Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Big Anniversary Coming Up

A short blurb from a piece at CNET News...
The first public demo of the Web in the United States in 1991.
(Credit: CERN)
"It was quite a warm December evening in San Antonio," recalled Professor Wendy Hall of the UK's University of Southampton, who was in that room for the 1991 Hypertext Conference where Berners-Lee had been denied a speaking spot to show off the most important human creation of a generation or three. "In the courtyard outside the demo room was a tequila fountain and everybody was outside drinking free margaritas, so nobody was inside. This was the first demo of the World Wide Web in America."

Keep in mind, this wasn't a conference of Luddites. It was a gathering of people interested in hypertext before anyone really knew the phrase (most people still don't know it, because it was quickly supplanted in our culture by "the Web"). This was a crowd of information nerds, and yet, they still were unimpressed by the World Wide Web on day one. And it wasn't really even day one, either. Berners-Lee had actually first submitted a paper detailing his invention almost three years earlier, on March 12, 1989.

And this is the date I mean to commemorate over the course of the next week -- the actual birth date of the World Wide Web, a creation Mr. Berners-Lee and his colleagues gave to the world completely free of charge on that day 25 years ago. In this post and three that follow, I'll look at the first two and a half decades of the Web, from its awkward infancy, to those crazy boom and bust years, the lull that followed (I like to call them the "lost in the wilderness years"), and finally, the countless bits and pings of the lovable monstrosity that is today's mobile and social Web.
This is compelling stuff, written by a guy who came of age at the same time as these inter-tubes.  The piece rang more than a few bells for me, even though I was a middle-aged retired Air Force sergeant working in his second career when the 'net came into this world.  I was also a very lucky former sergeant... given as how I was in the technology bid'niz, a fortuitous accidental career choice that changed everything for me, and I do mean every-freaking-thing.  I suppose what I'm trying to say is I had the opportunity to watch these inter-tubes grow from the inside.  Watching the emergence of the internet and assisting in its growth was heady stuff in the way-back... even for a bit player like myself... and the web remains fascinating now, even if I'm just another end-user.  That said, the web changed everything for everybody and continues to do so, on a daily basis.  Reading the history of its origins and development should interest everyone, with no exceptions. 

I'll be looking forward to the next three articles in this series.


  1. ...and the Berlin Wall was destroyed in November.

    1. Reagan didn't get immediate results, did he?

  2. I remember those days well. Me with my 2400 baud modem, access through the Oakland Public Library and the wild speed of a Mac Color Classic II. No we could not run MOSAIC though we tried mightily and went to many BBS looking for a solution other than, buy a PC.
    I remember going to an Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Panama City in 98 and seeing something called VISUALIZATION running on one of the computers outside the meeting hall. It was a program being flogged to use all source overhead imagery to show what was at any geo coordinate on the earth. It was clearly going to be a high side application but we got the gist using some of NASAs photo satellites and aircraft imagery. "You could drill all the way from orbit down to a street address!"

    Yea, it was really cool. Google put it out as a service a few years later and look at it now.

    1. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to remember what it was like to surf the net at 4.8kbps... and less. It also seemed like I was buying a new modem every time I turned around, I think 19.2kbps was my last before I got broadband. But yeah... good times! Better times, today.

    2. I jumped on 28.8 and splurged a year or two later for the PCMCIA 56k modem card.....that I used like twice because I went overseas and no intertubes there in 96 and when I got back I had broadband. Still got the card though, cause it's small. Hasn't been a PCMCIA computer in my life for about 12 years.


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