Can you remember a milestone year, or moment. In your career? Or in the broader landscape of technology? I’ve lived through a few, and perhaps we are living though such a moment now. And that’s prompted me to look back on milestone years on the path to today’s computing.
Years of Transformation, the series
- Years of transformation–the prehistory of how we got to here and where we go next
- Years of transformation: 1981. The IBM PC
- Years of transformation: 1984 and the Mac
- Years of transformation: 1985, Desktop Publishing
- Years of transformation: 1989? 1990? 1991? and the birth of the Web
Just exactly when do we choose to decide the Web began?
Perhaps 1989 and publication of “Information Management: A Proposal” by Tim Berners-Lee, a proposal by for a distributed hypertext system (a document I’ve held in my hand, with it’s ‘vague but exciting’ annotation by Mike Sendall hand written in red pen at the top).
Perhaps 1990 and the first Web server, the HTTP protocol, and the original version of HTML, as well as the first browser, all running on an NeXT computer–the Unix based workstation from the company Steve Jobs founded after his unceremonious removal from Apple?
Perhaps January 1991, and the first publicly available access to the Web servers at CERN?
Regardless of the date you choose, the launch rounded out an extraordinary 10-15 years. From the earliest hobbyist ‘micro-computers’ of the mid to late 1970s, to the launch of the PC in 1981, the Mac and the revolutionary GUI that changed computing by delivering a new more user friendly interface in 1984, to the dawn of desktop publishing in 1985, computing had become increasingly less expensive, less arcane and more part of everyday life (though it still had a long way to go).
With the Web, computers went from being isolated to connected, globally. And while the internet had long connected large institutions and companies, the Web, built on top of it, connected individuals.
Given how ubiquitous the Web has become, it’s hard for many folks to imagine just how revolutionary it was.
And yet, it depended on those innovations that came before, the significant number of users who used those Macintoshes and PCs, and increasingly, a cohort of digital creatives, who with their desktop publishing, and associated skills, were primed to fill the early web with useful content.