I think it was about the 60th (I forget the exact number, it was a long time ago :) website in the UK, serving the “needs” of (ok, playing with tech for) the image processing group in Kings College London’s physics dept while doing my PhD.
The server ran on my desktop DECstation 3100, a 16MHz R2000 with a 1024x864 1-bit display named asterix.ph.kcl.ac.uk - Yeah, 1-bit. In the image-processing dept... still, it was more than 10x faster than the microvax that served the rest of the dept!
It’s kind of amazing to me, having lived through all the change, that a modern Arm SOC like the $5 Pi-0 would blow away that at-the-time (1989) high-end workstation, in every respect. In the dust.
In comparison, the first computer I ever got was the ZX81 (in 1981, so about 8 years earlier) and it had 1K of RAM, came as components that I soldered to the motherboard (I was 11 at the time, soldering was old-hat) and I was more interested in the black-and-white, dial-tuned, portable TV that I could have in my bedroom that came with it :) But to go from that to the DEC 3100 in such a short time was also massive progress.
I got grounded for a month because the long distance phone bill was $926 and my dad was furious.
He yelled at me one time and said "stop wasting your time on the damn computer - it will never do anything for you!"
Years later - after a successful time working in Silicon Valley building out many a thing, my dad came to my house and he apologized for yelling at me for "wasting time on the computer" - and I was touched that he remembered that time from when I was 11 and he said that...
My first machine was a Tandy 1000 - and I was also calling in to PC-Link (which later became AOL) to chat with strangers....
We understood each other better after that day.
(Of course, now that I own a home, I wish I'd done more of the engine tinkering... I learned what a carburetor is and how to clean it via FaceTime.)
Anyway, I bought it 1 month after we’d all collectively rented a house, and we’d already had a telephone bill for the previous month. I think it went from about £50 to about £350 for that month, after which I discovered the joys of downloading the game state (built into the game) and writing scripts to make my moves, then uploading those moves in one go, rather than doing everything interactively while online.
Now, I have a 1 Gbit always-on connection :) Tempus Fugit.
 I was planning to link to Wolfpack empire here, but I just tried and the site is down - I hope it’s just temporary because I still fondly recollect nuking the hell out of my friends countries... www.wolfpackempire.com. Okay, looks like it’s gone to https://empiredirectory.net/index.php ...
My first ever income from programming was writing some machine code to run in a USR$ on an Atari 8-bit BBS. Turns out the XModem checksum calculation was slow enough that when 1200 baud modems came out, there was a noticeable delay between chunks for BASIC to calc the checksum. At around 20 bytes long, I was paid $20. Man, do I wish I could make $1/byte now...
Blimey. I'm not surprised. In today's money that's $2,239.52. You were like a very early forerunner of those kids running up massive credit card bills on in-app purchases.
Great story though: thanks for sharing.
Go back a few years further and people would do all kinds of tricks if, for example, they just wanted to signal someone that they'd arrived somewhere safely. They'd make an operator-assisted person-to-person and the receiving caller would just say that person wasn't there and there would be no charge.
We can call the setup a PhaaSer. You're welcome world.
It sounds very interesting but I cannot bring the pieces together.
The video is just making fun of that situation by encoding a message in the name.
(The context is that long distance phone calls cost maybe $4+ per minute in today's dollars.)
I used to run a node of one of the first public BBS networks (1983ish). Messages went from one node to the other using store-and-forward overnight. With enough nodes in the right LATAs, you could send messages (e-mail at first, then bulletin board messages) across the entire region.
Where I lived at the time, I could make a local call between two area codes in two different states, so my node was very busy overnight relaying all the messages that got bottled up in either state at 300 baud.
[/me holds breath for someone to point out an earlier version.]
It didn't help that I didn't have good grades and got in my fair of trouble. I stuck with it though, and within a year of getting out of college made more than my parents combined.
Me too (turned 50 a few days ago). I persuaded school to buy a single ZX80, then quite a few 81s and a tonne of Speccies later on. Then you buy the RAM pack: 16KB luxury! Then you discovered a new use for Blu Tac - to stop the bloody RAM pack from wobbling.
I was more interested in the 'puters than the telly but I do understand your fixation.
