So how is it the year 1990 changed the world forever? If you think back, it was a trendy period, lots of crazy music, clothes and colors. It was also considered the final year of the cold war era. But there’s a reason 1990 was a pivotal year in history for a very different reason altogether.
Let’s take a look back and see how the year 1990 changed the world forever:
- In January, the first McDonalds was opened in Moscow USSR, a sign of things to come.
- In February, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison, marking the final gasps of Apartheid.
- In April, the space shuttle Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit and with it our imaginations.
- May saw the World Health Organisation remove homosexuality from its list of diseases and in that same month Microsoft released, the now very quaint, Windows 3.0.
- In October, East and West Germany were reunified with the “bringing down” of the wall.
- And at the end of 1990, a revolution took place that changed the world forever…
Let’s step back a year earlier to 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist at CERN, wrote a proposal for information management. He proposed information could be transferred easily using a protocol called hypertext. The following year he was joined in his efforts by Robert Cailliau, a systems engineer, who was soon the number one advocate of this style of interface.
The precursor to hypertext began much earlier. All the way back in 1945 in fact when Vannevar Bush published an article in “Atlantic Monthly”. The article outlined a proposal for a photo-electrical-mechanical device called a Memex, which could make and follow links between documents on microfiche (anyone else remember surfing articles this way at the library? Painful!)
Similarly, the internet had been around for many years, however it wasn’t easily accessible to home users and had mainly been used for transferring files using FTP. It didn’t exactly lend itself to “browsing”.
The concept of hypertext would enable users to visually browse text on web pages, using a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) display. This allowed people to move through information via links (pretty much as we do today). It also meant you would not have to download entire files to access key points of information.
With this in mind, Berners-Lee created a browser-editor so that the Web would become a creative space to share and edit information. After some rather dry (translate as boring) suggestions for names for this interface, in May 1990 the collaborative effort settled on a name; it was the WorldWideWeb.
The first ever web page went live to the internet in late 1990. However, a website like a fax machine is not much use if there’s just one.
By spring of 1991, testing was underway on a universal line mode browser, which would be able to run on any computer or terminal.
During 1991 web servers appeared in various institutions in Europe and in December 1991, the first server outside Europe was installed in the US at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
In February 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Chicago released the first version of Mosaic which was to make the Web available to people on PCs and Apple Macintoshes.
From there the concept of the internet really took off. Everyone with computer access was suddenly able to share and lookup almost any information instantly and to communicate from anywhere in the world.
Perhaps not dissimilar to the invention of the aircraft which allowed us to fly great distances, the internet has significantly reduced the size of the world we live in, shrinking the virtual distance between countries, organisations and people through instant communication and the sharing of ideas, information and our lives.
Today there are more than 1.7 billion websites online and nearly all of the world is connected and able to use them.