Back at CERN

We got the band back together.

In September of 2013, I had the great pleasure and privilege of going to CERN with a bunch of very smart people. I’m not sure how I managed to slip by. We were there to recreate the experience of using the line-mode browser. As I wrote at the time:

Just to be clear, the line-mode browser wasn’t the world’s first web browser. That honour goes to Tim Berners-Lee’s WorldWideWeb programme. But whereas WorldWideWeb only ran on NeXT machines, the line-mode browser worked cross-platform and was, therefore, instrumental in demonstrating the power of the web as a universally-accessible medium.

In the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the original (vague but exciting) proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, we’ve been invited back to try to recreate the experience of using that first web browser, the one that one ever ran on NeXT machines.

I missed the first day due to travel madness—flying back from Interaction 19 in Seattle during snowmageddon to Heathrow and then to Geneva—but by the time I arrived, my hackmates had already made a great start in identifying the objectives:

  1. Give people an understanding of the user experience of the WorldWideWeb browser.
  2. Demonstrate that a read/write philosophy was there from the beginning.
  3. Give context—what was going on at the time?

That second point is crucial. WorldWideWeb wasn’t just a web browser; it was a browser/editor. That’s by far the biggest change in terms of the original vision of the web and what we ended up getting from Mosaic onwards.

Remy is working hard on the first point. He documented the first day and now on the second day, he’s made enormous progress already.

I’m focusing on point number three. I want to show the historical context for the World Wide Web. Here’s my plan…

Seeing as we’re coming up on the thirtieth anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to take the year of the proposal (1989) and look back in a time cone of thirty years previous to that at the influences on Tim Berners-Lee. I also want to look at what has happened with the web in the thirty years since the proposal. So the date of the proposal will be a centre point, with the timespan of 1959-1989 converging on it from the past, and the timespan of 1989-2019 diverging from it into the future. I hope it could make for a nice visualisation. Maybe I could try to get it look like data from a particle collision.

We’re here till the weekend and everyone else has already made tremendous progress. Kimberly has been hacking the Gibson …well, that’s what it looked like when she was deep in the code of the NeXT machine we’ve borrowed from Musée Bolo (merci beaucoup!).

We took a little time out for a tour of the data centre. Oh, and at lunch time, we sat with Robert Cailliau and grilled him with questions about the birth of the web. Quite a day!

Now it’s time for me to hit the hay and prepare for another day of hacking in this extraordinary place.

Have you published a response to this? :

Responses

polytechnic.co.uk

Nine people came together at CERN for five days and made something amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.

This is a wonderful project in celebration of the Web’s 30th birthday, recreating the first ever browser, WorldWideWeb, which ran on NeXT machines.

My first job in technology, working on the computer support desk at Coventry University (back in 1995… eek!), involved looking after a number of NeXT machines. So even outside of the Web angle, this project is full of all sorts of nostalgia and memories for me. And how incredible is it that they’ve built the browser inside a browser!

I’m extremely pleased about how this site renders in WorldWideWeb, a testemant to the resilience of plain old semantic HTML

If you want to have a play with any of your own sites, getting started is a little different to these days:

  1. Launch the WorldWideWeb browser.
  2. Select “Document” from the menu on the side.
  3. Select “Open from full document reference”.
  4. Type a URL into the “reference” field.
  5. Click “Open”.

And remember, you need to double click on links to activate them.

# Monday, February 18th, 2019 at 10:39am

ge ricci

Geez! One year already! And I still can’t believe it either. An experience of a life-time

# Posted by ge ricci on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 10:17am

6 Likes

# Liked by Brian Suda on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 12:13pm

# Liked by Stay Home (but take walks with proper distance) on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 12:13pm

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# Liked by ge ricci on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 12:15pm

Previously on this day

3 years ago I wrote From New York to Porto

From FOMO to imposter syndrome in a fortnight.

13 years ago I wrote Après Web Directions North

A great conference with the best post-conference activities ev-ah!

15 years ago I wrote The web is a many-splendoured thing

About a week ago, I was having a chat with Andy about all things web related. It seems that Andy and I use the web in very different ways.

16 years ago I wrote My iBook is iBack

All is well with the world once again. UPS delivered my iBook this morning after trying and failing yesterday morning (nobody home).

16 years ago I wrote PHP sendmail frustration

I spent hours last night tearing my hair out trying to fix a mystifying PHP problem.

17 years ago I wrote Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!

18 years ago I wrote The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator

Have some fun winding the pork wristwatch.

18 years ago I wrote The new iMac Animations

Here’s a match made in heaven: Pixar have come up with a couple of animated shorts featuring the new iMac

18 years ago I wrote Examples of abuse of the Apostrophe

The Apostrophe Protection Society presents a rogue’s gallery of snaphots depicting some of the worst offenses against the apostrophe.

18 years ago I wrote Java Spectrum Emulator

This is fantastic!