When did it all begin?

Continuing on from my theme of Futurama-related posts, most people who watch the show will no doubt know that the show is very clever for the amount of humorous inside jokes referring to science and mathematics.  For example, one time Bender has a nightmare and sees ones and zeroes, ones and zeroes… and he awoke screaming, thinking he saw a two!

While watching the episode last night, and I’m going from memory now because I can’t remember exactly who said it, Leela poses the question “When did the Internet become all about losing your privacy?”  Professor Farnesworth answers “August 6, 1991.”

Why is that date special?  I may be a geek, but I was only in 7th grade at the time.  I did a quick search and here is what I discovered, from Time’s 80 Days that Changed the World:

Aug. 6, 1991
How the Web Was Spun
By Lev Grossman

Nobody was paying attention to Tim Berners-Lee and his pet idea. He was a young British scientist at CERN, a high-energy physics lab in Geneva, and he had a radical new way for scientists to share data by linking documents to one another over the Internet. He had kicked around a few different names for it, including the "Infomesh" and the "Information Mine." But he wasn't getting much interest from his bosses. His proposal came back with the words "vague but exciting" written across the cover.

So Berners-Lee took his invention to the people. He posted a message to a newsgroup—a kind of electronic public-access bulletin board—announcing the existence of the "WorldWideWeb (WWW) project." The message included instructions on how to download the very first Web browser from the very first website, http://info.cern.ch. Berners-Lee's computer faithfully logged the exact second the site was launched: 2:56:20 p.m., Aug. 6, 1991.

He posted it, and we came. From that day forward traffic to info.cern.ch rose exponentially, from 10 hits a day to 100 to 1,000 and beyond. Berners-Lee had no idea that he had fired the first shot in a revolution that would bring us home pages, search engines, Beanie Baby auctions and the dotcom bust, but he knew that something special had happened. "Of all the browsers people wrote," Berners-Lee remembers, "and all the servers they put up, very few of them were done because a manager asked for them. They were done because somebody read one of these newsgroup messages and got that twinkle in their eye."

So there you have it.  The Internet became all about losing your privacy on Aug 6, 1991, because that’s when the World Wide Web began.  And I learned it thanks to Futurama.


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