The Web Imagined in 1934 Using Index Cards, Telegraphs, and Other Analog Tools

In 1934, Belgian Paul Otlet wrote a book in which he envisioned a worldwide "mechanical, collective brain" that would store and make accessible the world's knowledge. By that time, he had created with co-visionary Henri La Fontaine a "database" of over 12 million index cards and was responding to over 1,500 queries a year. Unfortunately, the project's sponsor, the Belgian government, withdrew support, the Nazis invaded, they displaced the project to make way for a Third Reich art exhibit, and Otlet died in relative obscurity in 1944.

Read more about it at "Paul Otlet," The Universe of Information: the Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organisation, "Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Hypertext," and "The Web Time Forgot."

Remembering Mosiac, the Web Browser That Changed Everything

If you have never had to use a standalone FTP client, a standalone Telnet client, a Gopher client, or a standalone USENET client, it might be hard to imagine what the Internet was like before Mosiac, the Web browser that put the World-Wide Web on the map and transformed the Internet (and the world). Go dig up a copy of The Internet for Everyone: A Guide for Users and Providers out of your library’s stacks, dust it off, and marvel at how far we have come since 1993. You’ll also meet Archie, Veronica, and WAIS, the Googles of their day.

Another way to travel back in time is to read PC Magazine‘s 1994 review of the NCSA Mosaic for Windows, and, if you really want a history lesson, download Mosaic from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (yes, it’s still available). Also take a look at the NCSA’s About NCSA Mosaic page.

To finish off your journey to the Internet’s Paleolithic age, check out the Timeline of Web Browsers and Hobbes’ Internet Timeline v8.2.

Of course, if you do remember these seemingly ancient technologies, you can easily imagine how primitive today’s hot technologies, such as Web 2.0, will seem in 14 years, and you may wonder whether future generations will remember them clearly or as a minor footnote in technological history.