Tags: history

Deep Time : A History of the Earth

This infographic offers a visual way to explore the various stages of the Earth’s history using a 12 hour clock analogy.

Meet Walter Pitts, the Homeless Genius Who Revolutionized Artificial Intelligence

The fascinating story of logic, learning, and the origins of electronic computing. Russell, Shannon, Turing, Wiener, Von Neumann …they’re all in there, woven around the tragic figure of Walter Pitts.

It is a sad and beautiful world.

Thanks to their work, there was a moment in history when neuroscience, psychiatry, computer science, mathematical logic, and artificial intelligence were all one thing, following an idea first glimpsed by Leibniz—that man, machine, number, and mind all use information as a universal currency. What appeared on the surface to be very different ingredients of the world—hunks of metal, lumps of gray matter, scratches of ink on a page—were profoundly interchangeable.

Efficient Web Type, c. 1556

A long zoom and then a deep dive into web typography.

Web Design - The First 100 Years

A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:

So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.

Unless we screw it up.

And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.

But if that sounds too upbeat for you…

Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.

We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.

And then there’s this gem:

We complained for years that browsers couldn’t do layout and javascript consistently. As soon as that got fixed, we got busy writing libraries that reimplemented the browser within itself, only slower.

It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.

Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.

The Internet That Was (and Still Could Be) - The Atlantic

A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.

Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.

But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.

Domain Stories | Citizen Ex

The fascinating tales behind Top Level Domains as part of James and Nat’s Citizen Ex project. So far there’s .scot, .cymru, and .ly, with more to come.

Paul Ford: What is Code? by Paul Ford

It seems grossly unfair to refer to this as an article. It’s a short book. It’s a very good short book; lucid and entertaining in equal measure. A very enjoyable read.

It is, unfortunately, surrounded by some distracting “enhancements” but perhaps you can use your cleaner-upper software of choice to route around their damage: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, whatever works for you.

The real story of how the Internet became so vulnerable | The Washington Post

The first in a series of articles about the architecture of the internet and its security issues, this is a great history lesson of how our network came to be.

What began as an online community for a few dozen researchers now is accessible to an estimated 3 billion people. That’s roughly the population of the entire planet in the early 1960s, when talk began of building a revolutionary new computer network.

Mutant Materials and Video Spaces: 20 years of MoMA on the web

Much of the web’s early cultural and design history is at risk, despite efforts by the Internet Archive and renegade archivists. One of our realizations after 20 years on the web is that our responsibility isn’t just to the new; we also need to preserve what’s been built in the past.

The Web (Browser) We Forgot - Kimberly Blessing (Think Brownstone) keynote - YouTube

This is a wonderful presentation by Kimberley at O’Reilly’s Fluent Conference, running through the history of the Line Mode Browser and the hack project we worked on at CERN to emulate it.

The Failed Promise of Deep Links — Backchannel — Medium

A really great piece by Scott Rosenberg that uses the myopic thinking behind “deep linking” in native apps as a jumping-off point to delve into the history of hypertext and the web.

It’s kind of weird that he didn’t (also) publish this on his own site though.

Sound Mirrors

Before there was radar, there were acoustic mirrors along the coast of England—parabolic structures designed to funnel the distant sound of approaching aircraft.

Alex Feyerke: Step Off This Hurtling Machine

I love this talk.

Alex takes a long-zoom look at the web and our technology stacks, from ’60s counterculture to start-up culture, touching on open source and the indie web along the way.

15 Years of Dao · An A List Apart Blog Post

On the fifteenth anniversary of A Dao Of Web Design people who make websites share their thoughts.

Paul Ford’s is a zinger:

I don’t know if the issues raised in “A Dao of Web Design” can ever be resolved, which is why the article seems so prescient. After all, the Tao Te Ching is 2500 years old and we’re still working out what it all means. What I do believe is that the web will remain the fastest path to experimenting with culture for people of any stripe. It will still be here, alive and kicking and deployed across billions of computing machines, in 2030, and people will still be using it to do weird, wholly unexpected things.

