The text of a fascinating talk given by Tim Berners-Lee back in 1995, at a gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s amazing article As We May Think. The event also drew together Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, Douglas Engelbart, and Bob Kahn!
The fascinating history of interactive fiction from adventure game to hypertext.
The split between parsers and hyperlinks reminds me of different approaches to chatbots: free text entry vs. constrained input.
Many, many years ago, Tim Berners-Lee wrote this page of answers to (genuinely) frequently asked questions he got from school kids working on reports. I absolutely love the clear straightforward language he uses to describe concepts like hypertext, packet switching, and HTTP.
A history of hypertext, from the memex to HyperCard.
A great bit of web history spelunking in search of the first websites that allowed users to interact with data on a server. Applications, if you will. It’s well written, but I take issue with this:
The world wide web wasn’t supposed to be this fun. Berners-Lee imagined the internet as a place to collaborate around text, somewhere to share research data and thesis papers.
This often gets trotted out (“the web was intended for scientists sharing documents”), but it’s simply not true that Tim Berners-Lee was only thinking of his immediate use-case; he deliberately made the WWW project broad enough to allow all sorts of thitherto unforeseen uses. If he hadn’t …well, the web wouldn’t have been able to accommodate all those later developments. It’s not an accident that the web was later used for all sorts of unexpected things—that was the whole idea.
Anyway, apart from that misstep, the rest of the article is a fun piece, well worth reading.
I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely surprised, delighted, and intrigued by an online story like this.
There’s something very endearing about this docudrama retelling of the story of the web.
Well, look at these fresh-faced lads presenting their little hypertext system in 1992. A fascinating time capsule.
Did you know that Abby Covert’s book is available online in its gloriously hyperlinked entirety?
The video of my talk on hypertext at the HTML Special before CSS Day. I’m pretty pleased with my delivery here. There’s a bit of Q&A afterwards as well.
A wonderfully thoughtful piece on typography, Jan Tschichold and the web. This really resonated with me:
It’s only been over the past year or so in which I’ve recognised myself as a ‘Web designer’ with a capital W, as I now believe that something happens to information and technology, and even typography itself, when people pass through these interconnected networks and interact with hypertext.
It’s for these reasons that I don’t believe in “digital design” or “designing for screens” and it’s why I’m often attracted to one particular side of this spectrum.
Robin proposes three “principles, suggestions, outlines, or rather things-that-I-ought-to-be nervous-about when setting text on the web”:
- We must prioritise the text over the font, or semantics over style.
- We ought to use and/or make tools that reveal the consequences of typographic decisions.
- We should acknowledge that web typography is only as strong as its weakest point.
There’s an in-depth look at applying progressive enhancement to web type, and every single link in the resources section at the end is worth investigating.
Oh, and of course it’s beautifully typeset.
The ability to follow links down and around and through an idea, landing hours later on some random Wikipedia page about fungi you cannot recall how you discovered, is one of the great modes of the web. It is, I’ll go so far to propose, one of the great modes of human thinking.
Written in 2001, this history of the web takes in CERN, hypertext, the ARPANET, SGML, and lots more.
This is a wonderful, wonderful look back at the state of hypertext in the run-up to the creation of the World Wide Web.
My jaw may have dropped when I saw the GML markup.
Now I’m going to read part two.
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.
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.
There are some good points here comparing HTTP2 and SPDY, but I’m mostly linking to this because of the three wonderful opening paragraphs:
A very long time ago —in 1989 —Ronald Reagan was president, albeit only for the final 19½ days of his term. And before 1989 was over Taylor Swift had been born, and Andrei Sakharov and Samuel Beckett had died.
In the long run, the most memorable event of 1989 will probably be that Tim Berners-Lee hacked up the HTTP protocol and named the result the “World Wide Web.” (One remarkable property of this name is that the abbreviation “WWW” has twice as many syllables and takes longer to pronounce.)
Tim’s HTTP protocol ran on 10Mbit/s, Ethernet, and coax cables, and his computer was a NeXT Cube with a 25-MHz clock frequency. Twenty-six years later, my laptop CPU is a hundred times faster and has a thousand times as much RAM as Tim’s machine had, but the HTTP protocol is still the same.
I’m always surprised to find that working web developers often don’t know (or care) about basic protocol-level stuff like when to use GET and when to use POST.
My point is that a lot of web developers today are completely ignorant of the protocol that is the basis for their job. A core understanding of HTTP should be a base requirement for working in this business.