I had a brief job in RNAC Manadon (Plymouth, UK) as an IT bod in 1993. From my (Windows 3) PC, I could telnet the Xn (n - can't remember the number) PAD, then get myself to some box in the US and then to CERN for the www. I was asked by my boss to evaluate this new fangled www thing, compared to WAIS, GOPHER etc. I can't remember my exact findings but it looked like gopher to me because the cat pictures were not there because I was using telnet (Mosaic came later) and it looked to me like another menuing system.
[aside: story of how my parents got tired of me just using the TV]
About 3 months after xmas, I still hadn't soldered everything together. My parents laid down the law, so I eventually went into the garage and started soldering away. I took my telly with me :) Once it was all together (which wasn't really that hard) I had it plugged in and working, and I was going through the instructions to make sure it was done correctly... Then I proudly walked into the house and everyone gathered around the living room TV (the only other one in the house...) I plugged it all together and up came the boot screen.
Following the instructions, I typed in
PRINT 1 + 1 = 2 [return]
... and the computer printed '1'
At which point my father turned to me, and said "I knew something was up. You've buggered it", and walked out the room. It took a long time to get across the concept of logical true as 1 and logical false as 0...
Once that episode was done, though, computers took over my life, I graduated to the Atari XL (which Dixons sold for £129 with a disk drive) a few years later - it was supposed to be a shared computer between myself and my brother for another xmas present, but basically he never got a look in. I became the 'computer room prefect' at school when I got to the sixth form, I was obsessed.
When I went to college, I used my student grant to finance an Atari ST, and I'm convinced that my lab grades were better because of the beautiful DTP reports I came up with, when everyone else was on 80-character daisywheel printed text.
I used to regularly write code in GFA Basic, and then graduated to C, learnt unix and used my ST as a terminal, then wrote the MDK (a unix-like distribution like Slackware for the ST). I fell in love with unix at college and have never used anything else since. When linux came on a boot disk and a root disk (yes, floppies), that was when I started using it :)
Time passes, and until very recently I was in R&D at Apple. Everything from verilog for FPGA's, kernel drivers, PCIe bus drivers, system frameworks, app frameworks, and even full-blown applications. One project I worked on, I had to produce an operating system for something that didn't have a central CPU. That took me two years, but it was a lot of fun, and I believe will have enormous impact when it finally sees the light of day :)
I've been immensely fortunate in that computers (my hobby for the last 40 years or so, my degree was in Physics, but generally physicists consider themselves jacks of all trades. Pretty much everything deals with energy at some point...) are also my day job. Sometimes it's had its down-sides, but mainly it's been a blast :)
You could send email to either form address, and there was an internet/JANet gateway that figured it out. Everyone decided it was easier to use one naming standard though, so we went with what we have today.
It was the motion of pressing down on the keyboard (or otherwise moving it) that caused the two rigid bodies (computer and ram pack) to momentarily lose contact, and boom - bye bye work...
Just noticed on my most recent birthday I've hit 50 years in computing. I tell my kids "texting is so easy now, in the olden days, we had to go to the data center and take turns messaging each other on the operator console..."
I'm teasing them a bit much because we would go there and message each other, but the neophytes would go to the terminal room and we few cognoscenti would go to the machine room, just down the hall.
However I'm a second generation programmer. My mom learned to program in the era that spanned plugboard machines and mainframe timesharing. Prior to that women who worked in the industry were known as "computers"
Kinder eggs came out with a bunch of asterix-themed toys inside, and there was a frenzy of kinder-egg-eating to get your character to sit on top of your workstation.
We eventually got an SGI Indy, and that one was called getafix, because it was “magical”, in the Jobs sense before Steve made it a thing.
I can talk and meet people all around the world.
I can stream hundreds of videos around every conceivable topic, in 4K60 resolution, on-demand.
I can make a livelihood without ever stepping feet out of my home; and conversely, work from almost anywhere that'll give me a visa.
The digitized information of our civilization is just one search away.
For example, many twitch channels have an active offline chat that isn't advertised or even sanctioned by the actual streamer. I lurk/idle in the offline chat for a streamer who gets maybe 200-300 viewers per stream and there are now about a dozen of us from all over the world who have become friends over a decade. At this point many of us have met in real life or sent each other packages.
When I was younger I was very active on a small independent irc server and it was almost an identical experience.
I was just a kid growing up far removed from the information and happenings of the rest of the world and the web was this magical new thing that connected me to it. It was a bit of a firehose at first (well, I guess still is), but I loved it.
