my father worked for the USA Bell Telephone System (now AT&T) from 1930 to retirement in the 1970s.
he took me to work with him on weekends to keep me away from the 'bad elements' in our neighborhood. in the late 1950's, he showed me the punched tape read/writers they used to communicate the various office information among each, using existing copper lines and microwave links. it was simple enough for even an 8 year old to understand. not a full blown 'net', but even then, the wizards in New Jersy were well aware of the use of widespread, standardized methods of sharing information. commercial investment required tons of money to buy and use this system, but only when CHEAP AFFORDABLE computers were here could the internet become a public reality, and an opportunity for ISP's to start gouging the entire population.