Rich Galen

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band lyrics notwithstanding, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web.

The Web was invented in Switzerland. At the CERN laboratory near Geneva. The acronym CERN originally stood in French for Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (European Council for Nuclear Research). The name has since changed, but the acronym has stuck.

On April 30, 1993, CERN published a paper essentially giving the World Wide Web to…the world. For free.

Everything you do on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, or your smartphone is only possible because that happened 20 years ago.

The system had been designed by British physicist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989 to, according to the CERN webpage, "meet the demand for information sharing between physicists in universities and institutes around the world."

The first known URL (web page address) was: info.cern.ch and it was hosted on Berners-Lee's NeXT computer (see, also, the biography of Steve Jobs).

Info.cern.ch went dormant many years ago, but it has been resurrected for this 20th anniversary.

About the same time CERN was releasing the WWW technology, I was sitting at a desk in Plano, Texas filling one of the marketing slots for Electronic Data Systems - EDS - the firm H. Ross Perot had founded 30 years before that.

Because I was something of a geek, before the word was used in a computer context, I also acted as a sort of Rosetta Stone between the engineers and the marketers.

I used that to be given access to the Internet - which meant the digital security guys allowed my computer to get into the wild. As EDS handled millions of transactions for thousands of customers, who could see what was a very big deal, even before Wiki Leaks.

At first, I could log into CERN and poke around, but it was all text. In 1993 some students at the University of Illinois wrote a program called "Mosaic" which was the first readily available web browser.

My problem was I didn't have access to graphical input or output, only text. So I went on a mission to convince - remember this was really, REALLY, new stuff - the security guys that someone among the 100,000 employees should be looking into this and that someone should be me.

They gave me access to the Web through my graphical browser, Mosaic.

I thought that if I wanted to test graphics, I should look for paintings. Paintings in museums.

I went back to the CERN website poking into electronic corners and opening digital closets looking for paintings.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.