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The Birth of the Internet

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Internet didn’t exist, but thanks to the work of Tim Berners-Lee , we now enjoy one of the most advanced forms of communication. From an early introduction to the computer, Berners-Lee is one of the most important people in history that has helped science and technology reach new levels. This article explores his contributions as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

An Early Start

This English-born scientist grew up in a household during the mid-1950s that embraced the importance of computers, mathematics and physics. Both of his parents were in the field of science and worked on the first commercial electronic computer available to the public , the Ferranti 1. This computer was based on the Mark I that Alan Turing helped to program at Manchester University. As a young child, he took after his parents and showed interest in computers. He also read books, such as the science fiction publications written by Arthur C Clarke. This intensified his curiosity in the concept of networked computers.

After high school, Berners-Lee attended Queen’s College in Oxford and studied physics. It was at this time that he constructed his own computer. When he graduated in 1976, he had earned a first-class honors degree. He then went on to work for British communications companies before relocating to Switzerland to become a consultant software engineer for CERN , the European nuclear research establishment. This would mark his first steps towards establishing the World Wide Web.

Hypertext is Born

Berners-Lee created his own system of date retrieval in order to search the CERN computer database. He called it ENQUIRE and it was based on hypertext, which centered on links between and within documents that were stored on the computer network of CERN. His contract with the group was only for six months and when it expired, he went back to England. He would later go back to CERN in 1984 as a Fellow. The 80s saw the Internet grow and along with it, computers from all over the world became connected. In 1989, CERN was respected as the largest ‘nodes’.

The First Web Page

Berners-Lee believed that it was possible to create a hyperlink retrieval system (like ENQUIRE) that could search the entire Internet network. At this time, it only searched local databases. He discussed his desire to pursue this theory further with CERN. In 1990, he joined forces with Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau to design and construct the first Web browser and Web server. During the summer of 1991, the first Web page ever went live. It simply explained what the World Wide Web was and how to use it.

The first browsers were text based and while the public could in theory gain access to it, scientists and academic professionals were the first to try out the system. A graphic interface for the Unix system came in 1993. Windows and Macintosh soon followed. The number of websites and Web use continued to greatly increase.

Today, there are millions of websites on the Internet with more than 1.7 billion users.