Friday, November 6, 2015

THE WORLD WIDE WEB AT TWENTY-FIVE

This piece and the one for next Friday are two I wrote for the community magazine. Though they used several others of my pieces, the magazine didn't use these two, but I get to keep them for my blog. Keep in mind that I am writing for the "active adults" - better known as seniors - here in Sun City Carolina Lakes.
   


The World Wide Web celebrates its 25th birthday this month. On November 13, 1990, two computer scientists at CERN (Conseil EuropĂ©en pour la Recherche NuclĂ©aire, the European Organization for Nuclear Research), Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau, published a proposal for an international communication system for the exchange and linking of scientific information. The first Web page was a simple one: a heading and introduction to the World Wide Web.  They called it W3, but today we call in ‘The Web’ or the internet; we go ‘on line’. The system became available to the public in August 1991, and it has gotten more complex every year.

Many years before, prophetic writers like Arthur C. Clarke had foretold of just such a system on which one could find “all the information he needs for his everyday life: his bank statements, his theater reservations, all the information you need over the course of living in a complex modern society.” Clarke was correct: with desk systems, laptops, notebook computers, and tablets, on down to the small, hand-held PDAs the Personal Digital Assistants, and above all, our cell phones, we’re in touch with everything. Some say we’re in touch with too much, some want more and more every day.

Love it or hate it, the internet has become an invaluable tool. Though there are hazards there: spam, scams, phishing, and hacking, the vast majority of the internet traffic flows quickly and without trouble. Rather than waiting for the 6 O’clock News, we can get the latest news, weather, and sports in an instant, and from many different sources for complete, and we hope unbiased, coverage. Rather than go to the library, we can look up anything we want to know on any subject. We can read a book, buy a book, buy almost anything, transfer funds, pay a bill, get a higher degree, participate in polls, and, in some countries, even vote on line. Email has almost supplanted snail mail. The World Wide Web has now facilitated cloud computing, giving the world a place to store and manipulate its ever-increasing stock of digital information without taking up personal or business computer space.

Most anything you ever wanted to know about most everything is out there on the web. The Oxford English Dictionary, usually known as just the OED, now includes google as a verb. It means to search the World Wide Web for information. The search engine Google doesn’t like it that google is used to mean general web searching, even if it is there or on Bing or Yahoo or another site, but they can’t fight popular usage. Like Kleenex or Vaseline, the brand has gone into generic usage.   

The internet has spawned a new lexicon. The word ‘hardware’ has a new meaning, and now we have software to use on it. OMG, we now have ‘the web’, of course, and we ‘tweet’ and we ‘like’ and we Skype. We blog, we engage in e-tail, read e-books, we download apps, we transfer our own funds and pay our bills without leaving our desks. Forget Hi-Fi, we’ve got Wi-Fi. We know about hypertext and jpegs. It’s not often we’re AFK – away from keyboard - it’s all a big LOL.





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