'Wayback Machine' for the web

July 14, 2017
by Mark Ollig

It’s hot and muggy outside; the western sky is filled with heavy, black, threatening-looking clouds.

It’s also less than 14 hours before column deadline submission, so I better keep typing.

Do you remember how we navigated or browsed the World Wide Web as it was being placed over the internet during the early 1990s?

One of the first web browsers for public use was created in January 1993, at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), called NCSA Mosaic, which I used.

Netscape Communications, based in California, developed a web browser called Netscape Navigator in 1994.

This web browser soared in popularity and became widely used among internet web surfers during the 1990s.

Netscape Navigator is the forefather of today’s much-used Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Microsoft brought Internet Explorer (which it purchased from Spyglass, Inc.) to the World Wide Web table in 1995.

A few years earlier, in December 1992, Apple’s Macintosh computer began using a web browser called MacWWW, or Samba. This web browser worked with their Classic Mac OS (operating system).

The World Wide Web was just getting started in 1992.

March 1989, engineer and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

He titled it, “Information Management: A Proposal.”

Berners-Lee’s written proposal included diagrams and details explaining the benefits of having computer server software with hypertext “links” to documents and files, which could be quickly shared among other CERN researchers working in various locations.

He labeled flowchart diagrams with such keywords as hypertext, hypermedia, and hyperlinked information.

Tim Berners-Lee finished developing and testing the first web computer server in 1989.

The web page editor and browser software application program he coded for his hyper-linked, hypertext markup language operating over hypertext transport protocol was called WorldWideWeb.app.

Berners-Lee’s web application was used by CERN researchers and scientists over their networked computers in 1990.

The next year, Tim Berners-Lee’s web overly software platform application was released to the entire internet community, and thus to the world.

Through the web, we became hyper-connected with each other, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1996, the task of storing and preserving the growing number of webpages from the internet was started by an organization called the Internet Archive.

This organization began with a mission to preserve past and current internet webpages so future generations could look back and see their contents of information as originally presented.

“The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet – a new medium with major historical significance – and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past,” stated their original mission statement.

Each day, the Internet Archive collects, organizes, catalogs, and preserves web content from numerous websites on the internet.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization supported by donations.

This organization preserves and stores digital records for future generations, and offers historians, students, researchers, and you and me access to many thousands of digitally-saved historical collections.

These free collections contain a treasure trove of photographs, books, movies, music, audio files, software, educational and historical references, and archived internet web pages.

I think of the Internet Archive as a sort of “digital web time capsule.”

Looking back at those early websites, I was reminded how easy-to-read and uncluttered a web page looked 20 years ago.

In 2000, the Internet Archive began storing television news and related media at https://archive.org/details/tv.

Consider this: The total number of users of the Internet Archive website for the month of July 1996 was 16.

This past June, there were 83,836 users of the website.

The total number of recorded Internet Archive users from July 1996 to today is 3.7 billion.

I recall a 1960s television cartoon featuring a boy named Sherman and an ultra-intelligent dog named Mr. Peabody, using a time machine to personally experience and participate in famous historical events.

This cartoon used a clever and entertaining approach for teaching children history using the WABAC Machine, pronounced, “Wayback Machine.”

The Internet Archive has its own Wayback Machine containing some 300 billion web pages collected since 1996.

To use the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, go to https://archive.org.

A large list containing its “Top Collections at the Archive” can be seen at http://bit.ly/Z523GP.

You can upload data to be archived and searchable by the public; such as I have done.

To begin uploading videos, text, audio, or images you want saved for future generations, first obtain your Internet Archive virtual library card at http://bit.ly/2gxWGJV.

My presence on Twitter began “way back” in February 2008. Follow me there at @bitsandbytes.

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