Natasha Lampard, Friday, 27 March 2015

A long-zoom look at life, work, and success.

I’m not usually a fan of portmanteau neologisms, but I really like Tash’s coining of the word longtrepreneur.

isolani - Web Standards: Flash’s slide into irrelevance

Mike runs through the history of Flash. Those who forget the history of the web are doomed to repeat it:

The struggle now seems to be turning to native apps versus non-native apps on the mobile platform. It is similar to Flash’s original battle ground: the argument that the Web technology stack is not suitable for building applications with a polished user-experience.

Line Mode | Parallel Transport

Worth remembering:

The Web is the printing press of our times; an amazing piece of technology facilitating a free and wide-scale dissipation of our thoughts and ideas. And all of it is based on this near 20-year old, yet timeless idea of the Hyper Text Markup Language.

Five Easy Ways to Be a Better Web Professional — sixtwothree.org

  1. Know Your History
  2. Know Your Medium
  3. Respect Those Who Came Before You
  4. Respect Your Audience
  5. Get Involved

The Queen Of Code

A short documentary on the wonderful Grace Hopper.

Adrian Roselli: All of This Has Happened Before and Will Happen Again

Everyone who calls for WebKit in Internet Explorer is exactly the same kind of developer who would have coded to Internet Explorer 15 years ago (and probably happily displayed the best viewed in badge).

Truth.

It’s happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.

Thoughts on Pagination

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; alternate ways of paginating through the past e.g. by day instead of by arbitrary amount.

The Emularity « ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason documents some pretty amazing levels of emulation in JavaScript:

That’s Netscape 1.0n, released in December of 1994, running inside Windows 3.11, released in August of 1993, running inside of Google Chrome 39.0.2171.99 m, released about a week ago, on a Windows 7 PC, released in 2009.

But when it comes to trying to navigate the web with that set-up, things get a bit depressing.

Competing on “Chrome”, From the Notebook of Aaron Gustafson

First, the browsers competed on having proprietary crap. Then, the browsers competed on standards support. Now, finally, the browsers are competing on what they can offer their users.

Websites of Christmas Past, Present and Future ◆ 24 ways

A superb article by Josh on planning for progressive enhancement—clearly laid out and carefully explained.

On File Formats, Very Briefly, by Paul Ford · The Manual

A history lesson and a love letter to the early web, taking in HTML, Photoshop, and the web standards movement.

Those were long years, the years of drop-shadows. Everything was jumping just slightly off the screen. For a stretch it seemed that drop-shadows and thin vertical columns of text would define the web. That was before we learned that the web is really a medium to display slideshows, as many slideshows as possible, with banner ads.

On HTML5 and the Group That Rules the Web

Paul Ford’s potted history of web standards, delivered in his own inimitable style.

Reading through the standards, which are dry as can be, you might imagine that standardization is a polite, almost academic process, where wonks calmly debate topics like semicolon placement. This is not the case.

The Web Is Read/Write

The transcript of Owen’s talk at The Web Is. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful meditation on writing, web design, and long-term thinking.

One of the promises of the web is to act as a record, a repository for everything we put there. Yet the web forgets constantly, despite that somewhat empty promise of digital preservation: articles and data are sacrificed to expediency, profit and apathy; online attention, acknowledgement and interest wax and wane in days, hours even.

Web Standards for the Future on Vimeo

A cute videolette on web standards.

How URL started as UDI — a brief conversation with @timberners_lee @W3C #TPAC - Tantek

Tantek shares a fascinating history lesson from Tim Berners-Lee on how the IETF had him change his original nomenclature of UDI—Universal Document Identifier—to what we now use today: URL—Uniform Resource Locator.

The Hummingbird Effect — How We Got to Now

How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.

