Untangling the Web

A history of the Internet's most visible component and the innovations that made it work

by , / September 30, 1998
Those of us who remember pounding out lengthy reports on typewriters -- struggling to correct typos with correction fluid or those little type-over sheets -- rejoiced when word-processing computer programs became widely available. The IBM Selectric electric typewriters, with built-in typo-correction tape and the round metal balls for varying fonts, were cool, but they couldn't hold a candle to word processing on a desktop computer.

Suddenly, we could draft 20-page reports, change the typeface throughout the entire document or move whole paragraphs without retyping. We could make subheads bold and underline passages with the click of a mouse. Scores of documents could be stored on one floppy disk. A document could be copied, renamed and then edited easily into a completely new document. The amount of document-preparation time saved by word-processing programs is incalculable.

Now we've gone from isolated, glorified typewriters to the Internet, a global link that connects any home to university libraries, international news services and government agencies. Then there are the corporate sites -- World Wide Web (WWW) addresses appear in an astonishing percentage of TV commercials, in print advertising, magazines, newspapers, letters from our childrens' schools and even on our morning cereal boxes.

That second great leap, from the desktop revolution in document creation and processing to a freeflowing global information exchange, was enabled by the advent of hypertext, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and related technologies.

The Visionaries

The concept of hypertext is generally acknowledged to have its origins in an article by Vannevar Bush (1890
David Aden
David Aden DAden@webworldtech.com is a writer from Washington, D.C.