Celebrating 20 years of the Web

On 30 April 1993 the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland published details of the World Wide Web and, most importantly, made it freely available. The purpose was originally to enable to exchange of scientific information between physicists in universities and institutes around the world.

But the inventor of the technology, Tim Berners-Lee was well aware of its potential.

Since then, the Web has had arguably the greatest impact that any invention has had in modern times. As CERN Director-General, Rolf Heuer, says, ‘There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the web’.

In my own case, I use it for research, for education, for communication, for fun and for my hobbies. Last night, for example, I spent a couple of hours researching events during the English Civil Wars in the area of Lichfield and Tamworth. I was even able to download, as PDFs, images of books that were published in the 17th century. And, to complete the peculiar nature of modern life, I can read these books, written and published before the advent of the steam engine, on a Kindle.

Twenty years ago, I would have had to go to a major reference library to search for this type of material and even then I would have been limited to the books that they had on their shelves.

Professionally, before the Web, the work that RefTech does in badging and registration would have relied on people sending in paper registration forms or faxing them to us. Now it’s all done online, thanks to the Web.

It’s true, of course, that there were online system prior to the web such as Compuserve, but that was a pay as you go service. The great thing about the technology behind the Web was that nobody owned it so nobody had to be paid for it.

It’s easy to forget how things have moved on. My first computer was a Sanyo MBC 550, bought around 1985. It had a monochrome monitor, two five and a quarter inch floppy drives (one for the program and one for the data) and a daisywheel printer. It cost £1,500.00 probably equivalent to around £3,500.00 today.

We complain about connection speeds now but my first modem connected to Compuserve at 56kbps.

It may come as a surprise to some people to see these words coming from me, but there is some technology that I welcome with open arms.

So it’s happy birthday to the World Wide Web. I wonder how long we’ll need to wait until we see another invention that has such far-reaching effects?


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