Hypertext as an agent of change | A Working Library

The text of Mandy’s astounding dConstruct talk.

Marvellous stuff!

Digital Amnesia - YouTube

A documentary on our digital dark age. Remember this the next time someone trots out the tired old lie that “the internet never forgets.”

If we lose the past, we will live in an Orwellian world of the perpetual present, where anybody that controls what’s currently being put out there will be able to say what is true and what is not. This is a dreadful world. We don’t want to live in this world. —Brewster Kahle

It’s a terrible indictment of where our priorities were for the last 20 years that we depend essentially on children and maniacs to save our history of this sort. —Jason Scott

44 Medieval Beasts That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now

Look, I would never usually link to a “listicle” on Buzzfeed, but this is all kinds of cumulative mirth.

Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 years of Web Design and Community on Vimeo

A really nice little documentary about my friend Jeffrey.

The Internet’s Original Sin - The Atlantic

Ethan Zuckerman riffs on Maciej’s talk at Beyond Tellerrand about the vortex of nastiness that we’ve spiralled down thanks to the default business model of the web: advertising.

Web Archeology - daverupert.com

A bit of web history reacted by Paravel: the Microsoft homepage from 1994. View source to see some ooooold-school markup.

Ah, memories!

A lot can change in 6 years - Allen Pike

An astute comparison of the early years of the web with the early years of the app store. If there’s anything to this, then the most interesting native apps are yet to come. App Store 2.0?

A Brief History of Bloggering - The Morning News

An alternative history from a parallel timeline.

He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.

Urban Giants on Vimeo

A look at the architectural history of the network hubs of New York: 32 Avenue of the Americas and 60 Hudson Street. Directed by Davina Pardo and written by her husband Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet.

These buildings were always used as network hubs. It’s just that the old networks were used to house the infrastructure of telephone networks (these were the long line buildings).

In a way, the big server hotel of New York—111 Eight Avenue—was also always used to route packets …it’s just that the packets used to be physical.

The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - Doug Hill - The Atlantic

A profile of Norbert Wiener, and how his star was eclipsed by Claude Shannon.

Sana’a (Idle Words)

A new essay from Maciej on Idle Words is always a treat, and this latest dispatch from Yemen is as brilliantly-written as you’d expect.

The Man Who Turned Paper Into Pixels on Vimeo

A short film about Claude Shannon and Information Theory — not exactly as in-depth as James Gleick’s The Information, but it does a nice job of encapsulating the fundamental idea.

How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson - YouTube

Steven Johnson’s new television series will be shown on BBC in a few months time. Looks like it’s going to be good Burkian fun.

Bruce Lawson’s personal site  : Happy Birthday, BASIC

Bruce’s love letter to BASIC.

The closest I’ve ever come to that “a-ha!” moment I had when I first wrote something in BASIC was when I first wrote something in HTML.

What Comes Next Is the Future by Matt Braun

This has the potential to be a terrific little documentary. What say we get it funded?

And They All Look Just the Same

Greg isn’t just lamenting a perceived “sameness” in web design here. He’s taking a long-zoom view and pointing out that there’s always a sameness …and you can choose to go along with it or you can choose to differentiate.

Airbag Intl. / Archives

Greg says:

We need a web design museum.

I am, unsurprisingly, in complete agreement. And let’s make lots of copies while we’re at it.

Rise of the IndieWeb - Amber Case - FutureTalks - YouTube

A great talk by Amber on the history of personal publishing and the ideas and technologies driving the Indie Web movement.

1995 Vannevar Bush symposium: closing Panel

So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…

Meet the Geniuses on a Quixotic Quest to Archive the Entire Internet | TIME.com

A short video featuring Jason Scott and Brewster Kahle. The accompanying text has a shout-out to the line-mode browser hack event at CERN.

Our Comrade The Electron

This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!

Origins of Common UI Symbols

A lovely little tour of eleven ubiquitous icons.

