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This is experimental. However, it could start a revolution in information access (imgur.com)
208 points by fogus on Dec 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

August 1991: WWW goes live; Linux Kernel announced; USSR collapsed; SNES English release; Terminator 2 was in the cinemas and Smells Like Teen Spirit had its radio début. What a month

What a month indeed! The first two are really only interesting to the masses in hindsight though. I wonder how many interesting technological advances happen every month that we don't realize until years later.

Robert Goddard's initial liquid fueled rocketry projects received generally negative publicity (a well-known NY Times editorial denounced the very idea that a rocket could operate outside the Earth's atmosphere, for example).

The transistor initially received very minor media coverage.

For years the laser was derided as a solution looking for a problem.

Also that war in the Balkans.

According to [Wikipedia][1], the Gulf War ended February 28th, when Pres. George W. declared a ceasefire (though Operation Desert Storm kept going until 1995).

  [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War


  1990 was a momentous year in world events. In February,
  Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison. In April, the space shuttle
  Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. And in October, 
  Germany was reunified. Then at the end of 1990, a revolution took place that
  changed the way we live today.

We didn't start the fire..

Goosebumps ^_^

I don't know if it's just me, but the link appears to be broken.

> We're sorry, but we were unable to find the topic you were looking for. Perhaps the URL you clicked on is out of date or broken?

Here is the text of the link:

Newsgroups: comp.sys.next.announce Followup-To: poster From: ti...@nxoc01.cern.ch (Tim Berners-Lee) Date: 20 Aug 91 01:54:41 GMT Local: Mon, Aug 19 1991 9:54 pm Subject: WorldWideWeb wide-area hypertext app available

The WorldWideWeb application is now available as an alpha release in source and binary form from info.cern.ch.

WorldWideWeb is a hypertext browser/editor which allows one to read information from local files and remote servers. It allows hypertext links to be made and traversed, and also remote indexes to be interrogated for lists of useful documents. Local files may be edited, and links made from areas of text to other files, remote files, remote indexes, remote index searches, internet news groups and articles. All these sources of information are presented in a consistent way to the reader. For example, an index search returns a hypertext document with pointers to documents matching the query. Internet news articles are displayed with hypertext links to other referenced articles and groups.

The code is not strictly public domain: it is copyright CERN (see copyright notice is in the .tar), but is free to collaborating institutes.

Also available is a portable line mode browser which allows hypertext to be browsed by anyone with a dumb ascii terminal emulator. Hypertext may be made public by putting on an anonymous FTP server, or by using a HTTP daemon. A skeleton HTTP daemon is also available in source form. A server may be written to make other existing data readable by WWW browsers. Files are

    /pub/WWWNeXTStepEditor_0.12.tar.Z    NeXT application + sources
    /pub/WWWLineMode_0.11.tar.Z          Portable Line Mode Browser
    /pub/WWWDaemon_0.1.tar.Z             Simple server
Basic documentation is enclosed. Details about our project and about hypertext in general are available in hypertext form on our servers, as are lists of known bugs and features.

This project is experimental and of course comes without any warranty whatsoever. However, it could start a revolution in information access. We are currently using WWW for user support at CERN. We would be very interested in comments from anyone trying WWW, and especially those making other data available, as part of a truly world-wide web.

Tim BL ___________________________________________________________________________ Tim Berners-Lee ti...@info.cern.ch World Wide Web project Tel: +41(22)767 3755 CERN Fax: +41(22)767 7155 1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland

Where did you get that from? The link worked for me this morning but now doesn't, which makes me worry that google have killed the posting for some reason!?

It worked for me just now.

it's been changed from the "original" google groups link to an imgur link.

Groups link was: http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys.next.announce/browse...

edit: and from the monthly archive for Aug 1991 it looks like the TBL message dated 20 Aug 1991 has just... gone!


It's not just you

If anyone wants to take it for a spin: http://www.nextcomputers.org/NeXTfiles/Software/NEXTSTEP/App...

Note: NEXTSTEP required. Runs pretty well in VMWare.

EDIT: If you're running a VM you'll want the "33fat" (fat binary) one.

Also here is the Obj-C source code: http://www.w3.org/History/1991-WWW-NeXT/Implementation/

So the first version of WWW was implemented in Obj-C?

WorldWideWeb, the browser running on NeXTSTEP, was written in Objective C as most of GUI stuff on this platform.

Reading this announcement is like being able to see the first drop of water that starts off the Amazon river. Something so 'normal' to start with and yet ends up awe-inspiring by the end.

And yet, that damn fax machine is still just as alive and kicking today as it was in 1991.

Well not quite. Now you can laugh in people's face when they ask you to fax something and they will look sheepish rather than glaring at you.

And when they fax you back it'll be at an online service that mails you a PDF. And they're none the wiser.

F.....aaax? Dull look

> However, it could start a revolution in information access.

He has a gift for statement (not over or under).

I'm whelmed.

I'm fairly plussed.

I remember well what happened when I first saw this: I tried running the text browser via my telnet session, thought "this sucks", and went back to using gopher.

