Lysator Seminar Series

24/10: Creativity & Coincidence: CERN, the Web and the Internet

With Ben Segal, CERN

Now that the Internet has exploded in popularity on a world wide scale, with a major component of its success (WWW) being developed at CERN, we can look back and learn a lot by examining its history of gradual acceptance at CERN and elsewhere.

The Web was prototyped and promoted by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989-91, and accepted world wide by 1993-94. But of course, before the Web's appeal could trigger Internet penetration into the most remote and unexpected places, the US-developed Internet protocols had first to be adopted at CERN, as well as in other key sites in Europe and later in such influential organizations as the ITU and ISO in Geneva. This was a political as well as a technical challenge.

Even before this, some earlier developments were needed to enable this: standards for computer systems themselves, and in programming techniques; standards in network and computer hardware; and finally a change in mentality, among both manufacturers and users, for them to allow, and nowadays insist, that their systems should be able to communicate freely. (Today, we see similar phenomena occurring in the emergence of Linux).

A fascinating element in technological change is the factor of accident or coincidence, often traceable to a personal event or a chance meeting. Being very well acquainted with the people involved, Ben Segal was ideally placed to observe the interplay of technical, personal and political elements at CERN and elsewhere that helped bring about this major part of today's Information Revolution.

Ben Segal is British, graduated in Physics and Mathematics in 1958 from Imperial College London. He's been at CERN since 1971 where he works in the Physics Data Processing (PDP) Group of the IT Division.

NOTE: This talk will be given in auditorium C4, not Estraden. Time: 18:15 - 20:00.

This talk is presented in cooperation with NSC's 2nd Workshop on Linux Clusters for Super Computing (Oct 25-26), http://www.nsc.liu.se/lcsc/. