Here’s How the Internet Was Invented at UCLA

Werner Herzog’s new film tracks the birthplace of modern connectivity

In 1969, man landed on the moon, Led Zeppelin released their debut album, and in a tiny lab at UCLA’s Boelter Hall, a group of computer scientists created the foundation for the Internet. It was basically just a giant metal box — a prototype for a router — and it only transmitted the first two letters of a text message before crashing the whole system. But for the first time, using what was dubbed the Interface Message Processor, a connection was established between two computers: one at UCLA and another more than 350 miles away at Stanford Research Institute.

It was, as Internet pioneer and UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock describes it in a new documentary: revolutionary. That documentary is Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, and it’s German auteur Werner Herzog’s latest musing on the fragile state of humanity. Unlike his previous documentaries that have explored the extremes of the natural world and man’s relationship with nature (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man) this one delves into our complex relationship with the endlessly fascinating thing we invented and can’t seem to pull ourselves away from: the Internet. 

It all started here in L.A., but the film examines the effects the Internet has had all over the world, plus the ways it could impact the places it hasn’t yet reached: Mars, in particular. Setting up a WiFi network on the red planet has been a longtime dream of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, and in one scene from the film, Herzog tells Musk that he’s more than ready to come aboard a mission to Mars if it ever happens. We’re hoping it does, at least so that Herzog can set his next film there.