Early History of HTML - 1990 to 1992

A fascinating look at the early history of HTML, tracing its roots from the dialect of SGML used at CERN.

Operation War Diary

A collaboration between Zooniverse and the Imperial War Museum. Now citizen scientists can become citizen historians by classifying diaries from World War One.

The Console Living Room : Free Software : Download

Here’s a nice Christmas gift from Jason and the archinauts at the Internet Archive: tons of games for living room consoles of the early ’80s, all playable in your browser, thanks to emulation in JavaScript.

WarGames Magazine Identified By Michael Walden

Now this is what I call research:

Through the use of my knowledge of computer magazines, my sharp eyes, and other technical knowledge, I have overcome the limited amount of information available in the video content of WarGames and with complete certainty identified the exact name and issue number of the magazine read on screen by David L. Lightman in WarGames.

Happy 17th Birthday CSS | Web Directions

A lovely history lesson on CSS from John.

Flickr: The British Library’s Photostream

This is a wonderful addition to the already-wonderful Flickr Commons: over one million pictures from the British Library, available with liberal licensing.

Y’know, I’m worried about what will happen to my own photos when Flickr inevitably goes down the tubes (there are still some good people there fighting the good fight, but they’re in the minority and they’re battling against the douchiest of Silicon Valley managerial types who have been brought in to increase “engagement” by stripping away everything that makes Flickr special) …but what really worries me is what’s going to happen to Flickr Commons. It’s an unbelievably important and valuable resource.

The (other) Web we lost

John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.

Proto HTML

A nice bit of markup archeology, tracing the early development of HTML from its unspecced roots to the first drafts.

I recognise some of the extinct elements from the line-mode browser hack days at CERN e.g. HP1, HP2, ISINDEX, etc.

Against the Balkanization of the Web

A fascinating snapshot from 1995, arguing for the growing power of HTML instead of the siren song of proprietary formats.

I’m very happy that this is still available to read online 18 years later.

Chloe Weil — Our Ragged History

In describing her approach to building the wonderful Julius Cards project, Chloe touches on history, digital preservation, and the future of the web. There are uncomfortable questions here, but they are questions we should all be asking ourselves.

CERN: Line Mode Browser « optional.is/required

Brian writes up his experience working on the line-mode browser hack event at CERN.

The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish by Rebecca J. Rosen in The Atlantic

Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability.

Robert Cailliau’s world wide web on Dazed Digital

From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.

Internet and Web Pioneers: Robert Cailliau - YouTube

Once you get past the cheesy intro music, there are some gems from Robert Cailliau in here.

LMB hack days: Jeremy Keith

I took a little time out of the hacking here at CERN to answer a few questions about the line-mode browser project.

The document that officially put the World Wide Web into the public domain on 30 April 1993. - CERN Document Server

Earlier today, thanks to Robert Cailliau, I held the only notarised copy of this document. That was quite a feeling.

Omni Reboot: Hackers Of The Renaissance

This history of hacking.

Information doth wish to be free.

A Timeline made with Timeglider, web-based timeline software

Improve your word power: here’s a timeline of terms used to describe male genitalia throughout history. And yes, there is a female equivalent.

The creation of Missile Command and the haunting of its creator, Dave Theurer

The story behind the classic arcade game Missile Command and the toll it took on its creator:

Theurer’s constant strides for perfection left him working his body to the point that Missile Command’s premise started to manifest itself in his subconscious, sneaking into his dreams and turning them to nightmares.

There was something about the sound of those explosions, the feeling of the trackball in your hand, and the realisation that no matter how well you played, you could only delay the inevitable.

THE END

BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - BUGGER

Adam Curtis usually just pours forth apopheniac ramblings, but this is a really great collection of pieces from the archive on the history of incompetence in the spying world.

Y’know, the best explanation I’ve heard so far of the NSA and GCHQ’s sinister overreaching powers is simply that they need to come up with bigger and bigger programmes to justify getting bigger and bigger budgets. Hanlon’s Law, Occam’s Razor, and all that.

