Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Karyn Jeffery, Flint Brenton, Liz McMillan, Scott Allen

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

Microservices Expo: Article

Birds, Booze and Tim Berners Lee - Memories of the World Wide Web

Happy 25th Birthday WWW

Like many organizations across the globe today iomart is celebrating the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web.

iomart would not exist had a young British computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee not submitted his idea for allowing scientists to share information to his manager at CERN. Today our data centers provide the physical infrastructure that enables start-ups, SMEs and large enterprises to deliver their services online.

To mark this anniversary we asked our staff to share their memories of the early days of the World Wide Web and we’ll come to their recollections in a moment. But one member of our board really was there at its birth.

Ian Ritchie CBE is Non Executive chairman of iomart but back in the early 1980s he founded Office Workstations Limited (OWL).  OWL was the first and largest supplier of Hypertext/Hypermedia authoring tools for personal computers which customers used to implement large interactive multimedia documentation systems in the automobile, defense, publishing, finance, and education sectors. This is how Ian describes encountering what would become the World Wide Web.

“In late November 1990 I was attending a technical conference on Hypertext at Versailles near Paris when I was approached by a pleasant, rather earnest, young researcher,” he recalls. “'Are you Ian Ritchie?', he asked, and when I said I was he introduced himself as Tim Berners-Lee and said he wanted to speak with me. We retired to the bar and over a beer he told me about his project - the World Wide Web. My first reaction was that this was a very ambitious name for a system which only existed on his computer in his office at CERN - it was first made available to the rest of CERN the very next month in December 1990.

“He was, however, totally convinced that his system would take over the world one day and people everywhere would use it to communicate with each other,” Ian remembers. “At the time the Internet was not open to everyone but was restricted to not-for-profit public bodies such as universities, government, defense and science researchers, such as those at CERN. He wanted my company, OWL, to write a browser for his system, as he didn't have an effective mechanism for viewing his documents. Our hypertext system had multiple fonts, graphics and layout and his was restricted to plain text only. However, he wasn't able to commission any work and I was running a commercial company and really couldn't undertake unpaid work of this kind. I told this story in a TED talk -  http://bit.ly/1otPUAY .

“So we passed on the opportunity. I first saw the Mosaic browser for the World Wide Web demonstrated by Marc Andreeson at the Hypertext conference in Seattle in 1993. He had developed it at the publicly funded National Center for SuperComputer Applications (NCSA) in Champaign, Illinois, and all subsequent Web browsers have been based on this work.  It is ironic that the World Wide Web, which has disrupted almost all of the world's commercial processes, entirely originated from publicly funded research programs.”

So our chairman can actually claim he was there at the birth of the World Wide Web. What about our employees? Well, some (older!) staff remember those first days of dial up and some (much younger!) weren’t actually born. However what they all share is the experience of the impact it has had on the world we now live and work in where two out of every five people are ‘connected.’

When asked ‘What was your first memory of the web?’ the overarching memory is the noise that accompanied those first dial up modem connections. “It was like a donkey in pain!” says one, remembering that you could go and make a coffee and run a bath in the time it took to connect.

The NCSA Mosaic browser that Ian saw back in 1993 was pretty popular it seems, although you had to wait for the web pages to load one line at a time. The browser was accessed on “stone age Packard Bell” and Pentium PCs. “I remember thinking how slow and useless this was,” says one of our senior managers.  

While it was exciting – “It was so much better than teletext” says another - it didn’t foster much brotherly or sisterly love. “My first memory was having to unplug the house phone and my five sisters going mental because the line was always engaged,” while another was caught out by his older brother who handed him a huge bill for the ISDN line that he’d been using to chat to people in CompuServ chat rooms!

Grandparents are often seen as slow adopters of technology today, back then they came in quite handy. “I got a Yahoo ID (which I still have today), set up my 56k modem and hooked it into my gran’s phone line. Then of course arrived the £600 phone bill as Demon Internet were only providing penny per minute Internet access at the time. Thankfully Freeserve eventually released unlimited dial up internet!”

Freeserve seems to have been the way a lot of us accessed the web in those early days. Internet chat rooms were the place to hang out and from there many of our older staff started building their first web sites.  

Many first memories were chatting with friends and potential partners via MSN Messenger and AOL. “That’s how I met my first girlfriend,” says one, while others just asked Jeeves, “I was told it answered questions and remember being very disappointed with its answers!”

What did we first use the web for? “There wasn’t much on the web at the time. It was mainly government stuff and a couple of corporates,” others looked at the NASA and the FBI websites. “Curiosity of America the Super Power was the first thing me and my mates wanted to look at.  We honestly thought we were going to find proof of aliens or something!”

Favorite websites today include Google, BBC News,  Wikipedia, Gmail, You Tube, Twitter, Soundcloud.com, imgur and Failblog.org,  “Nothing makes you feel smarter than the browsing the consolidation of some of the silliest things human beings ever attempted.” While one older site is dear to the heart of a particular iomart staffer,Yahoo Chat without a doubt. I met my wife on there you know, long before it was fashionable to meet people online.”

So what has the World Wide Web given us? For many of our staff the biggest benefits have been for learning and connecting with their families and friends wherever they happen to be in the world.  Others say: “I can find really niche music from wannabe artists who don’t receive much press, and they can get feedback from folk like me”; “I no longer have to use Yellow Pages or call BT when looking for a telephone number”; “I see the doctor less”; “Amazon. I hate going shopping!”; and “Ebooks….Because….well, have you ever tried carrying 10,000 books at once?!”

It has definitely given us careers in one of the fastest growing industries. While that might be a career that could have turned out differently for one senior employee - “Without it I wouldn’t have run my own business for almost ten years. Such a shame I wasn’t 18 when I first came across the web, I would be a millionaire by now!” – for all of us it has created more jobs and opportunities.

Has it changed our lives? “Well, it hasn’t - it’s just become part of my life. I’ve lived with the internet, longer than I’ve lived without it.”

The response to Tim Berner-Lee’s idea from his boss to his idea all those years ago was, “Vague, but exciting.” That doesn’t even get near to describing what has happened as a result. Ensuring that the World Wide Web was made royalty-free meant it could be used by everyone and it has revolutionized our lives ever since, allowing a whole new type of business and way of living to develop.

So thank you Sir Tim from everyone here at iomart!

More Stories By Phil Worms

Phil is a 30 year IT industry veteran with a passion for education and has personally led many school and higher education initiatives designed to engage young people and showcase the broad range of exciting and fulfilling roles in IT.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel, VarTec Telecom and iomart Group plc. Phil is working on a project to create an intergenerational social hub that will celebrate creativity and achievement in Helensburgh, birthplace of television pioneer John Logie Baird.The Heroes Centre will provide people of all ages with the new media and content creation skills required to engage fully in the digital world. Follow his progress on Twitter and on Facebook

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
SYS-CON Events announced today the How to Create Angular 2 Clients for the Cloud Workshop, being held June 7, 2016, in conjunction with 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified. Now it’s a component-based well-performing framework. The immersive one-day workshop led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...