While working at CERN, [Tim] Berners-Lee became frustrated with the inefficiencies and difficulties posed by finding information stored on different computers. On March 12, 1989, he submitted a memorandum, titled “Information Management: A Proposal“, to the management at CERN for a system called “Mesh” that referenced ENQUIRE, a database and software project he had built in 1980, which used the term “web” and described a more elaborate information management system based on links embedded in readable text: “Imagine, then, the references in this document all being associated with the network address of the thing to which they referred, so that while reading this document you could skip to them with a click of the mouse.” Such a system, he explained, could be referred to using one of the existing meanings of the word hypertext, a term that he says was coined in the 1950s. There is no reason, the proposal continues, why such hypertext links could not encompass multimedia documents including graphics, speech and video, so that Berners-Lee goes on to use the term hypermedia.
March 12, 2021 is, according to Google at least, the 32th anniversary of the World Wide Web.
Anyone here besides me remember the Usenet Cookbook from before there actually was a WWW? I have a printed-out copy from the late 80s, and it’s a treasured possession. Compuserve? MCI Mail? (I actually worked for them for a time.) Acoustic couplers? Archie? AOL? Pong? Single-sided floppy disks?
IRIS Intermedia? Now there’s a story. One in which Mr. Right, in one of the highlights of his academic career, was chosen to work alongside Professor George Landow and the team at Brown University on The Dickens Web, an early example of encyclopedic knowledge being presented in a highly visual and linked, mouse-clickable, hypertext format. Looking at it today–almost four decades later–its vision and its prescience are astonishing.
Proud to have been there at, or near, the start of it all.
Lord. I’m old.
And I don’t mind a bit. To mangle one of Keats’ most famous lines, the tunes of youth may be sweet, but the melodies of old age have their moments, too. (The original line is buried in here, somewhere.) The Bard had something to say on the subject, too:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.–Sonnet 73, William Shakespeare
Or, to put it another way:
What do you remember from the early days of the Internet? And before?