Histories of the Internet and the World Wide Web

If you're like me, you don't really feel oriented until you know how something came about. One of the best sources of information about the internet is the internet itself; and I have gathered here links to some of the sites where you can get the real scoop. One of the best is this TIME article on Internet by Philip Elmer-Dewitt. Others follow: Two of the terms which keep cropping up are hypertext and hypermedia. These concepts were dreamed up in 1945 by Vannevar Bush, in his article "As We May Think," which described the (hypothetical) Memex machine. The word was coined 20 years later, by Ted Nelson, along with the Xanadu project. Basically, hypertext is an extension of the footnote or of marginalia. The difference is that the link can be followed to other texts. A "hot" hypertext link might be thought of as an allusion made concrete--well, virtually concrete.

A very sophisticated example of hypertext links can be found at the Victorian Web. Here you can move, by way of hypertext links, from one topic to another. Each linked topic here happens to be on the same computer, but they can just as easily be on different ones, and in fact the Web makes use of this capability in every document.

If I can link from one text to another, I can also link from a text to other media; so hypermedia is simply a slight extension of this concept. I can link to any type of medium my computer can support; this is what my students and I made use of in this hypermedia edition of Robert Browning's poem about the painter Andrea del Sarto. End of examples; as you "surf the web," you will very quickly come to understand this rather abstract concept in a very practical way.

Send comments or suggestions to the author of this page, Glenn Everett.