Then at some point Wired magazine removed their archives from gopher and put them on WWW. At first I was like "fuck you Wired" but then I was like "actually this WWW thing isn't so bad after all."

I had the same reaction, until I finally saw a web page with images in Mosaic on an SGI.

Nice to see this announcement... Makes me remember what I was doing back in those days - and makes me wonder what other HN'ers were doing back then.

I was 12, playing on BBS' and attempting to teach myself Turbo Pascal so I could possibly write IGM's for Legend of the Red Dragon...

Hm, SNES eh? I do believe I was cutting class to go over and play the Super Mario World demo at Target. There was a time limit on the demo where it would restart automatically, however I discovered it was controlled by external dip switches on the side of the machine. I have no idea how many people were standing behind me waiting.

One day I came back and found the dip switches epoxied in the 2 minute position.

The quickest you can complete SM is about 1:50 or so...

I was 15. I was trying to run a small bbs on my Commodore Amiga. We were learning Turbo Pascal and wondering if this new "object oriented" approach to programming was going to catch on. (I think TP5 was the first realeas to include oo extensions.)

The wall fell. I was in Germany. It was nuts.

It wasn't until a good couple of years later that I ran my own BBS - I was running Iniquity and remember the hours upon hours spent on creating ASCII art for all the screens. That and the fact that I ran the BBS on my only phone line, meaning it was a 11pm to 6am only BBS - good times.

I was in Berlin, age 6, also at the fall of the wall. Father was in military intelligence for US. I think at that time I was getting games to run on our computer using MS-DOS.

Turbo Pascal 5.5 With Objects was the first version to support OOP, IIRC. It was the version I started on, when I was 11 in 1991.

The Internet didn't reach me until about 1995 ...

I was 23 and I was starting my final year at Computer Science in Milan Italy. The last chapter of my paper work - finalized almost a year later - would report of a new software tool to browse information on the Internet called Mosaic. Since then I was using Gopher, WAIS and Veronica (was that the name?).

and Archie, too ;-)

I was eight. This was about a year after my family getting a PC running MS-DOS (maybe Windows at that point, don't remember), so I had probably just discovered QBasic. I was thus adding to the biggest lump of unrelated elements that I have ever piled into a single piece of software. All in one file, of course, and with no proper subroutines (the one book my public library had about BASIC was older than subroutines were, though I did know about GOSUB). I remember being incredibly happy upon discovering the labeled GOTO, because it was so much easier than having to number all the lines.

Meanwhile, people at CERN were building the very foundation of what my livelihood would one day be.

Likewise except also attempting to script out Trade Wars 2002. And yes, 2002 seemed futuristic too damn it.

11, and my best friend had spent the summer trying to make a video game based off "The Goonies" in QBASIC. (Graphics were done the only way we knew how, by using colored ASCII-art.)

I was working at my first programming gig, writing a hypertext display engine (WIN16 app ugh) for a prototype Boeing 777 seat-back display.

I had just graduated from HS and turned 18. At the time I had no real inkling of the idea that computers would become such a big part of my life. The bug hadn't bitten yet, so to speak. I'd dabbled with some BASIC programming as a kid, and we played around on the PCs in the library at school. Figuring out how to get out of the CD-ROM library thing and get to a DOS prompt where we could play, was a big deal back then.

But, at least for me, it was a year or two later, in college, when I got hooked on programming. Strangely enough, I don't really even remember exactly how it all started. I just remember starting to buy and read Computer Shopper magazine regularly; and then I was building a PC, getting a modem, playing around on BBS systems, getting into the hack/phreak scene, buying Herbert Schildt's book "Teach Yourself C" and downloading a C compiler from a BBS or something, deciding to major in Computer Science instead of Physics, and the rest is history.

That very month I was also 12, and at a summer camp at RIT learning 'robotics' and doing animations in Mac hypercard!

Man how times have changed.

I was working on MIT's "Lucy" question/answer system for the deans, based on Sun RPC. It generated reports using LaTeX.

I was one month away from starting college, and a month away from discovering that there were computers in the world that were permanently connected across vast distances (didn't require modems and dialing up over phone lines). That first instant telnet to a system 500 miles away = blown mind.

I was 11 programming in GW Basic. My dad didn't give me a copy of his C compiler until a year later.

Also 11. Also GW Basic. I was learning on my own and asked my mom if I could get a book on programming. She bought me some book on Basic, only issue was that it was targeted at people trying to write finance and accounting management programs (mom didn't really know one from another so not really her fault). My eyes glazeth over and it took me a few years to regain my interest/confidence in programming. I still blame that book.

I was 11. My dad was in a master's program and I used to use his account to access gopher. I had no use (or understanding) of the documents but was somehow fascinated by the endless series of menus. That, and prodigy.

Ah, we just took a hex editor to LORD and had them going through a sewer, fighting alligator (because we had to keep the length of the string constant)...

I was an...infant.

I wasn't even born yet.

16, playing with fractals in C64 assembler. Great time !!

