Exploring our past to find our way in the future
As we near the end of the 20th Century there is apprehension and concern about our future. Our political, economic, and social systems do not appear to be serving us well. Technology is a mixed blessing. Awareness of significant threats to our existence is growing. And we are beginning to question the value systems underlying our dominant culture.
At the same time, we are more aware than ever that a life of personal fulfillment, freedom, and empowerment is possible and that we can achieve this by taking personal responsibility for ourselves, for others, and for the world in which we live. We are also aware that it requires each of us who understand this to act on that knowledge and to give others the knowledge, insights, and understanding that will empower them to act.
Positive change is possible. It lies in our ability to learn and to communicate.
A software engineer dreams up the world wide web
It started in the Swiss Alps. The year was 1980. Tim Berners-Lee, a British software engineer working temporarily at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva, was fooling with a way to organize his far-flung notes. Building on ideas then current in software design, he fashioned a kind of “hypertext” notebook. Words in a document could be linked to other files on Berner-Lee’s computer. But why not he wondered, open up his document – and his computer – to everyone and allow them to link their stuff to his. So he cobbled together a coding system – HTML (HyperText Markup Language) – and designed an addressing scheme that gave each web page a unique location, or URL (Universal Resource Locator). And he hacked a set of rules that permitted these documents to be linked together on computers across the Internet.
And on the seventh day, Berners-Lee assembled the World Wide Web’s first browser, which allowed users anywhere to view his creation on their computer screen. He alerted the world by way of a message to a newsgroup and the world came. On August 6, 1991, the web made its debut, instantly bringing order to the chaos that was cyberspace. From that moment on, the web and the internet grew as one, often at exponential rates. Within five years, the number of internet users jumped from 600,000 to 40 million. Until then, we hadn’t really known what a powerful new tool the computer could be for everyone. Now we do.