In the mid-’80s, the average person had never heard of the Internet—in fact, the average person probably didn’t even have a personal computer. But your government dollars were hard at work creating the global network you can’t live without. The oldest registered domains were computer manufacturers and the researchers who developed the network.
Digital Electronics Corporation (DEC), at one point a major computer manufacturer, registered the fifth .com Internet domain on September 30, 1985. The company was a major player in the computer industry until the late ’80s and early ’90s, when game-changing microcomputers eroded demand for Digital’s larger and more complex systems. Compaq bought the company in 1998, then merged with Hewlett-Packard in 2002. As recently as 2007 Hewlett-Packard still sold some of Digital’s products under its own branding. Since the merger between Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, dec.com redirects to the Hewlett-Packard America homepage.
The fourth oldest domain name, mcc.com, was registered on July 11, 1985. At the time, the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) was a computer industry research and development consortium specializing in sourcing and integration of technology for the companies that were members of the consortium. According to an archived press release, the company was restructured in 2000. As of June 2013, the domain remains unused.
Following on BBN’s heels a month later, the Thinking Machines Corporation registered the domain think.com as the third registered domain on the Internet. At the time, Thinking Machines was building supercomputers so sexy, Steven Spielberg used them in “Jurassic Park,”despite the fact that a different computer had been specified in Michael Crichton’s book on which the movie was based. Thinking Machines’ manufacturing business went bankrupt in 1994, but the company continued producing data mining software. Oracle bought the data mining technology, along with the think.com domain, in 1999. In 2013, think.com redirects to thinkquest.org, Oracle’s nonprofit educational foundation.
On April 24, 1985—a little over a month after Symbolics’ March 15th registration—BBN became the owner of the second domain name on the Internet. Richard Bolt, Leo Beranek and Robert Newman formed BBN in 1948 as an acoustics consulting firm, and the company would later lead the pack in research and development of the Internet. Raytheon acquired BBN Technologies in 2009, and the company still conducts technological research and development, primarily funded through government contracts.
Back in 1985, when most PCs were Tandy personal computers running MS-DOS, hardware manufacturer Symbolics snagged the first .com URL. Although the company went belly-up in the ’90s, the domain is still active. An individual purchased the domain from Symbolics and, aside from providing a bit of history about the Internet and the company that previously owned the domain, he sells advertising space. So, for a fee, you too can “own” a little piece of Internet history.