Happy Birthday, World Wide Web!

Looking for something to celebrate today? If so, you’re in luck, because today is the 25th birthday of the world wide web.

Birthday Cake

While most IU students don’t even remember what it was like “pre-Internet,” believe me, the world was a different place. So, just to make sure that you understand the full significance of this important day in history, let me tell you what life was like before Tim Berners-Lee came along and started talking about his crazy ideas.  Things have definitely changed.

During my days in early elementary school, I played board games, like Hi Ho! Cherry-O and Sorry and Monopoly. If my little brother bumped the board (which he sometimes did on purpose), we would have to start all over again. There was no “save” button.

As a preteen, I chatted to my friends on a telephone from our kitchen, and usually my whole family could hear my conversations. I begged my father to get a longer phone cord, so I could take the phone into the hallway for a little privacy. We watched movies on the big, heavy television set that sat in the living room. We had a limited amount of channels, and there were certainly no self-made or home videos broadcast on our TV. My friends and I wrote notes on paper, and we sometimes got in trouble for passing these notes during class. If you would’ve told us that we would someday be chatting on a little device the size of a pack of cards, we would’ve said you were crazy.

When doing homework for high school, I used encyclopedias and dictionaries and a big, heavy thesaurus that my grandmother had purchased for me. I was very curious, and I loved to learn, but the learning resources that I had available were very limited. We didn’t have a library in our small town, and there was definitely no opportunities to ask scientists questions or to peruse NASA’s image or video library. I can remember writing letters to several different companies around the country, asking them to send me information for a report that I had to write for a class. Unfortunately, most of the replies came after the assignment was due.

My first year of college, I had to wait in long lines to sign up for my classes (on paper) in a huge auditorium at the university. One of my first classes was a handwriting course that I had to take for my education degree. We spent hours perfecting our cursive writing skills so that we could impress others when we finally became teachers and wrote on those dusty, chipped black chalkboards that lived on the front wall of every classroom.

After I graduated, I needed to put together a resume. By then, I was using one of the first Apple computers, but it still took a very long time and there were certainly no affordable programs that would provide templates or automatically create the document for me.

When I got my first job, I had to travel to New York for some training. I had to make all of the travel arrangements over the phone, and there was no easy way to compare prices.  I had to document all of my expenses on a paper spreadsheet and then submit this to my boss via the postal service.

Later, I taught in a public school for a while. I set up a pen pal program for my students. They wrote letters to kids in Japan, and we waited months to receive their replies. We had several electronic games for our students, but they were extremely simplistic and most didn’t have graphics. Sometimes we showed educational movies to our students, but the selection of videos available was limited and we had to order them weeks in advance so they could be hand-delivered to our school.

I could go on an on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Our lives have changed drastically since the invention of the world wide web. I wonder if  Tim Berners-Lee ever imagined that his proposal would be such a turning point?

If you would like to read more about the 25th birthday of the world wide web, click on any of the links below:

Happy Birthday: World Wide Web to Turn 25

Happy birthday, World Wide Web! On 25th anniversary, inventor calls for action to ensure freedom online

Happy 25th birthday Internet: A look back on the year the web was born

Inventor of the web marks its 25th anniversary by calling for net neutrality

25 things you might not know about the web on its 25th birthday

The web turns 25

NOTE: Thanks to Will Clayton, who posted the birthday cake photo on flickr with a creative commons license. You can read the licensing information here. No changes were made to this photo.


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