One day, about 30 years ago, a young scientist comes to my Princeton University office (330 Jadwin) – coat tails flying because he has to catch a cab to the airport but wants to tell me something before leaving the building. He asks if I want to learn HTML. “H. T. M. L.? Hmm, what is that, and why would I want to learn it”, I ask. He quickly rattles off something about linking text and bending over my keyboard quickly shows me some code, then rushes out with, ‘it’s really easy, just study the code and you’ll see what it does’. Then he’s gone and on his way back to CERN, leaving me bewildered, wondering what just happened. A few minutes later I begin to unravel what he tried to tell me, and that’s it for me: my brain is permanently rewired to think in terms of seeing words or strings of words as gateways to more information.
Wow, where do I begin to tell you about Usenet, Gopher, Veronica and Jughead, Lynx, and all those others of yesteryear that passed before our favorite browser of today. I can only tell you the way I remember it. You might remember and know things differently and I will gladly stand corrected. To be continued . . .
[A bit of introspection here: A few short years after the internet crawled out of strictly academia into the public domain, the world has never been the same; somehow though, in spite of my close ties to those super exciting early beginnings, the fond memories, and my fondness of organizing information into easily digestible chunks, I sometimes catch myself projecting into the future, and I reminisce about a gentler, less connected world, and I wonder. . . where is the line between ‘we can’ and, ‘but should we’].