Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Nerds 2.0.1
[section buttons]
Wiring the World
[page buttons]

online services The rise of the personal computer by Apple and IBM introduced the rest of the world to computing. At first, computers were the tools of technically inclined nerds, but new applications drew other people to the keyboard. With an affordable modem, people could connect with other computer enthusiasts and commercial online services. People were using the computer as Bush and Licklider had prophesized, as a medium to interact with other people.
[ chapters: electronic meeting places, online services, the well ]

A venerable institution of international collaboration was the setting for the major development in the history of the Internet. It began when Tim Berners-Lee, a computer programmer at CERN in Switzerland, got to play on a new NeXT workstation. The object-oriented operating system was an inspiration for a problem he was working on - how to distribute information across a diverse network of different computers and operating systems. He started working on a protocol very similar the "docuverse" described by Ted Nelson, but reduced it down to a minimal, working model.

CERN and Berners-Lee Berners-Lee eventually named his project the World Wide Web, because he visualized it as a web of interconnected documents that would stretch across the Internet and the world. It sounded grandiose, but his predictions were later proven too low.
[ chapter: spinning the web ]

In 1992, Marc Andreessen, an undergraduate computer science major at the University of Illinois, was working at the Super Computer Center when he discovered Berners-Lee's World Wide Web. There were a few sites scattered around the world, including the first U.S. site at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, but it was hard to use. Marc and some of the other programmers knew they were looking at a great idea with a bad presentation. They wanted to put a more "human face" on the Web, so they wrote the first graphical browser - later to become Netscape.
[ chapter: a human face ]

Microsoft saw no profit in the Internet, because there were specific laws against any profits on the Net. However, when Rep. Frederick Boucher from Virginia drafted a bill in the U.S. Congress that would change all that. Soon, the Internet was open for business.
[ chapter: open for business ]

Microsoft finally jumped onto the Internet in 1995, offering a browser to compete with Netscape - a browser they called Internet Explorer. It looked like the giant from Redmond, Washington would take over the Internet just as they took over the OS market - but the competition called foul.

After 1995, every business was at least thinking about getting a Web site. Online services exploded when they offered connections to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Traffic on the Internet was increasing at an exponential rate, and the old network backbones were showing signs of collapse. Some of the ARPAnet pioneers were predicting a collapse if something wasn't done soon.
[ chapter: the future of the internet ]

Next Section: Cast of Charactersarrow


Nerds Home
Networking the Nerds | Serving the Suits | Wiring the World
Cast of Characters | Glossary of Geek | Timeline

Copyright © 1998, PBS Online, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Site Designed and Developed by OPB Learning Media

OPB online PBS online Cast of Characters Serving the Suits Nerds Home Page Electronic Meeting Places Adult Supervision