The World Wide Web: the beginning and now

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[ Picture, Douglas Engelbart ]

Douglas Engelbart

Douglas Engelbart is mostly known for the invention of the mouse, but he was also one of the key pioneers of internet development. While serving in the army during WWII, Engelbart read Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think" and was inspired (The Electronic Labyrinth). After gaining a position at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Licklider published "Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework". In this he discusses using computers as on-line tools as a way of "improving the intellectual effectiveness of the individual human being." He believed that developing technology and computers could "augment" human intellect (Engelbart, 1962). His ideas were quite similar to those of J.R. Licklider.

Soon after, he was given the funding to start his own research lab at SRI. He called it the Augmentation Research Centre (ARC) (The Electronic Labyrinth). He and his colleagues developed the oNLine System (NLS) at the Augmentation Lab. As he stated, the oNLine System would be a "powerful, advanced system designed to support basic knowledge work." (Engelbart, 1975). Along with being the first known implementation of hypertext in a computer network, NLS included many other important innovations (The Electronic Labyrinth):

  • the mouse
  • 2-dimensional display editing
  • in-file object addressing, linking
  • hypermedia
  • outline processing
  • "Command Meta Language" that's compileable
  • remote procedure call protocols
  • protocols for virtual terminals
  • grammar-driven command language interpreter
  • multi-tool integration
  • universal user interface
  • uniform command sytax
  • flexible view control
  • multiple windows
  • cross-file editing
  • teleconferencing
  • word processing
  • e-mail
  • an on-line help system
  • computer-aided meanings
  • client-server architecture
(The Electronic Labyrinth),(Douglas Engelbart: A True Visionary),(Engelbart, 1975)

Funding for NLS was shut off by the government in 1975 (A Brief Biography). However, the NLS would later influence those who developed the PARC at Xerox, Ted Nelson, and eventually the GUI of Apple Computers (The Electronic Labyrinth). Many of the other revolutionary ideas of the oNLine system are also evident in today's computing/internet technology.