Internet – Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-LeeTwo days ago I discussed how the DARPA government agency conceived of and funded the creation of the first internet. Then yesterday I spoke about Al Gore’s role in the development of the internet. Today I’ll talk about a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee who was and remains instrumental in the World Wide Web.

First let’s discuss the difference between the WWW and the Internet because I think there is a lot of confusion. The internet is simply all the computers that communicate with one another. This involves an alphabet soup of acronyms none more important that TCP/IP but I don’t want this to get blog to get too technical. The WWW is all the documents connected by hypertext. This sounds strange but every time you visit a web page you are seeing a document and said file is being “rendered” by your browser into images and text.

Sir Tim, as he is now known, wrote a proposal in 1989 that involved using something called hypertext to link documents. He along with Robert Cailliau then refined their proposal envisioning the WWW accessed by people like us using browsers. Sir Tim then created a Web Server, a computer with files that could be interpreted by the first web browser that he also created. He then posted this information and made his server available to all comers. In doing this he created some of the alphabet soup I spoke about earlier, HTTP, HTML, and URL. Again, I won’t go into details but these paved the way for the web we know and love today.

The big turning point came, as I mentioned yesterday, with the creation of the first easy to use web browser, Mosiac, created with money funded by the Gore Bill.

The important factor here is that Sir Tim didn’t charge anyone for any of this. He released the information freely unto the public where everyone immediately began to contribute and the WWW was truly born. If you had to pay a fee for every transfer of information, above and beyond your carrier fee, there is no way the WWW would have sprung to life so quickly.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for a capitalistic libertarian like myself but there is something to be said for the Open Source movement as far as getting tools into the hands of those who can make the best use of them. I’m going to talk more about Open Source later in the week. You can hardly wait, I’d bet!

Sir Tim went on to fund the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which currently sets the standards for the web and I’ll tak about that later in the week as well.

For today, I’ll wrap it up with a tribute to Sir Tim. Without him the internet would not exist today and we all have him to thank. So, if you’ve never heard of him take a moment follow my link to the Wikipedia article or at the very least say, “Thanks, Sir Tim,” when you open your web browser to go about your daily business.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Tim Berners-Lee

World Wide WebAll right you geeks and geekesses who follow my blog. Tomorrow I’m going to launch into praise for a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee. You’ve likely never heard of him but he is largely responsible for the World Wide Web. He continues to be an important figure to this day.

If you thought DARPA and Al Gore were exciting then be prepared to have your socks knocked clean off by tomorrow’s blog. If, by some crazy chance, you didn’t find the previous two days posts super-exciting then you are one strange bird! 🙂

See you tomorrow,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet Week – DARPA

World Wide WebIt’s hard to believe that there was no such thing as the Internet and the World Wide Web not that long ago. I’m going to take this week to praise some of the men and women who are responsible for our ability to communicate and transfer information via things like this blogs.

Let’s start with DARPA. According to Wiki, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. It was originally created as a way to avoid being surprised by foreign nations’ technology as had happened with Sputnik. Telling aspects of DARPA are its size and management philosophy. It currently employs about 140 highly skilled people, only two levels of management, and the freedom to hire and fire who it desires without standard government rules. All positions are rotated regularly and people are hired generally for four to six-year terms. They understand failure is a necessary component of innovation and eventual success.

Now, onto how DARPA invented the internet.

A computer scientist named J. C. R. Licklider conceived the idea of sending information from computer to computer as a network and became a project director at what was then named ARPA. He assembled a team to see this vision through. One of his team members, Bob Taylor, then created a plan and opened it up for bidding to contractors. A company called BBN Technologies won the bid.

The first network messages was routed on the campus of UCLA on Oct 29, 1969 about a year and a half after Licklider conceived the idea. It caused the system to crash! In November of that year UCLA connected permanently with another station at Stanford. By 1973 foreign countries, Norway initially, began to connect to the system. In 1975 it was declared operational and turned over to the Department of Defense.

A lot has happened between then and now and I’ll talk about that as the week progresses but for the moment I want to focus on the ideas behind DARPA and some of its successes and past projects.

DARPA is probably as close a thing as we have to Ayn Rand’s concept of Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged. It is a place where intelligent and motivated people are allowed to pursue their dreams. The ideas brought to reality by DARPA include the Internet, The Aspen Movie Map (think about every movie you watch on the internet), drones and other unmanned vehicles which are increasing in use both private, public, and government, something called the Semantic Web which helps us find information more easily and was pioneered by a fellow you’ve never heard of named Tim Berners-Lee. You’ll hear a lot about him later in the week. Well, the list goes on and on.

My point here is to think about what kind of world we would live in if everyone worked in a DARPA like environment. The problem is that most people don’t have the ability of the chosen few in Galt’s Gulch and DARPA. I’ve discussed this before but the way to make it happen is through proper education. It’s important to teach children to think critically about everything to which they are exposed. Critical thinking leads to everything else. We must reward people for achievement and understand failure is a part of that process. This, by the way, is one of my biggest problem’s with Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s philosophy in general. Her characters are too archetypal and seem to me to be unrealistic. There are no John Galts in the world but we do everyone a service when we give the John Galt wannabes an opportunity to fail and to succeed.

Dare to dream but make a plan of action, envision obstacles and solutions, hire competent people, reward achievers, and make the world something beyond imagination!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Science Week – Computers

ScienceYes, amazingly Science Week continues at the behest of my thousands of fans! Tomorrow I take on a subject near and dear to my heart, computers. My personal employment depends on computers and they have changed the world. I’ll look at the early days of computer development and the effect they have on the economy of the United States.

You might learn a few things you didn’t know about men like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and you will almost certainly gain a new appreciation for a personal hero of mine, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite … Al Gore!

Stay tuned for day four of Science Week!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist