Happy 25th Birthday, World Wide Web!

March 12, 2014

World Wide Web 25TH Anniversary logo. Happy 25 birthday, WWW, March 12 1989 to 2014Twenty-five years ago on March 12, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, wrote a paper proposing the system now known as the World Wide Web. (Left: 25 Years logo courtesy Marketing Magazine UK.) It was originally conceived and developed as an improved means for instantaneous information-sharing between scientists around the world.

From DOD’s ARPANet to an Internet

The Internet itself had actually started as a creation of the U.S. Government’s Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) together with U.S. universities. It was in response to the Cold War need for a backup communications method in case the traditional phone networks were knocked out. The resulting mainframe-to-mainframe computer network in 1969 was called ARPANet, the foundation for today’s Internet. (Read the History Channel’s history of the invention of the Internet here.) Soon, other organizations, mostly universities and military, created their own private networks. When the University College in London and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway) connected to ARPANET in 1973, the term Internet was born.

In 1974, the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) was launched with the introduction of a commercial version of ARPANET, known as Telenet, thus expanding the availability of the Internet. After the introduction of a new protocol called TCP/IP by computer scientists Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn (called “The Fathers of the Internet”) in 1974, diverse computer networks could easily interconnect with each other, transforming the “Internet” into a truly global network by the end of the 1970s.

However, by 1990, frustrated CERN scientists were using the text-only Internet with its bulletin boards and limited mainframe messaging, but it was not user-friendly for either the end users or the publishers of content.

From a text-only Internet to a graphical World Wide Web

After Berners-Lee’s proposal received the go-ahead from his boss at CERN, he went on to write software in his spare time, creating the first World Wide Web server (“httpd”) and the first web client “WorldWideWeb.”

This “World Wide Web browser” was a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) hypertext browser/editor that would install on their client (end user) computers, providing them with the first graphical interface for accessing Internet content (think of clicking on hyperlinks, viewing  photos and other graphical images, seeing text in different fonts, colors and sizes).

The World Wide Web was launched publicly on August 6, 1991, forever after providing the world a way to “browse the World Wide Web.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee First World Wide Web Server 1990

Image: This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1990-1 as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. Source: Wikipedia

In a guest blog post today on Google’s official blog, Sir Tim Berners-Lee explains the results of his World Wide Web idea:

In 1993, after much urging, CERN declared that WWW technology would be available to all, without paying royalties, forever.

This decision enabled tens of thousands to start working together to build the web. Now, about 40 percent of us are connected and creating online. The web has generated trillions of dollars of economic value, transformed education and healthcare and activated many new movements for democracy around the world. And we’re just getting started.

So, thank you, Sir Tim! The rest, as they say, is history.

Below is a timeline of Internet history from 1990 to 2007:

Internet timeline including World Wide Web and social media. Courtesy: Harbott.com

Internet timeline including World Wide Web and social media. Courtesy: Harbott.com

GPO’s History on the World Wide Web

GPO is joining in the celebration by commemorating our own moments in World Wide Web history:

1993:    The Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 was enacted (Public Law 103-40).

1994:    GPO Access launched (available by subscription; free to Federal depository libraries)

1995:    GPO Access became free to all users.

1995:    GPO began selling Government publications online with its “Sales Product Catalog” (now the site known as the U.S. Government Bookstore)

1996:    GPO’s Federal Depository Library Program Web site, “FDLP Administration,” launched (later named the FDLP Desktop and now FDLP.gov)

2000:    GPO’s kids’ site, Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government, launched.

Image: Home page of Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids as of March 12, 2014.

Image: Home page of Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids as of March 12, 2014.

2006:    The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, launched.

2009:    GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) launched.

2010:    GPO entered the world of social media, first with the launch of its YouTube Channel.

2013:      GPO relaunches its newly redesigned U.S. Government Bookstore ecommerce site at http://bookstore.gpo.gov/.

BEFORE (U.S. Government Online Bookstore 2000):

US_ Government_Online Bookstore_Wayback-Machine_20000708

Image: Snapshot of the home page of the U.S. Government Online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gov/ as of July 8, 2000. Source: Internet Archive Wayback Machine http://archive.org/web/

AFTER (U.S. Government Online Bookstore today in 2014):

Image: Today's U.S. Government Online Bookstore home page as of March 12, 2014.

Image: Today’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore home page http://bookstore.gpo.gov/ as of March 12, 2014.

To see how your favorite websites looked in years past, visit the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at http://archive.org/web/ which archives snapshots of web pages since the World Wide Web launched.

Federal Publications for the Digital Age

The U.S. Government Online Bookstore carries a number of Federal publications that highlight the triumphs and the challenges of the digital age.

A History of Army Communications and Electronics at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, 1917-2007 (Hardcover) or Ebook  ISBN: 9780160813597 or 9780160869105One interesting read is, “A History of Army Communications and Electronics at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, 1917-2007 (Hardcover) and eBook.” This book details ninety years of communications-electronics achievements carried out by the scientists, engineers, logisticians and support staff at Fort Monmouth, NJ. It’s a fascinating read, as it details communications ranging from homing pigeons to frequency hopping tactical radios!

YouTube War: Fighting in a World of Cameras in Every Cell Phone and Photoshop on Every Computer by US Army War College & Strategic Studies InstituteAlso check out “YouTube War: Fighting in a World of Cameras in Every Cell Phone and Photoshop on Every Computer,” from the U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute. This publication discusses the digital environment in which we live that enables terrorists to film and instantly share their attacks within minutes of staging them. It also describes possible courses of action for the Army and the U.S. military as they seek to respond to an enemy in this type of environment.

Computers Take Flight: A History of NASA's Pioneering Digital Fly-by-wire Project ISBN: 9780160914423You might also be interested in, “Computers Take Flight: A History Of NASA’s Pioneering Digital Fly-by-wire Project.” This book details the flight research project which validated the principal concepts of all-electric flight control systems now used on nearly all modern high-performance aircraft and on military and civilian transports.

These, and a wide array of other interesting publications on related topics, can be found by browsing the U.S. Government Bookstore under the “Computers and Electronics” category. In addition, the World Wide Web has made obtaining eBooks possible, so our wide selection of free and/or inexpensive eBooks for consumers, industry, academia, military, law enforcement, legal community and more would be worth viewing as well.

How can I get these technology-related Federal publications?

  • Shop Online Anytime: You can buy this eBook or any other eBook, as well as print publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:
  • Order by Phone: You may also Order print editions by calling our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. (Librarians: You can find the records for most titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or CGP.)

About the authors: Guest blogger Kelly Seifert, Lead Planning Specialist for GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division, writes about the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday and the array of Government publications available on the topics of computers and electronics.

Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram. Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public. A computer scientist and digital expert, Bartram remembers those early pre-WWW days using mainframe-based Internet and email and then using a web browser to “surf” the World Wide Web for the first time.

Losing our Shared National Experience?

October 31, 2011

Our blog post last week talked about GPO’s 150-year history of keeping America informed. But what does this mean in today’s media-saturated world?

Has the proliferation of media eroded our shared national experience?

[Figure 1. U.S. History Collage. Image courtesy of Mrs. Rice’s American History II class, Lexington High School, Lexington, Ohio.

Two weeks ago in a social media seminar for Federal Government, David Kirkpatrick (technology writer for the Daily Beast and Fortune magazine and author of a new insider book on Facebook) gave some startling statistics: 50% of Facebook’s 800 million users worldwide visit Facebook daily and up to 500 million have accessed Facebook on a single day, with the average Facebook user having over 130 “friends.”

But even more surprising, he said that 50% of Americans today now get their news and analysis about important events— sometimes edited or changed as it is passed along— from friends and family, often via social networks, text or email rather than from traditional media sources.

Prior to the 21st century, when Americans had only a few national media choices and limited local media, we would all receive the same original message at the same time, thus creating a shared American experience.

Today, in the U.S. alone Americans can choose to receive information from any of an estimated 1,476 daily newspapers; 1,500 television stations; 10,322 radio stations; 71 million cable television subscribers with hundreds of TV channels each; and more than 12 billion web pages and social media.

