The early history
Wire based communication is not a big wonder to the world today, since it has been used even in the early 18th century. According to Wikipedia, the first successful trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1865. A regular transatlantic radiotelegraph service finally began in 1907. To make matters more complicated, 100 years later - on 27th January 2006, the worlds last telegraph message was sent by Western Union, making the network nearly obsolete from practical use.
Packet switching network communication idea seeded in the 1940s, with the conversion of regular telephone networks into digital lines. Advance Research Project Agency (ARPA) started working on a so-called "Inter-galactic" network in 1962, and this was the first attempt to establish a sustainable Wide Area Network for communication purposes.
ARPA launched its first successful long distance packet-switching communication network in 1969 with the name ARPAnet. It consisted of four universities, which interconnected the researchers working on the project at the time. In the initial communication of ARPAnet, sending only the word "login" to the other end took almost an hour! Even yet, it is a fact that ARPAnet was the predecessor of the Internet and the research was a huge success, compared to the technology they had at the time. By 1973, 75% of the ARPAnet traffic was email and in 1973, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was introduced, enabling uploading and downloading of files.
TCP/IP protocol suite
TCP/IP is a layered protocol stack that provides reliability and simplicity in data communication. ARPA started research in 1970s, looking at means for reducing a network to the bare minimum, while simultaneously joining almost any network. Internet Protocol (IP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) should work together to have dependable communication. The version 4 of the protocol was standardized in 1978 with high-stability - the underlying standard protocol used even today in the Internet.
Apart from the development of Internet, there were other experiments to develop Local Area Network (LAN) communication. Challenging other networking standards like Token-Ring, Ethernet holds the medal to be the standard protocol for LAN communication, due to its speed and reliability. Ethernet development also began in mid 1970s. Nowadays Ethernet provides staggering 10 gigabits per second speeds, known as 10G Ethernet. 10G Ethernet is still an emerging technology, and remains to receive commercial acceptance.
World Wide Web
In year 1993, Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the roadway for multimedia global information - a highway over the World Wide Web. Fortunately for us, he made the entire technology royalty-free, making it accessible at no cost for anyone. Scholars agree that this was one of the biggest turning points in computing related network communications in recent history.
Network communication has evolved with tiresome experiments, exhausted work and discouraging failures. Think about it the next time before you complain about your network performance. You cannot even imagine how fast you are working, compared to the good-old days.