20 Years of the Internet
It seems like we have always had computers and access to the Internet. Our lives have been transformed by it in many ways. We have become dependent on it. It is hard to believe, the Internet is only 20 years old. It was in December of 1990, that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet, (more correctly the World Wide Web (WWW.) ,composed and sent the first web page. He was a software engineer at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory) in Switzerland, when he proposed to that organization his idea of what became the WWW. He had been working on programs that were suggesting to him that this was possible. When CERN seems not too interested he went ahead on his own along with his colleague, Robert Cailliau. Finally, he created a browser and a server and the three program elements that make the WWW work: html, (hypertext mark-up language) http, hypertext transfer protocal) and url (universal resource locators.) Tim Berners-Lee wrote the software code of each of these. Html allows links in text and pages so they can connect); http allows a document to be sent and url allows there to be a unique address for each web page. Luckily, most of us do not have to know how these work. We just enjoy the easy use of them and the other developments since. Berners-Lee has gone on to create and lead the agency, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that sets the technical standards of the WWW and continues to oversee improvements in it.
The World Wide Web is an open source project. Lets hope it continues to be free to all and equally shared. There are those who would like to see it otherwise, having control over all or part of it as a for profit service. There are also governments who want to have control of it for national security, political power, or prestige. Let's hope we resist this successfully, our feedom of access to information and even our freedom of speech and assembly (vitually) is at stake.
Recently, it has been noted that Canadians are the biggest users of the Internet. This is interesting but not surprising. Previously, we were the biggest users of telephones, so it seems we as a people seem to be comfortable reaching out through technology to communicate with one another. I also like to think that it reflects our interest in ideas, and the World. Perhaps, it is also because of our vast geography and our long winters. For our many immigrants it must be a wonderful tool to keep in touch with distant relatives and friends and the news back "home". The values and uses of this tool seem to be increasing still.
Tim Berners-Lee is an interesting person who was quite young when he fathered the World Wide Web. Anyone who has read about the history of the computer knows that most of the major contributions to the hardware and software was developed my young people, many became very rich which other where happy to have created their small piece of the puzzle necessary for computers to work for us.
I am particularly interested in Tim Berners-Lee because he is a member of my denomination. He is a Unitarian Universalist. He has written about how his understanding of our religious view and the democratic way our organizations work dovetails with how the Internet works. It makes for interesting reading. It is always generally interesting to me when people are reflective about their life: philosophizing and theologizing about who they are and what they do that gives it shape and meaning.
I came late to the computer. I am hooked now. As a person who is a news junky and a compulsive researcher of anything that catches my attention it is an important tool and a source of excitement and joy at times. It keeps my life expansive in spite of living a little out of the mainstream.