Tim Berners-Lee birthday #history #Berners-Lee

Berners-lee Cailliau

Extract from The PC Pioneers

On this day in 1955 Tim Berners-Lee was born. He would develop the World Wide Web.

Based at CERN, Berners-Lee proposed a hypertext-based facility to allow sharing and collaborative updating of information between researchers using CERN’s many computers.  He developed Enquire, a prototype of this software, named after the reference book Enquire Within.

He became involved in distributed computing and was drawn to the idea of remote procedure call (RPC), a means of distributing a program across several PCs.  He saw this as a way to link the many stand-alone computers in use at CERN.  This was adopted as a standard approach.

CERN was already one of the biggest Internet nodes in Europe when Berners-Lee was considering adding his hypertext Enquire notion to the Internet’s TCP and domain name approach.  He soon realised that Enquire could not be expanded to achieve what he now had in mind.

Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, was working independently on computer applications to be used by CERN administrators and secretaries who were not computer literate.  Using Apple’s HyperCard he developed something not dissimilar to that which Microsoft PowerPoint would later offer.  It allowed presentations to be simply prepared and displayed.

Robert presented his thinking to Mike Sendall who, being fully aware of Berners-Lee’s project, arranged for the two of them to get together to take a joint project forward.


In 1989 Berners-Lee and Cailliau jointly published an internal paper entitled Information Management: A Proposal. This paper first introduced the term for their concept of the World Wide Web’.

Mike Sendall was impressed by the thinking but somewhat confused and described the paper as ‘Vague but exciting…’

With this doubtful accolade ringing in his ears Berners-Lee set about developing it on a NeXT workstation purchased for him at CERN.

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