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by Teemu Leinonen, Hans Põldoja, Iztok Kavkler, diegoduran83 — last modified 2011-01-08 05:49
group: History of New Media

This content is part of the History of New Media course material package.

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The resource is published but not ready. The original texts by: A. Botero T. Leinonen

Technology enabling hypertext and -media

In the earlier section we got familiar with the the ideas and visions of Memex, Xanadu, and Universal All on One Library of Human Knowledge?

Did we finally got them? No, we did not. But we got something that is very close to those scenarios: The World Wide Web . World Wide Web - as we know it today - includes number of features described in the Xanadu and Memex scenarios.


The enabler of the World Wide Web in the early 1990's was the backbone of Internet, developed since late 1960's. Since 1990's Internet has become a familiar "place" for millions of people that every day login to exchange messages, have a chat, search for information or sell a book - to mention only but a few of the activities that take place on this platform.

To trace its origins involves realizing the myriad of circumstances, people, institutions, technologies and relationships that have make it possible. Doing this could also help to clarify some of the basic concepts and design ideas behind its current shape, and the implications of its development for society in general.

Internet in it's very basic conception, can be considered as a group of innovations that make it possible the communication and transmission of "data" between computers at different locations. It was born out of the idea of distribution of resources and sharing of information over computers. This is naturally not all what Inernet is today. A better defintion could be to consider Internet as a collection of tools, people and resources.

Most historical accounts seem to agree that the launching of the sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union in 1950's was an important factor determining the US government to initiate a long standing RD effort to apply state of the art technology into US defence system. This effort channelled many resources to a program called ARPA (Advance Research Projects Agency, later DARPA) ARPA included research into timesharing, computer graphics and computer language. Especially the aim of timesharing initiatived a network facility called ARPANET. The ARPANET was connecting number or university-based researcher working with funding from ARPA.

Basic concepts that determine ARPANET´s original design can be summarised as:

At the beginning the network comprised 4 nodes: University of California at Los Angeles UCLA, The Stanford Research Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET continued to grow basically in isolation until 1972 went it finally went public during the First International Conference on Computers and Communication, Washington DC. At that time ARAPANET was not the only design proposal for having "universal computer" network. The basic concepts, especially the freely available specification made it easy for other people to join in, is often cosidered to be the reason why ARPANE "won" the compdetition.

Internet is said to be "officially" born around 1982 when the different networks (BITNET, EARN, etc) agree on using the TCP/IP protocol. TCP/IP protocol was developed by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf already in 1974 as a standard for their interconnections making it a more network of networks and overcoming some of the previous cacophony of standards, protocols and increasing its coverage.

Internet: More than the World Wide Web

Most of the Internet use nowadays is mediated through the World Wide Web (WWW), experienced with the web browsers . However this has not always been the case, if we see the varity of tools operating on Internet. There are the e-mail, user group discussions (news groups), searching services, information retrieval, file transfer and some other "playful" activities like games or muds that are all relying on Internet.

Here are some anecdotes from the history of Intenet from the time before the World Wide Web.

E-mail : in 1971 Ray Tomlinson (ARPANET) sends himself the World's first e-mail. The content of the e-mails was: 'Testing 1-2-3'. The second message sent was addressed to all ARPANET users explaining the possibilities of 'electronic mail' . Basic conventions given by Ray Tomlinson included users' log-in name @ host computer name. E-mail is obviosly one of the main success factors behind the rapid spread of Internet.

Internet search-engines and GOPHER : In the early 1990 the number of files on Internet was growing so fast and there was a need to structure the environment. In 1990, the first Internet search-engine was developed at McGill University, Montreal and baptized as ARCHIE. Soon after ARCHIVE the University of Minnessota intorduced the GOPHER system and search engine VERONICA.

The web and the raise of the browser: In 1989 Tim Berners Lee , working in Geneva for the CERN Institute wrote a first proposal paper of his World wide Web concept.He tried to convince the CERN institute's management of the advantages of this open hypertext system in information management. Berners Lee, with his collaborators, developed the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and the first browser (1991), a piece of software that will "read" the hidden marks of the HTML and will render a document with hyperlinks to other documents, that then could be called by a click of the mouse. This strategy made it easier and more intuitive to navigate through a big resources of information. The simplicity of the HTML also made it possible for more people to make publich their content through this channel and link it to content already in the web. The browser software was released for free in an FTP server and the specification of HTML and other WWW related information was naturally published in the web. This made it eaqsy for other developers to take advantage of what already exist and build on top of it. The first easy to use- easy to install browser, the MOSAIC , was developed in 1993 by Mark Andreesen from NCSA (National Center for SuperComputing Applications, Illinois).

Teaching and learning stories
Brief History of New Media by Teemu 09.01.2011

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