Although the Internet originated in the military-industrial complex, many of the crucial innovations …

Although the Internet originated in the military-industrial complex, many of the crucial innovations that allowed it to grow into a global communications, information, commerce, and entertainment network were contributed by students and others outside the established institutions of computing. The World Wide Web, for example, was invented at an unforeseen and totally unexpected place: the high-energy physics laboratory CERN, on the Swiss-French border. It did not come from the research laboratories of IBM, Xerox, or even Microsoft, nor did it come out of the famed Media Lab at MIT. Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist, who happened to be working at CERN when he articulated the vision that gave rise to the World Wide Web. Although customarily credited with inventing the Web, Berners-Lee carefully noted that many other people, most of them unknown, contributed essential ingredients. CERN is certainly an august institution of Big Science, but aside from providing the birthplace, it seems otherwise to have played a minimal role – perhaps even a retarding role – in the birth of the Web. Berners-Lee, by his own account, pressed forward with his idea in spite of massive indifference on the part of the CERN bureaucracy. He had to maintain a somewhat low profile, he recalled. At any moment some higher-up could have questioned my time and put an end to the informal project. He felt more than a twinge of anxiety, because he feared being bawled out for not sticking to CERN business.

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