A Brief History of the Internet courtesy of 

The Internet was first conceived in the early '60s. Under the leadership of the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), it grew from a paper architecture into a small network (ARPANET) intended to promote the sharing of super-computers amongst researchers in the United States.

1969 Arpanet connected the first universities in the United States. Researchers at four US campuses created the first hosts of the ARPANET, connecting Stanford Research Institute, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah.

ARPANET was a success from the very beginning. Although originally designed to allow scientists to share data and access remote computers, email quickly became the most popular application. ARPANET became a high-speed digital post office as people used it to collaborate on research projects and discuss topics of various interests.

The InterNetworking Working Group becomes the first of several standards-setting entities to govern the growing network in 1972. Vinton Cerf was elected the first chairman of the INWG, and later became known as a "Father of the Internet." 1973 ARPANET went international with connections to University College in London, England and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway.

1974 First commercial Arpenet

The general public got its first vague hint of how networked computers could be used in daily life in 1974 as the commercial version of the ARPANET went online. The ARPANET started to move away from its military/research roots.

Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, two grad students at Duke University, and Steve Bellovin at the University of North Carolina established the first USENET newsgroups in 1979. Usenet Internet Newsgroups or simply Newsgroups. are like a community bulletin boards about a particular subject. There are Newsgroups on just about every subject imaginable. Users from all over the world joined these discussion groups to talk about the net, politics, religion and thousands of other subjects.

1982 TCP-IP

Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf were key members of a team which created TCP/IP, the common language of all Internet computers. TCP-IP (Transmission Control Protocol - Internet Protocol) Is a common method of assigning addresses on a network so that different types of server operating systems can all communicate regardless of any other communications protocol also in effect. In other words, you may be using a PC running Windows 95, connecting to an ISP running UNIX which, in turn, attaches to the Internet. If all three are running TCP-IP (which they are) than they can all talk to each other.
For the first time the loose collection of networks which made up the ARPANET was seen as an "internet", and the Internet as we know it today was born.

The mid-80s marked a boom in the personal computer and super-minicomputer industries. The combination of inexpensive desktop machines and powerful, network-ready servers allowed many companies to join the Internet for the first time. Corporations began to use the Internet to communicate with each other and with their customers. Internet e-mail and newsgroups became part of life at many universities.

1983 Arpanet to TC/PIP

On 1 January 1983 the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (Arpanet) of the US Department of Defence - the forerunner of the internet - was switched to the TCP/IP protocol. This enabled millions of computers to go online instead of the Network Control Protocol (NCP) which limited it to just 1,000 machines.

1988 The first Worm

 The Internet was an essential tool for communications, however it also began to create concerns about privacy and security in the digital world. New words, such as "hacker," "cracker" and" electronic break-in", were created. These new worries were dramatically demonstrated on Nov. 1, 1988 when a malicious program called the "Internet Worm" temporarily disabled approximately 6,000 of the 60,000 Internet hosts. In 1988 the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) was formed to address security concerns raised by the Worm.

System administrator turned author, Clifford Stoll, caught a group of Cyber-spies in 1989, and wrote the best-seller "The Cuckoo's Egg". The number of Internet hosts exceeded 100,000. A happy victim of its own unplanned, unexpected success, the ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990, leaving only the vast network-of-networks called the Internet. The number of hosts exceeded 300,000.

The World Wide Web is born!

1989 World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee having a background of system design in real-time communications and text processing software development,  invented the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing. while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first web client (browser-editor) and server in 1990-91. The first web browser - or browser-editor rather - was called WorldWideWeb (without spaces) as, after all, when it was written in it was the only way to see the web.

Much later it was renamed Nexus in order to save confusion between the program and the abstract information space (which is now spelled World Wide Web with spaces). Tim wrote the program using a NeXT computer. This had the advantage that there were some great tools available -it was a great computing environment in general. In fact, what could be done in a couple of months would take more like a year on other platforms, because on the NeXT, a lot of it was done already. There was an application builder to make all the menus as quickly as you could dream them up. there were all the software parts to make a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) in other words direct manipulation of text on screen as on the printed - or browsed page. All that needed adding was hypertext.

In 1991 Corporations wishing to use the Internet faced a serious problem: commercial network traffic was banned from the National Science Foundation's NSFNET, the backbone of the Internet. In 1991 the NSF lifted the restriction on commercial use, clearing the way for the age of electronic commerce.

At the University of Minnesota, a team led by computer programmer Mark MaCahill released "gopher," the first point-and-click way of navigating the files of the Internet in 1991. Originally designed to ease campus communications, gopher was freely distributed on the Internet. MaCahill called it "the first Internet application my mom can use.

1991 Hypertext

This was also the year in which Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN in Switzerland, posted the first computer code of the World Wide Web in a relatively innocuous newsgroup, "alt.hypertext." The ability to combine words, pictures, and sounds on Web pages excited many computer programmers who saw the potential for publishing information on the Internet in a way that could be as easy as using a word processor.
Marc Andreesen and a group of student programmers at NCSA (the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications located on the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) would eventually develop a graphical browser for the World Wide Web called Mosaic.
In 1991, traffic on the NSF backbone network exceeded 1 trillion bytes per month. The first audio and video broadcasts took place over a portion of the Internet known as the "MBONE" in 1992. More than 1,000,000 hosts were part of the Internet and had multi-media access to the Internet over the MBONE.

1993 The first graphical Browser

Mosaic, the first graphics-based Web browser, became available in 1993. Traffic on the Internet expanded at a 341,634% annual growth rate.

1994 Netscape

In 1994 The Rolling Stones broadcast the Voodoo Lounge tour over the M-Bone. Marc Andreesen and Jim Clark formed Netscape Communications Corp. Pizza Hut accepted orders for a mushroom, pepperoni with extra cheese over the net, and Japan's Prime Minister went online at www.kantei.go.jp. Backbone traffic exceeded 10 trillion bytes per month.
NSFNET reverted back to a research project in 1995, leaving the Internet in commercial hands. The Web now comprised the bulk of Internet traffic. The Vatican launched www.vatican.va. James Gosling and a team of programmers at Sun Microsystems released an Internet programming language called Java, which radically altered the way applications and information could be retrieved, displayed, and used over the Internet.

By 1996 there were nearly 10 million hosts online and the Internet covered the globe. Users in almost 150 countries around the world were now connected to the Internet. The number of computer hosts approached 10 million.

As the Internet celebrated its 25th anniversary, the military strategies that influenced its birth became historical footnotes. Approximately 40 million people were connected to the Internet. More than $1 billion per year changed hands at Internet shopping malls, and Internet related companies like Netscape were the darlings of high-tech investors.

Within 30 years, the Internet had grown from a Cold War concept for controlling the tattered remains of a post-nuclear society to the Information Superhighway. Just as the railroads of the 19th century enabled the Machine Age, and revolutionized the society of the time, the Internet took us into the Information Age, and profoundly affected the world in which we live.

The Age of the Internet has arrived.

Today some people telecommute over the Internet, allowing them to choose where to live based on quality of life, not proximity to work. Many cities view the Internet as a solution to their clogged highways and fouled air. Schools use the Internet as a vast electronic library, with untold possibilities. Doctors use the Internet to consult with colleagues half a world away. And even as the Internet offers a single Global Village, it threatens to create a 2nd class citizenship among those without access. As a new generation grows up as accustomed to communicating through a keyboard as in person, life on the Internet will become an increasingly important part of life on Earth.

Some good links on this subject:

Here's a very well written account

History of the Internet - Timeline

Lots of good links here at the Internet Society

An article about the web's "inventor", Tim Berners-Lee