Tim Berners Lee

Some British dude who lives in Massachusetts invented the World Wide Web in Switzerland in 1990

A few short decades ago, some nerd was a software consultant in Switzerland… and now you know the rest of the story. Good day.

Oh wait! Don’t go! There’s more to this fascinating tale. That man’s name was Tim Berners-Lee. He was born in London on June 8, 1955. There, he was raised by his parents, as is the custom in most foreign countries. His parents were also a couple of geeks and they met while working on the Ferranti Mark I, which was the first commercially available computer. So romantic I think I might friggin puke.

tim-berners-leeAny-how-ways, sometime in the late 1970’s, after years of disappointing his parents and wasting his life away by graduating from Queen’s College at Oxford and building robots out of cereal boxes and television sets, Tim took a job in Geneva, Switzerland at some two-bit, fly-by-night outfit called the European Particle Physics Laboratory. B-o-o-r-ing!

Then in 1989, Lord Nutcase came up with this crackpot idea to invent a way for information to be stored on a network, and for documents to be connected to each other by randomly associated links. He had this psychotic idea that computer documents could be created to access stuff the way the brain does. Like, any particular thing in any document could be linked to any other related thing in any other document. Does that make sense? Basically, this guy was a total square and had absolutely no interest in beer or the Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest.

Enter Mister Sendall

Well, soon enough, he runs this mess by his boss, Mr. Sendall (also a foreigner), to try to get the old man to pay for him to tinker around all day on somebody else’s dime. And to make a long story short, his boss must’ve also been a little nuts – or at least on the sauce – and stumbled in the office one day muttering, “Tim, you old such-n-such, I been thinkin’ about that shit you were rattlin’ on about the other day.”

Tim was captivated. Could this be the break he was looking for? He excitedly responded, “Yes, boss? And? And?” Mr. Sendall continued, slurring his words, “Well, Tim, I must also be a little nuts – or at least on the sauce – but I’m gonna give your nerdy ass the go ahead.”

After getting the okay from his boss – and while the rest of the world was working on useful computer programs like Fishing Derby 3D – Tim started working away on a little program called World Wide Web. Yeah, I never heard of it either.

What the HTML

How Tim Berners-Lee might look to a computer (artist's rendering)
How Tim Berners-Lee might look to a computer (artist’s rendering)

By then, this thing called the Internet had already been around for a while; it just wasn’t very useful for anyone besides scientists and geniuses. It was used primarily to transfer files and numbers on a terminal-to-terminal basis.

Tim changed that by creating a common language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) in which documents could be created and/or viewed by anyone, anywhere, on any type of system; and random things inside these documents could be “linked” to countless other documents anywhere else. In so many words, he was the first guy to underline names and make them blue so that when you click on them you can see more details about the same thing somewhere else. He also developed a system by which all documents globally would have unique titles and it would be impossible for two people on opposite sides of the world to come up with the same one. (These are now called URLs: Universal Resource Locators.)

First, he gave his little program away to the people in the high energy physics world. I seriously doubt that you know any of these people. Then he posted a web page on the first web server (at CERN in Switzerland) which outlined all the specifications for how to create compatible documents.

The NeXT cube used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here displayed  in the museum at CERN, where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web.
The NeXT cube used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here displayed in the museum at CERN, where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web.

Dub dub dub

Well, in 1991, when Tim’s little World Wide Web program hit the Internet, all these scientists and geniuses were basically standing around shitting their pants. This stupid word called “cyberspace” actually became something tangible, because now it could be seen and navigated. Better yet, it could be navigated not only by scientists and geniuses, but also by dumb motherfuckers like you.

Why, in the first five years of Tim’s program and HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) being available, the number of Internet users exploded from 600,000 to 40 million. In the mid-1990’s, it was doubling every 53 days. Eight years into it, there were 150 million Internet users.

Nowadays, as you know, everyone who has a website is a millionaire. So too, you might think, is the mastermind of the whole thing. Think again. Lord Point-n-Click is so smart he doesn’t even need money! Every time Tim had a chance to cash in, like the square he is, he didn’t do it.

Some other jackass, Marc Andreessen, helped write a program called Mosaic which was the first popular web browser; then he co-founded a little sweatshop called Netscape and made millions of dollars.

Now Tim works at MIT where, in 1994, he formed the World Wide Web Consortium. This group of hackers and conspiracy theorists sit around all day and discuss new computer protocols. Basically, it’s their job to determine what the standards are so that when Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Netscape, and all the other computer and software companies come out with new web-related products, they’re all compatible with each other. Sounds like a real exciting life, Tim.

The End.