The only difference between now and then is that now I know how it all works. Back then the technology was completely magic. It's still just as magical in the human sense, and I am so grateful to TBL and CERN for making it happen and giving it the public! It has been so game changing for me and I grew up in the USA, I have to imagine it would be even more game changing to people curious about the world who grew up in more remote places.
Talk and meet? Skype, Zoom don't run on "the web" as such; need dedicated apps even if those may be based on Electron.
Video (Youtube) only has left Flash-based playback behind like 3 or 4 years ago; the resulting DRM required for video playback hasn't made purist happy, and resulted in a bitter controversy over TBL accepting interfaces to proprietary DRM into (proprietary) browsers.
Digitized information of our civilization being one search away hasn't been my experience at all in the last five years or so, with ads and ad-heavy sites being shoved onto you all the time. Even if it were, there's no strategy going forward to preserve that wealth for generations to come in times of monopolization.
As the first ever website demonstrates, the web originally was a means for easy self-publishing of digital text. Today, with platforms, verticals, network effects, the privacy minefield the web has become, and the complexity of the browsers left standing to support modern experiences as expected by consumers, it's questionable if that has actually been achieved.
The spirit of the early web was around building hierarchical multi-level directories of stuff, around search and categorization. The Web 2.0 ideology changed all that to transform it into a user-centric “social” experience that required you to use an online identity, build your own profile and be passively bombarded with stuff on your personalized feed.
That's not a comment on whether the regulations are good or bad. It's just that, as a business, if you're not a profitable customer or potential customer, I don't want to interact with you if you create any risk/cost for me.
The Internet (including the Web) of the mid to late-ish 90s may have been refreshingly non-commercial and open relative to today but it was also much smaller.
That's because it's increasingly mirroring the real world when it comes to nationalism, regulations, barriers to access, censorship, culture. That outcome was always inevitable, nothing could prevent it. Nations were never going to allow an unencumbered Internet or Web to remain in their territory.
If you think the Internet is geofenced now, just wait until you see what it looks like in another ten years. It's going to get dramatically worse. It'll be almost unrecognizable compared to the Internet of 2010. We're only maybe 1/3 the way to our fully balkanized destination.
There is also no going back. Governments now understand the technology and will increasingly tightly regulate it accordingly, no matter what it looks like or what it's called. They no longer view it as a separate entity, they view it as falling under the same exact regulatory domain as everything else in the physical space that they claim dominion over.
If you have any business or development dreams you want to pursue on the Internet, do it as soon as possible, do not wait. The Internet and Web will only suck more in the future.
But in terms of suckiness I think that it's not primarily caused by regulation (although the cookie law does try very hard to inflict maximum pain for zero gain). The funding model is just broken and I don't really see a way to fix it without losing even more freedom and privcy.
I’m not commenting on whether they are a good idea to use, but they are easy.
I really hope TPTB don't mess it up, it seems they're always trying to.
Not enough people appreciate it, just like they don't appreciate the computing power and amount of knowledge in their pockets. I see people on buses, on the streets, in cafes, just endlessly scrolling down in Facebook or something, seeing random people's videos and images... Seems like such a waste imo.
Why do you think it's flat? Does it seem mundane now? I experienced that era and it still seems like a magical transformation to me.
There are tons of entirely legal topics for which this statement is simply not true. Censorship is rampant on the modern web.
Of course, one is free to self-host, but there are special bandwidth deals for the 4K60 platforms that allow them to stream to millions of users, something you won't be permitted to do from the internet connection you have presently.
Wikipedia lists the official release date of the first web browser, WorldWideWeb, as 25 December 1990. Tim Berners-Lee has said that the first version was "whimsically dated 901225 although I was NOT working on Christmas Day -- it was prepared some time before closed for Christmas" - so maybe that works out to 30 years ago today?
It says “The world’s first website and server go live at CERN” on 1990-12-20
the history page here https://timeline.web.cern.ch/timelines/The-birth-of-the-Worl... doesn't list this date - does list the availability of the browser in xmas day
They have the power to do that.
30 years after the great gift of the web we are still waiting, and Alexandra Elbakyan has shown us how amazing it is to have all scientific papers be available to everyone.
> indeed many fields and subfields do not use such closed-access journals
This would maybe make for a good public ranking—showing a list of fields and percentage of open access journals—and hopefully academic in closed fields would adapt quickly to avoid the embarrassment.
RIP Aaron Swartz
To me it’s one of the high points of the web and Paul Ginsparg is an absolute hero for setting it up; he reviews some of its history at https://arxiv.org/abs/1108.2700.
