Posted by: doctornuke | December 18, 2010

A Half-Century of Technology – part 2

So when last I wrote I was in graduate school but not yet surfing. Email was evolving and networking had grabbed a solid foothold. Ethernet wires were being run through the ceilings and everything was being connected. At home, I was able to borrow a dub terminal from school, and access the university computers with a 300 bps modem! Since only ASCII data was being transmitted, with go graphics whatsoever, this was acceptably fast.

I began my first job at the Westinghouse Savannah River Site in 1989. By this time, computers were all networked together. SRS was heavily Macintosh based in individual offices, with a number of VAX machines for larger-scale computer, along with a horrendous legacy IBM mainframe running MVS. SRS had developed a text-based graphical user interface for data entry for reactor analysis, where the user could move between fields using arrow keys and tabs; data was stored in a database for later retrieval and modification. Calculations could be executed from within JOSHUA.

In around 1991, Apple introduced Mac OS 7.0, introducing personal file sharing. It became a simple matter to maintain a shared repository for files, and to exchange files and data over the network. At home, Compuserve, a text-based networking service appeared, followed shortly by several semi-graphical dialup services – we subscribed to Prodigy and America Online at different times. Somewhere around this time the first web browser, Mosaic, was introduced. Mosaic simplified some file transfer protocols, such as FTP, and introduced HTML, where simple text and images could be easily combined on a page that would be formatted by the local machine. I saw some early HTML, and recognized the value for documentation where jumping between “pages” could be accomplished using hyperlinks – this would be a great way to follow a non-linear path through a document without having to go through the whole document, or to jump between related documents. Interesting concept, I thought, but I didn’t see it going anywhere. I certainly didn’t see it becoming the basis for the internet as we know it today!

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