Not Real Programming by John Allsopp

A terrific long-zoom look at web technologies, pointing out that the snobbishness towards declarative languages is a classic example of missing out on the disruptive power of truly innovative ideas …much like the initial dismissive attitude towards the web itself.

The Future of Programming

A wonderful presentation by time-traveller Bret Viktor.

Online communities

Caterina Fake takes a heartfelt look at the history of online communities:

The internet is full of strangers, generous strangers who want to help you for no reason at all. Strangers post poetry and discographies and advice and essays and photos and art and diatribes. None of them are known to you, in the old-fashioned sense. But they give the internet its life and meaning.

NSA: The Decision Problem by George Dyson

A really terrific piece by George Dyson taking a suitably long-zoom look at information warfare and the Entscheidungsproblem, tracing the lineage of PRISM from the Corona project of the Cold War.

What we have now is the crude equivalent of snatching snippets of film from the sky, in 1960, compared to the panopticon that was to come. The United States has established a coordinated system that links suspect individuals (only foreigners, of course, but that definition becomes fuzzy at times) to dangerous ideas, and, if the links and suspicions are strong enough, our drone fleet, deployed ever more widely, is authorized to execute a strike. This is only a primitive first step toward something else. Why kill possibly dangerous individuals (and the inevitable innocent bystanders) when it will soon become technically irresistible to exterminate the dangerous ideas themselves?

The proposed solution? That we abandon secrecy and conduct our information warfare in the open.

The Hut Where the Internet Began by Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic

A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.

Why the Web Doesn’t Need Another CSS Zen Garden - YouTube

A great history lesson from Dave.

Ah, I remember when the CSS Zen Garden was all fields. Now get off my CSS lawn.

Line-mode browser dev days at CERN

Squee! I’m going to CERN on the 19th and 20th of September to take part in this hackday-like project to recreate the first line-browser.

If you want to help out, fill in the application form.

Break the Page

A lovely site with thoughtful articles on the long-term future of the web.

There’s audio too, which is unfortunately locked up in the unhuffduffable roach motel that is Soundcloud, but I’m hoping that might change.

The irregular musings of Lou Montulli: The reasoning behind Web Cookies

A fascinating look at the history of cookies …from the inventor of cookies.

Teenage Diaries Revisited

Fascinating fodder for Huffduffer:

Beginning in 1996, Radio Diaries gave tape recorders to teenagers around the country to create audio diaries about their lives. NPR’s All Things Considered aired intimate portraits of five of these teens: Amanda, Juan, Frankie, Josh and Melissa. They’re now in their 30s. Over this past year, the same group has been recording new stories about where life has led them for our series, Teenage Diaries Revisited.

A Woman’s Place — Everything Old is New Again — Medium

In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:

Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.

mezzoblue § 10 Years

Wow! The CSS Zen Garden is a decade old. Crazy! It’s a true piece of web history …and it’s back!

The open internet and the web

A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.

When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.

The First Website by Mark Boulton

Mark writes about his work with CERN to help restore the first website to its original URL.

I have two young children and I want them to experience the early web and understand how it came to be. To understand that the early web wasn’t that rudimentary but incredibly advanced in many ways.

Cern

It was twenty years ago today:

On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty free basis, allowing the web to flourish.

Bradshaw’s Guide For Tourists in Great Britain

Keep it under your hat, but Paul has soft-launch his Project Portillo. And very nice it is too.

Histories Past

Documenting history through photography.

National Geographic Found

Celebrating 125 years of National Geographic, this Tumblr blog is a curated collection of photography from the archives. Many of the pictures are being published for the first time.

Google Keep? It’ll probably be with us until March 2017 - on average

Charles Arthur analyses the data from Google’s woeful history of shutting down its services.

So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it’s just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That’s about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren’t using it to the extent that it hoped.