Kirkpatrick and others say the combination of the “Facebook effect”, media proliferation, and message selectivity have contributed to the erosion of our common, shared national experience.

GPO’s role in preserving our common American experience

As we mentioned in our blog last week, GPO’s mission for over 150 years has been “Keeping America Informed” about the three branches of the Federal Government.  This mission drives us to ensure the original information produced by Federal Agencies on behalf of the American people can be found by all Americans now and in the future.

What’s involved in capturing and disseminating our common Governmental information? It starts with gathering the content from Federal Agencies and publishing it in a professional format, whether print or digital. It then continues with authenticating the information to ensure Americans are getting the “genuine” unaltered information; creating permanent records with our catalog teams for our own FDSys digital database and Catalog of Government Publications; distributing these records to libraries in our Federal Depository Library Program and to worldwide library databases like WorldCat; and sending physical copies and/or ebooks to libraries, bookstores and book etailers.

View this video for an inside look at how GPO assembles and prints the Congressional Record—the official record of the proceedings, debates, and activities of Congress.

To keep America informed digitally, we allow users to subscribe to email newsletters by topic and are also now on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and Yelp.

GPO Publications about shared American experiences

Here are some of my favorite Federal publications GPO has published that document significant shared American experiences over the past century. Do you remember when and how you learned of these events?

What are some of the significant national experiences that you will never forget and how did you learn about them and share them with others?

We would love to hear from you!


About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.

A new history of GPO – hot off the press

June 15, 2011

As I mentioned some months ago, 2011 marks the U.S. Government Printing Office’s 150th anniversary. Since no history of the agency has been written since 100 GPO Years in 1961, and a great deal has happened to both GPO and the Nation since then, Keeping America Informed: The U.S. Government Printing Office, 150 Years of Service to the Nation is a welcome addition to a relatively sparse collection of books on the subject. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the editorial group that worked on this book and I wrote several of the sidebars scattered throughout – whew, glad to get that off my chest!)

Perhaps because GPO still is at its original location at the corner of North Capitol and H Streets Northwest, just down the street from the U.S. Capitol, it has a remarkable collection of photographs of its buildings, equipment, and especially people. Those photographs really make this new book something special. It’s impressive and oddly moving to see the printers of a century ago gazing solemnly at the camera, “getting the books out” just as we do here today. For many readers, these images will put a human face on a little-known but vital aspect of the Government.

The text is impressive, too. In the 50 year since the last GPO history was published, a lot has happened. There are triumphs (the transition from hot metal to computer typesetting, the advent of the digital age and the Internet, GPO Access and the Federal Digital System) and frank discussions of controversial matters (the McCarthy era investigations of GPO, the 1968 riots that disrupted nearby neighborhoods). There is also more information on aspects of the more distant past, such as GPO’s reluctant role in Theodore Roosevelt’s abortive attempt to simplify the spelling of words in Government documents – and the editorial cartoonists had just as much fun with it then as they would now!

Since I’ve referenced my own peripheral role, I would be lax if I didn’t mention that George Barnum, GPO’s Historian, and Andy Sherman, our Chief Communications Officer, used both primary and secondary sources to turn what easily could have been a turgid “official history” into a clear, readable narrative. George also did a great job of selecting the photos. One of the book’s key sources was a series of articles diligently researched by Dan MacGilvray, a former GPO Historian. Dean Gardei’s book design skills contributed mightily and GPO craftsmen produced a first-rate final product, as always. To quote Don Ritchie, the Senate Historian, “Congratulations on all this work, it’s a great achievement.” 

Above all, Keeping America Informed does a masterful job of showing how GPO has used the best technology available to ensure the dissemination of Federal Government information to the American people – from the original printings of the Emancipation Proclamation and the UN Charter to online versions of today’s Congressional Record and the Federal Register. You can get a copy here.  It’s also available via GPO’s Federal Digital System here. As to which sidebars I wrote, I’d be interested in your guesses!

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