1993 screenshot from an early web browser (CERN via NPR)
Last week, NPR's All Things Considered featured a story called "The First Web Page, Amazingly, Is Lost." The piece ended with a plea: Perhaps someone out there, someone listening to their radio, picked up an old optical disk drive that was lost at a conference in 1990. Check your bookshelves. Check your basement. The early web might still be out there.
The story begins, as you would expect, in the early '90s, when Jones colleague Jim Fullton got an email from Berners-Lee (they had been in touch about a related project) saying that he was submitting a paper to a conference, Hypertext 91, that would be taking place in San Antonio that December. Berners-Lee was interested in stopping by UNC during his trip.
Berners-Lee's paper was rejected ("The hypertext community were unimpressed with the web; it looked rather simple," CERN's Dan Noyes explains in a post) but he was offered a table where he could demonstrate his World Wide Web to conference attendees. "Only a couple of catches," Jones writes. "There was to be no Internet connectivity at the conference. And as Tim's demonstration required a NeXT computer, he would have to bring his from Europe."
Jones, it turns out, also owned a NeXT, one just like Berners-Lee's. When Berners-Lee arrived in North Carolina, he stopped by to talk shop. Jones writes:
There was, as you see now, a link to the WWW< >WAIS gateway for searching a database in the next room. When I clicked on the link, my information request first went to CERN in Switzerland then back to UNC to search the database. The results then left UNC for Switzerland where html was added and then the results sent back to my NeXT.
Tim showed me how simple and easy editing and creating a WWW page could be. First he showed how straightforward editing was by changing"demonstration" to "demonfdgfgstration." I created my own page and added a link to an FTP site in Denmark that hosted a sound collection among other things. I wanted to see if the NeXT and Tim's WWW browser would be able to pass the sound to a player. I think it did, but I really can't remember if it did.