputnik installment was intended to be a space laboratory for study of Earth's magnetic field and radiation belt. After its launch on May 15, 1958, it remained in orbit for nearly two years.

The Sputnik missions all happened during the midst of the Cold War between the USSR and the United States. Americans became worried about the Soviet accomplishments and soon the development of space technology became a national priority.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the need for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) after the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik. The organization united some of America's most brilliant people, who developed the United States' first successful satellite in 18 months. Several years later ARPA began to focus on computer networking and communications technology and ARPANET was born.

It wasn't until late in 1969 that the first attempt to communicate between computers, stationed at different universities, began. The first attempt was a four-node network, and after several minutes of transmission, the system crashed. But, nevertheless, the system was feasible and required some tuning up.

Another milestone occurred in 1972 when the first e-mail program was created. It allowed transmission of text and began one of the ongoing high-rate usages of computer networks. With e-mail up and running, users could now pass information between individual users. It wasn't until the year 1974 that the first use of the term "Internet" became a public word.

Jumping now to the year 1994, the most significant thing that happened was the growth of the Internet. A well-known American pizza chain offered pizza ordering on their Web page and the first cyberbank opened for business. Commercial enterprises started to see the commercial value of the Internet.

There are many events in the history of the Internet that have not been mentioned above. There were long hours of work by numerous people developing software and protocols to advance the information highway to where it is today. New technologies were born, new services were introduced and new ideas were put into play. Now it is time to tip our hats to the many people who were involved in applying the pavement to the super highway. Even if it is somewhat of a smooth ride today, the future destination of the highway is still a mystery. For more history of the Internet, I suggest you search the Web.

The question is, will the Internet change our lives, or will we change the Internet? The latter part of the question gets the first point. The commercial value of the highway was realized back in the year 1994, when a pizza could be ordered on-line or banking carried out. Soon others followed and the dotcoms quickly blossomed.

How many times a day does one see a dotcom advertised? Advertising of dotcoms is on bumpers of cars, buses, in newspapers and on television. The dotcoms are replacing company names. Television ads are not about products as much anymore as they are about dotcoms. A company's name will become the alias, and the dotcom will be the trademark.

E-mail addresses will replace telephone numbers, and this trend will increase more so once the idea of passing voice files becomes more popular.

What about video files? Video files are quite large currently, but because of the convenience of a video file, methods of crunching the file soon will be developed. No text is needed and a letter to grandma can be a video and voice file combined and all sent at one time over the Internet backbone.

Addressing the first part of the earlier question, will the Internet change our lives? Yes, it sure will. We will learn to shop and purchase our daily needs on the Web. It will entertain us, along with supplying us with any information we are seeking and making changes to our ways of communicating with each other. While the transition will be slow, it will be much faster than any transition we had to make in the past. These are just a few changes; more surprises will come as the knowledge of electronics and their advantages becomes available.

Here is a comment taking from the Internet. Who said or printed it is not known, but it does sum up what was responsible for the information highway. It goes like this: "The Internet may have never been developed if the Soviet Union hadn't shaken the world awake by putting a tin can in the sky: Sputnik."