I was 4 and probably sucking a lolly pop :)

Why would anyone need this when they have Gopher?

Hypertext?? A bunch of special characters around text? Nah. Its too simple.

Link broken ?

I'm guessing it's broken only for people who have upgraded to the new Google Groups.

Broken link here too

Can we have another one or the message's title?

And this is way doing research for living means having the best job in the world. Most likely you are not going to be rich by any mean, but once in a while what you do will change the world.

Meh, it'll never catch on.


This sucks. Why would anybody switch from Gopher?

I think it was 1992 that TBL was going around selling the WWW to different organizations. That's the year I worked on MIT's TechInfo, similar to gopher. TechInfo had great tools for information providers, but it was still an uphill battle getting departments to keep their info up-to-date. Since the WWW required a lot more knowledge and effort, it seemed hopeless to think you could ever base a campus-wide information system on it.

I didn't see TBL's pitch myself at that time, but the senior people on the project did, and they showed me the lame terminal browser. NeXT was the only graphical browser available. I agreed with them that hypertext was too unstructured. Give it to regular people and you'd have chaos.

When Mosaic introduced the IMG tag and people could actually embed images in hypertext, that's when the demos started to get impressive and the web took off.

A previous manager of mine used to work at AT&T in the early 90s and according to her, AT&T was convinced that gopher was the future. The web was too disorganized to be of much use.

I was working for a project at Chicago that partnered with some other project at CERN, so we saw it pretty early. This perspicacious understanding of technology trends I displayed may well have much to do with my current ramen and water diet and my distinct lack of super-villian hollowed-out volcano headquarters.

No wireless. Less space than an iPod. Lame.

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Well, definitely less space than a nomad, since the iPod had less space than a nomad in the original quote we're both referencing (well, I'm referencing, and you're repeating).

Not repeating, correcting.

Does it come with any gamez?

I'll give it a year, tops - until the next "latest buzz" comes along.

Hmm read/write web browser/editor? So Web 0.1 was Web 2.0

yes, it really was! TBL's been trying to 'put the lid back on' and get the web closer to his original vision ever since!

Google's 20 year archive has a lot of fun little posts like this.


What I still dont get: was this server accessible from anywhere, or just from within the local cern network? when were the root nameservers put into service, so you could access any server via an URL? I'm guessing the infrastructure for the internet was already in place - what Tim Berners-Lee established was a new protocol that enabled the simple exchange of documents between remote computers... Am I getting this right?

It was accessible throughout the Internet. If you knew the http protocol you could telnet to port 80 and get pages (still works today).

Interesting, I never realized this connection:

A NeXT Computer was used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN to develop the world's first web server software, CERN HTTPd, and also used to write the first web browser, WorldWideWeb. This workstation became the world's first web server on the Internet.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXT_Computer

So as NeXT founder, Steve Jobs was indirectly responsible for HTML? Of course, Marc Andreessen was responsible for images and also porting the NeXT code to Windows/MacOS.

As mentioned elsewhere in this discussion, the first web browser was indeed written in Objective-C, using the AppKit framework.

The announcement includes a notice akin to a primitive open source license:

  The code is not strictly public domain: it is copyright
  CERN (see copyright notice is in the .tar), but is free
  to collaborating institutes.
Was it typical back then to release code while retaining the copyright as opposed to making it public domain?

I wonder why the didn't pick web. instead of www.

Not the best alternative for sure but at least a thousand times easier to pronounce.

While it was wordy, the use of www and "world wide web" added a certain cuteness and folksiness to the technology. This, along with the very simplicity of setting up a web page, helped fuel its adoption. WWW indicated that the technology was about community and universal access, and early art appearing on the web fed into this. The smiling-fat-spider-on-a-web and the Earth-meshed-with-circuits may have not seemed so inviting if it were just a web and not The World Wide Web!

Plus it sure was enjoyable to watch people on television stumble through double-U double-U double-U dot...

To this day I can't figure out why people don't say "triple double-u". It's so much shorter, but more importantly, flows great.


Maybe because they were based in Switzerland, and did not say double-you?

That's an interesting take.

However, Tim Berners-Lee is English (born in London), and the CERN is located in Genève, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In French, 'w' is pronounced "double-vé" (quick & dirty phonetic translation would be "doobleh-vay" in English). Neither English nor French really make pronouncing "www" easy.

I tried to find out how 'w' is pronounced in German, but I didn't have much luck. Does anybody knows?

I happen to be German: `We' in German and `Vae' may be an approximate English rendering.

I was about to turn 3. I am sure that I was geeky, and trying to program my high-chair, but never the less, still just learning the world.

I do wish that I would have been more in the 10-11 year old range. So much excellent stuff happened that year - just a few months after that, the Minnesota Twins won the series.

In the most dramatic Fall Classic of all time.

A colleague, who was present when Tim presented the WWW at a CERN seminar in its early days, reported to me that one person in the assistance asked at the end of the presentation what was the use for this software (quelle est l'utilité de ce logiciel).

This is purely intellectual curiosity, but does anyone have those tarballs?

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