There’s something about this that I really like: a message transmitted via a modern communications medium converted into the oldest form of writing.
In a strikingly accurate replica of the original IMP log (crafted by UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History) on one of the room’s period desks is a note taken at 10:30 p.m., 29 October, 1969—“talked to SRI, host to host.” In the note, there is no sense of wonder at this event—which marks the first message sent across the ARPANET, and the primary reason the room is now deemed hallowed ground.
Pssst! Wanna read something scary for Halloween? Well, this should make you shit your pants.
Seriously though, if the event described here turn out to be true, it is one of the most frightening moments in the history of our species.
The sad history of
I wish I could share in the closing optimism:
Now imagine the future where Web Components are supported natively, and someone else is allowed to write a <better-input>, an element that is a real, encapsulated DOM element, and not just a div soup. Imagine using this <better-input> that isn’t implemented differently in each browser, that looks the same everywhere, and that probably also knows how to bake you a cherry pie.
But I all I can think is:
Now imagine the future where Web Components are supported natively, and everyone is allowed to write a million variations of <my-idea-of-a-better-input>, an element that is an inaccessible div soup under the hood.
There are Inception-like layers of nostalgia here: firstly, this web series of web pages made by Matt are a throwback to an earlier era, and secondly, the story being told goes all the way back to the birth of the ARPAnet.
A profile—published on Ada Lovelace Day—of Margaret Hamilton’s work on the Apollo project.
The promise of the web is that Alexandria’s library might be resurrected for the modern world. But today’s great library is being destroyed even as it is being built.
A fascinating account of one story’s linkrot that mirrors the woeful state of our attitude to cultural preservation on the web.
Historians and digital preservationists agree on this fact: The early web, today’s web, will be mostly lost to time.
A great little primer on the origins of the internet and the web, by Aleks.
A nice navigable timeline of historical events from Wikipedia.
This is so, so wonderful—hundreds and hundreds of photographs from all of the Apollo missions. Gorgeous!
The shots of Earth take my breath away.
Sometimes it’s nice to step back and look at where all this came from. Here’s Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal from 1990.
The current incompatibilities of the platforms and tools make it impossible to access existing information through a common interface, leading to waste of time, frustration and obsolete answers to simple data lookup. There is a potential large benefit from the integration of a variety of systems in a way which allows a user to follow links pointing from one piece of information to another one.
We need the Internet of Things to be the next step in the series that began with the general purpose PC and continued with the Internet and general purpose protocols—systems that support personal autonomy and choice. The coming Internet of Things envisions computing devices that will intermediate every aspect of our lives. I strongly believe that this will only provide the envisioned benefits or even be tolerable if we build an Internet of Things rather than a CompuServe of Things.
Here’s a classic. David Siegel—of Creating Killer Websites fame—outlines exactly why he turned his back on that 1×1 spacer .gif trick he invented.
A wonderful collection of treasures excavated from GeoCities. Explore, enjoy, and remember what a crime it is that Yahoo wiped out so much creativity and expression.
A wonderful, wonderful history of the web from Dave at this year’s Beyond Tellerrand conference. I didn’t get to see this at the time—I was already on the way back home—so I got Dave to give me the gist of it over lunch. He undersold it. This is a fascinating story, wonderfully told.
So gather round the computer, kids, and listen to Uncle Dave tell you about times gone by.
This infographic offers a visual way to explore the various stages of the Earth’s history using a 12 hour clock analogy.
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.
A long zoom and then a deep dive into web typography.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A profile of a legend.
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.
Before there was radar, there were acoustic mirrors along the coast of England—parabolic structures designed to funnel the distant sound of approaching aircraft.
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.
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.
This is a fascinating bit of web archeology: John has annotated the code from one of the earliest versions of jQuery.
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.
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.
Alternative histories of communication.
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.
- Know Your History
- Know Your Medium
- Respect Those Who Came Before You
- Respect Your Audience
- Get Involved
A short documentary on the wonderful Grace Hopper.
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).
It’s happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.
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.
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.
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.
A superb article by Josh on planning for progressive enhancement—clearly laid out and carefully explained.
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.
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 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.
A cute videolette on web standards.
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.
How the printing press led to the microscope, and chlorination transformed women’s fashion—Steven Johnson channels James Burke.
The text of Mandy’s astounding dConstruct talk.
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
Look, I would never usually link to a “listicle” on Buzzfeed, but this is all kinds of cumulative mirth.
A really nice little documentary about my friend Jeffrey.
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?
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.
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.
A profile of Norbert Wiener, and how his star was eclipsed by Claude Shannon.
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.
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.
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’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.
This has the potential to be a terrific little documentary. What say we get it funded?
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.
We need a web design museum.
I am, unsurprisingly, in complete agreement. And let’s make lots of copies while we’re at it.
What a wonderful way to go online!
A great talk by Amber on the history of personal publishing and the ideas and technologies driving the Indie Web movement.
So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…
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.
This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!
A lovely little tour of eleven ubiquitous icons.
A fascinating look at the early history of HTML, tracing its roots from the dialect of SGML used at CERN.
A collaboration between Zooniverse and the Imperial War Museum. Now citizen scientists can become citizen historians by classifying diaries from World War One.
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.
A lovely history lesson on CSS from John.
A searing, angry, heartfelt eulogy.
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.
John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.
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.
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.
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.
From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.
Once you get past the cheesy intro music, there are some gems from Robert Cailliau in here.
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.
A timeline of technology.
This history of hacking.
Information doth wish to be free.
A little sojourn around the Victorian internet.
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 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.
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.
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.
A wonderful presentation by time-traveller Bret Viktor.
I like this theory!
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.
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.
A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.