For those who are too young to have seen the evolution: there was live before the Internet: private BBS's, Bitnet, Usenet, Janet, Milnet/Arpanet.....
A (very) short history of the Internet (cited according to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet)
On January 1, 1983, TCP/IP protocols became the only approved protocol on the ARPANET, replacing the earlier NCP protocol.
In 1984 NSF developed CSNET exclusively based on TCP/IP. CSNET connected with ARPANET using TCP/IP, and ran TCP/IP over X.25, but it also supported departments without sophisticated network connections, using automated dial-up mail exchange. This grew into the NSFNet backbone, established in 1986, and intended to connect and provide access to a number of supercomputing centers established by the NSF.
It was around the time when ARPANET was interlinked with NSFNet in the late 1980s (1988/89), that the term (Internet)was used as the name of the network, Internet, being a large and global TCP/IP network.
Between 1984 and 1988 CERN began installation and operation of TCP/IP to interconnect its major internal computer systems, workstations, PCs and an accelerator control system. CERN continued to operate a limited self-developed system CERNET internally and several incompatible (typically proprietary) network protocols externally. There was considerable resistance in Europe towards more widespread use of TCP/IP and the CERN TCP/IP intranets remained isolated from the Internet until 1989. As most Universities in Europe were connected not before 1989.
But the real internet - todays internet - did not start before 1995 when Mosaic and HTML took over. Developed at Cern, Mosaic allowed for the first time everybody to use the web, not only some specialiced geeks who worked with complicated tools such as Telnet, Gopher and FTP. The link concept of Mosaic was the main revolution, but also that now text and pictures could be combined. Now the web as we know it today could start.
As an example of a european university:
A very concise history of NIC (ftp.funet.fi)
citet from Funet-Readme
1988 Finland gets it's first internet link of 56Kbit/s via the NORDUnet co-operation and major part of the traffic was from FTP
1989 Funet saw a need for a FTP-server that would allow better access to the internet content (web was still a dream)
from Finland. Decision to set up NIC.FUNET.FI was made and Request for Proposals sent out
1990 First NIC.FUNET.FI, a SUN 4/330, with dual 40Mhz SPARC processors, 128MB RAM and 6GB of usable
disk space which made it then among the largest FTP servers in the Internet.
Our international internet connectivity for whole Funet was 64Kbit/s so mea develops an ftpd with speed limits
More hardware details are available in historical/First-NIC-Hardware.txt
1991 Linus Torvalds offered a small OS for public distribution which our volunteer
Ari Lemmke decided to call Linux and the name stuck... International connection was upgraded to 128Kbit/s
1992 We had about 20GB of external disks and a motherboard upgrade making it in practice a SUN 630-41 MP
International connectivity was upgraded to 1Mbit/s
1994 Second NIC with 275Mhz Alpha processor, 320MB of memory and 100GB+ disk space (DEC AXP3000-900)
International connection for Funet upgraded to 2 x 2Mbit/s
1999 Third NIC with four processors and 4GB of memory (a SUN 450) was taken in use.
Under 1TB made from well over hunred old and new disks in two RAID racks (DEC and Eurologic)
International connections used 155Mbit/s links with redundancy
2003 A user survey to determine whether users still need NIC is made with an encouraging response
2006 The fourth version of NIC from Fujitsu-Siemens Computers with 16GB of memory and four processors
is taken into production initially with 3TB+ EMC CX300 SAN storage array. A SUN V240 is in a support role.
2.5Gbit/s and 10Gbit/s international links
2007 5-6 TB SAN storage added. Dark fibers with support for many lightpaths deployed in the Funet backbone.
2010 Fifth version of NIC, a Dell R710, with dual Quad-Core Nehalem EP (2,53Ghz Intel Xeon 5540) processors,
72GB of RAM and storage from the CSC storage area network (initially 10TB+ from a EMC CX700)
taken into use under Solaris 10 and the ZFS filesystem. Network connection is now
10Gbit/s to the Funet backbone and multiples of 10Gbit/s to the rest of the Internet.
If you're interested in the history of the internet, see for instance here.