January 11, 1998
I have been surfing the web since October of 1995. I was
surprised to find the text of an old letter preserved within one
of our computers which spoke of this event:
Dear Paul and Dan, October 29, 1995
Hello! How are you? Happy Halloween! We are having a good
weekend. For yesterday, the three of us experienced a historic
We went up on the Internet! Yes, our small computer connected
with computers all over the country and in the world. What an
experience. Our newspaper is available on line on a program
called StarNet. This links to the internet, world wide web and
all that stuff. You read a news article and below are
'footnotes' that you can click on to read other related items.
Those are the items that originate all over the world. We
were in Chicago, we were in Turkey, etc.!
Since that day, I have never learned who was directly
responsible for the net's existence. I had vaguely assumed it
was a group of people. But today I have 'met' Tim Berners-Lee:
I discovered this information through following a series of
links. Today's Starnet featured an article about the Unitarian
Universalist church. At the bottom of the article was a link to
the Boston based Unitarian Universalist Association's web site.
That site had a link to the Scientific American article
Molding the Web, December 1997, which profiled Berners -
Lee. They proudly made this link for he discusses his
identification with U. U. within the article:
"Berners-Lee graduated in 1976 with first-class honors in
theoretical physics from the Queen's College at the University of
Oxford. In 1980, after various software-writing jobs, he spent
six months at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics
near Geneva, where he designed a calendar program called Enquire
to keep track of his own random associations; it later became the
basis for the Web. He returned to CERN in 1984 as a software
The rest is ancient Web history. Berners-Lee wanted to create a
means for far-flung researchers to share one another's data and
work easily together. So, in 1990, he wrote specifications for
HTML (hypertext markup language), HTTP (hypertext transfer
protocol) and the precursor of URL (uniform resource locator). .
Berners-Lee and his CERN compatriot Robert Cailliau put the free
Web software on the Internet in 1991. It didn't take off until
1993, when Marc Andreessen and his colleagues at the University
of Illinois, who had seen one of the early Web browsers called
ViolaWWW, wrote the now famous Mosaic. Between 1991 and 1994 the
number of Web clients grew from about 10 to 100,000."
The depth of the spirit of the man who now directs the World Wide
Web Consortium, ( W3C), which insures cohesivity standards for
the Web, is shown:
"Berners-Lee says he had a Protestant upbringing but rejected
literal Christianity as a teenager because it was incompatible
with science. He now describes himself as a Unitarian
Universalist. "It tackles the spiritual side of people's lives
and of values and of the things you need to live your life, but
it doesn't require you to believe six impossible things before
breakfast," he says wryly."
I cried when I read these words. The man whose vision has made
this wondrous thing happen had in mind people like me: people
who use the web to give all who care to come and read insights
into the reality of their lives. It is part of what I hope we
are communicating with our website as a whole. Many write us
letters of how they have come to understand the beauty of their
own humanity better. "Andrea Galla" wrote:
"No matter how many interviews the seemingly shy Berners-Lee
agrees to, no matter how often he is asked to give a "vision"
talk, no matter how hard he tries to speak slowly, there is a
point at which the 42-year-old British physicist cannot contain
his enthusiasm. In his world, the Web can empower people and
transform society by allowing everyone self-expression and access
to all information.
"The Web can help people to understand the way that others
live and love and are human, to understand the humanity of
Berners-Lee expounds, almost tripping over his
I owe such a debt of gratitude to Berners - Lee, Mark Andreessen
and the others like them, who have worked to make just such
comings together possible.
"Guided by whatever force I came upon your website.
And something happened; something so long waited for. I came
read - and am still reading - the articles, the poems, the
wonder where you were so long. But then again, there's a time
reason for everything.
And I cried. Not sorry for that. But it's so astonishing, almost
bewildering, an experience to see the pieces fall into place at
last, to feel that deep, warm sense of
recognition, to silence the urge for rationalization and defence
the same time see a circle closing...like your rainbow