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Celebrating 30 years of the World Wide Web

A Google doodle caught my eye this morning.

This doodle celebrates the start of the World Wide Web, not to be confused with the Internet, some 30 years ago.

In 1989 a man by the name of Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research that is best known for being the home of the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. While working at CERN, Berners-Lee began to work on an idea of creating an ‘information space’ where knowledge could be shared and collaborated on.

In March 1989 Berners-Lee drew up a proposal sheet that showed the flow of information from the CERN system to a document that he created using hypertext that created links on a page on the computer – a web browser page that would make it easier for anyone to locate the information contained in the network.

The CERN website has a copy of the 1990 proposal that would better define the concepts of hypertext and how it was used by Berners-Lee and his team to build documents on the computer that brought together otherwise difficult to locate information within the computer networks.

The system behind the Internet goes back decades before the World Wide Web came into being. In an article entitled Who Invented the Internet, the History channel’s website notes:

Long before the technology existed to actually build the Internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks of information.

In fact, it is known that in the early 1900’s Nikola Tesla was considering the possibility of a “world wireless system”. In 1901, With backing from J. P. Morgan, Tesla built the Wardenclyffe wireless station in Shoreham, New York.

Shown here as it appeared in 1094, the tower was designed to be a transatlantic radiotelegraphy station and wireless power transmitter.

Tesla’s vision was originally to transmit messages across the Atlantic to England, and to ships at sea. He later added to the design with the intention of including the capability to wirelessly transmit energy on a global scale. Unfortunately, Morgan did not see the benefit of the design addition and withdrew his funding, causing the tower to be abandoned in 1906. The structure remained uncompleted and was finally torn down in 1916.

By the 1930’s and 1940’s men such as Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush were contemplating mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media.

These were all ideas that were bare shadows of what we have today, however, and it was not until the early 1960’s before the first practical schematics for the Internet came around with the idea, popularized by MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider, of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers.

It was the military’s packet switching program that showed the true possible power of the computer when networked.

In the late 1960’s ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network. In the 1970’s Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, TCP/IP, which was a communications model that set the standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks. ARPANET adopted that as their preferred means of communication on January 1, 1983 and researchers began to connect systems into what most would recognize as an early version of what we have today.

It was Berners-Lee, however, that unleashed the concept that is known as the World Wide Web onto the systems. In 1990 when Berners-Lee introduced his method of accessing data it was so quickly popularized that many who had not had such convenient access to the vast resources of data to be found in the Internet came to see World Wide Web as being synonymous with Internet.

For 30 years the World Wide Web made it possible for even the less trained computer users to not only access the data, but to contribute to it. As a result the Internet has grown exponentially and become a resource that few today that have used it could probably imagine the world being without.

There is a rich and expansive history behind the beginnings and growth of the Internet and it took many many men decades of working together and on the work of their predecessors to create the Internet that we have come to know today with information and entertainment at our fingertips.

What might this all evolve into in tomorrows world?

Please share your thoughts and ideas, and if you know of some details that you feel might be good to share please do in the comments.

My personal bit would be to note that my father was one of the men that worked on the packet switching program for the US Army, speeding the process up to a rate of real time switching for information and the rerouting of communications in the field. I could not imagine my life without the Internet, and will be forever grateful to my father for the part he played in bringing what is one of the most impressive of humanity’s creations into the world.

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