I think it’s an interesting social question why other fields have taken so much longer to adopt the arxiv model.
One of the earliest web sites I can remember is this one:
"The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything"
I think I was led there via "Yahoo Cool Site Of The Day"
All the comments are still there! I remember laughing at the "stereo fell off the bureau" one. A comment I left there in 1994 is still there.
Paper maps, incandescent lighbulbs with less lumen output than any smartphone, CRT displays, LCD panels as thick as a MacBook Air (a modern OLED is as thin as paper!), libraries with actual books (that never had enough information), payphones... I'd say things got a lot better :D
One of the things that periodically strikes me as someone who was a product manager from the mid-80s through the 90s is how hard it was to get information. For example, I remember we paid one company a fair bit of money to fax us any data sheets they had on specific competitive products when we were about to do a product announcement. (Oh, and we paid them for each category of computer systems we wanted access to information on.) Basically, everyone sent this firm their data sheets because we couldn't really ask each other directly. That was how one did competitive analysis.
I think if I were to go back in time, I'd quit after a week because I would feel I simply didn't have access to the information I needed to do my job.
And, really, 30 years overstates it. You need another 5 years before all the pieces came together to make something that really looks like the modern web and maybe even a couple more before it really started having an effect on even tech-savvy audiences.
And by "best" I mean "pointless nostalgia," but... :)
“Did We Dream Enough?” THE THING BBS as an Experiment in Social-Cyber Sculpture
And with projects like Ruffle, the Rust Flash Player emulator, we can imagine a continuous re-examination of the web's early aesthetics
RIP Adobe Flash: Five Takeaways About the Plug-in’s Legacy in Net Art
More and more jobs are available online, but it's still a small percentage. Imagine when most of everyone's shopping is done online, when half the people work remotely, and when all countries in the world not just the most developed ones have full access to fast internet.
It was common to allow anonymous telnet logins back then. The protocol was to use the username "anonymous" as a login name and maybe your email address as a password as a courtesy.
I experimented a little. My impression was that it was very much like a gopher but not as organized and has less content. So I logged out and forgot about it. Then game Mosaic.
Back then, at least in my country, internet connections were very scarce, nobody had internet at home and "connecting" to the internet was actually a thing... So you can perfectly remember the first time you got into the internet, which one was the first site you visited, from where, and how you discovered that world that today almost everybody is familiar with.
I remember downloading "large" (Warzone is 250GB!) files and splitting them up, copying them to multiple floppies disks. Now I've got 1TB in my back pack!
Those were the days when websites were just tables... I miss those simple times :P
There were no residential ISPs in the early days. You had to work or study somewhere with internet access.
And home connectivity was all dial-up. DSL was completely unaffordable.
And even then, home computers lacked a TCP/IP stack, so you’d be dialling into a server using something like z-modem, and using that to access the internet.
A chef comes up with a new trend in an Austin restaurant, a few weeks later it's all over L.A.
Thank you for visiting! Please sign my guestbook.
I can't find much more than that because mainstream search engines increasingly don't return relevant or useful results.
I forgot the last time I typed 'www.' in an URL.
Every friend of mine have their own blog or personal website when I started out on the web around a decade ago. This spirit has largely vanished with the domination of Facebook and other social networks. What we got is remnants of the old web in "old-looking" websites now. Like here.
Although I use it every day, the WWW has become something that I actively mistrust. There are too many predators, both commercial and espionage.
I scrape WWW pages from the terminal and download archives for offline reference. Just to use what TBL conceived, it has been necessary to develop multi-layered defence: router, firewall, dns doh and filters, VPN, firejail, browser extensions.
I think it's safe to say that this is not what most users have in mind when they buy a shiny new computer and "connect to the Internet".
By archiving the internet I mean everything. Search engine performance on each date, ads, social traffic.
I am also saddened that there is some things that I was too lazy to download for offline use and is now no longer available online.
...then you might enjoy the different point of view as discussed here:
It comes up on HN from time to time, but I thought an alternative source of discussion (second link above) might add something new.
 if you have never watched this talk completely at least once, give it a shot and you might be very surprised.
Edit to add: Prestel was an interactive service run by the UK Post Office. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prestel
Crazy ride, loving every minute
I think roughly around my year of birth (2001 - if that makes anyone feel old) is one of the last to grow up with "proper" computers rather than just iPads and phones.
