||The history of every great invention is based
on a lot of pre-history. In the case of the World-Wide Web, there are
two lines to be traced: the development ofhypertext, or the computer-aided reading of electronic
documents, and the development of the Internet
protocols which made the global network
by Robert Cailliau, Text
of a speech delivered at the
launching of the European branch of the W3 Consortium, Paris, November 1995
Robert Cailliau: "How It Really
in the beginning was - chaos.
In the same way that the theory of high energy physics
interactions was itself in a
chaotic state up until the early 1970's, so was the so-called area of "Data
Communications" at CERN. The variety of different techniques, media and
protocols used was staggering; open warfare existed
between many manufacturers' proprietary systems, various
home-made systems (including CERN's own "FOCUS" and "CERNET"),
and the then rudimentary efforts at defining open or
The Stage is Set
- early 1980's.
To my knowledge, the first time any "Internet
Protocol" was used at CERN was during the second phase of the STELLA
Satellite Communication Project, from 1981-83, when a satellite channel was used to link
remote segments of two early local area networks (namely "CERNET",
running between CERN and Pisa, and a Cambridge Ring network running
between CERN and Rutherford Laboratory). This was certainly inspired by the ARPA
IP model, known to the Italian members of the STELLA collaboration (CNUCE, Pisa)
who had ARPA connections...
TCP/IP Introduced at
In August, 1984 I wrote a proposal to the
SW Group Leader, Les Robertson, for the establishment of a pilot project to install and
evaluate TCP/IP protocols on some key non-Unix machines at CERN including the central
IBM-VM mainframe and a VAX VMS system....
CERN had become the largest Internet site in Europe
and this fact, as mentioned above, positively influenced the acceptance and spread of
Internet techniques both in Europe and elsewhere...
A key result of all these
happenings was that by 1989 CERN's Internet facility was ready to become the medium within which Tim Berners-Lee would create the World
Wide Web with a truly visionary idea. In fact an entire culture had developed at CERN around "distributed
computing", and Tim had himself contributed in the area of Remote
Procedure Call (RPC), thereby mastering several of the tools that he needed to
synthesize the Web such as software portability techniques and network and socket
programming. But there were many other details too, like how simple it had become to
configure a state of the art workstation for Internet use (in this case Tim's NeXT machine which he showed me
while he was setting it up in his office), and how once on the
Internet it was possible to attract collaborators to
contribute effort where that was lacking at CERN.
By Ben M. Segal / CERN PDP-NS /
The WWW's Baker:
Who is this
|| Ben Segal: I'm
British, graduated in Physics and Mathematics in 1958 from Imperial College, London, then
worked for the UK Atomic Energy Authority and later in the USA for the Detroit Edison
Company on fast breeder reactor development. I've been at CERN since 1971, after finishing
my Ph.D. at Stanford University in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering...
Except for a
sabbatical in 1977, when I worked at Bell Northern
Research in Palo Alto on a PABX development project (and
encountered UNIX for the first time), CERN has kept me
pretty busy on
, including the
coordinated introduction of the Internet Protocols at
CERN beginning in 1985.
What does it mean: CERN?
We've received the email-question from one of our readers:
... forwarded it to Ben and have got the following
The acronym "CERN" stands for "Centre European
pour la Recherche Nucleaire", the original French name of the organization.
More recently it was felt that "Nucleaire" implied reactor or even
military applications, so the name of the organization was changed to the ""European
Laboratory for Particle Physics" but the acronym was left as it was.
Confusing, isn't it?
CERN is now the world's largest research laboratory with over 50%of all the active particle physicists in the
world taking part in over 120
different research projects. 3000 staff members, 420 young
students and fellows supported by the Organization and
5000 visiting physicists, engineers, computer
experts and scientists specializing in a variety of front-line technologies are
collaborating with CERN from 40 countries and 371
scientific institutions .
Binding together the creativity of so many different nationalities,
backgrounds and fields of research...
... has established CERN as the global centre for High
Energy Physics and set a
precedent in scientific
collaboration which has been followed by Europe's other fundamental research
organizations (ESO, ESA, EMBL, ESRF)...
"Scientific research lives and
flourishes in an atmosphere of freedom - freedom to doubt, freedom to enquire and freedom to discover.
These are the conditions under which this new laboratory has been established"; these were the words written in 1954 by
Sir Ben Lockspeiser, first President of the CERN Council.
This is the atmosphere in which CERN has flourished for 40 years and in which the Organization looks forward to continuing successfully into
as a Side Effect
of the 40 years of Particle Physics Experiments.
The fragment from author (G.R.G.) email
discussions with Ben Segal
It happened many times during history of science that the
most impressive results of large scale scientific efforts appeared far away from the main
directions of those efforts.
I hope you agree that Web was a side effect
of the CERN's scientific agenda.
After the World War 2 the nuclear centers of almost all
developed countries became the places with the highest concentration of talented
For about four decades many of them were invited to the
international CERN's Laboratories.
So specific kind of the CERN's intellectual "entire culture"
(as you called it) was constantly growing from one generation of the
scientists and engineers to another.
When the concentration of the human talents per square foot
of the CERN's Labs reached the critical mass, it caused an intellectual
The Web, -- crucial point of human's history, was
Nothing could be compared to it.
You wrote the best about it: "synergy, serendipity and
We cant imagine yet the real scale of the recent shake,
because there has not been so fast growing multi-dimension social-economic
processes in human history...
P.S. It is quite remarkable that "Highlights of CERN
History: 1949 - 1994" do not have a word about Web. So, it
looks like a classic side effect that normally is not be mentioned at the main text
of official record...
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 08:47:54 +0200
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ben Segal)
Subject: Gregory, here are some CERN...
>I hope you agree that Web was a side effect of the CERN's scientific agenda.
Absolutely! (And it was not 100% appreciated by the masters of CERN,
the physicists and accelerator builders, that such a "side effect" with world
shaking consequences was born in the obscure bit of the organization that handled
computing, a relatively low-status activity...).