I suppose the article brought me back to a different time. That original all text green-on-black, terminal-like, view really took me back to the BBS (Bulletin Board System) days. You might not remember but modems were a thing before the internet, I can remember my Dad tying up the house phone for hours while dialed into the mainframe at the office.
And the early days of the internet probably looked like a service like Prodigy for a lot of people. Prodigy was a fancy BBS. And everything had to work at dial-up speed. Even Berners-Lee's original pages would have been data-conserving and fast.
Its interesting that the user experience in those times felt, and probably was, faster. Our fancy modern graphics take a lot of resources in comparison. While its easy to point to numerous benefits to the modern internet, we've slipped in terms of time to display info on the screen. Modern web apps treat bandwidth and storage as infinite and free resources, its really the opposite of what we used to do and maybe not for the better.
I suppose that the key difference is that Berners-Lee's WWW used the benefit of an always-connected network. Where the BBS days were all about temporary network connections. While we use WWW and Internet almost interchangeably, its the always-connected network - the concept of packet switching over circuit switching - that brought the benefit of the WWW. I'm sure in 30 more years we'll have things I can't imagine today, its the power of the network.
In the BBS era, locality could still matter because of the expense of long distance charges. For quite a long time, a core group on a local BBS I subscribed to would actually get together and socialize semi-regularly.
Of course I am just one person among the millions that builds it, so I am humbled but also very proud of it.
I cannot think of a single invention in human's history that federated so many people together as the web, and it is beautiful.
However, nobody cared diddly squat about "the web", it was empty or nonsense like usenet forums. We only cared about was DOWNLOADING DOOM! Id software released Doom, it it was available as an "web download link". That was the initial reason everyone at E.A. got exposure to the web, to download Doom.
There is nothing that I can think of that comes close to such a huge change.
I emailed the academic network admin and he wrote me back that I have to set the mode to BINARY. :)
And my productivity hasn't been the same since.
And yet I am a bit pessimistic about the future of the web, in the beginning we all hoped it will created new space, where we will be able to freely speak and share our thoughts, in fact today's web turns into a space where surveillance has become a standard.
The web was created for people, not for capitalists.
Previously GOPHER did exist, also with multimedia extensions to view videos and images, and other/better types of webservers, eg. Microcosm, Memex, Xandru, Dexter or esp. Hyper-G via the HTP protocol (Hyper Text Protocol) or just via emacs. Hyper-G servers had link consistency and clients had embedded search. But worse and free was better, Hyper-G and Microcosm were proprietary.
First Hyper-G installation around 1989 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220349551_The_Hyper...
I browsed the web before CERN published their HTTP server and clients. E.g. the newsgroups were called Internet long before. The Web was the abbrevation of Internet.
WWW was the multimedia enriched variant of the web, with a XML format and a state-less server. State-less on purpose, in constrast to the existing stateful servers those days, with proper login and the server keeping each clients state. This didn't scale, so the worse and simplier WWW technology succeeded. Cookies had to be invented to catch up.
The term "WorldWideWeb" was coined by Robert Cailliau, a colleague of Tim Berners-Lee in CERN.
I've never seen your definition being used before, even by Gopher or Usenet enthusiasts.
"The World-Wide Web, or WWW, is the newest information service to arrive on the Internet."
That the web is conflated with the internet in many minds doesn't mean they actually are the same thing.
Gopher was probably dominant until 1993 or so when the first versions of Mosaic were available. I remember installing a version, probably in early 1994, on my Amiga and configuring SLIP to a local ISP at 9600 baud. It was truly amazing at the time.
It was truly amazing already before the WWW existed. But the WWW made that available to the common folks, not just to a few privileged. Just that you didn't knew it, didn't mean it didn't exist. CERN needed a multimedia web to share CAD drawings with annotations, descriptions and links, which exceeded ftp and README. I was one of the worldwide leading CAD experts then. We shared our CAD drawings and knowledge on our Hyper-G web, and had a HTTP bridge. Hyper-G was created as multimedia teaching device, to present enriched hypertext to students. Also via modem dialup, the mupid, similar to the other huge internet community in France, which was a successful BBS-like community, country-wide. Much more advanced than anywhere else. Everybody had it.
Then eventually we got annoyed in our walled garden and broke out to the free WWW. Mosaic, Netscape, Apache. The French ditto. And the BBS and Fidonet users elsewhere. This was called the WWW then, worldwide, not our little university or country webs anymore.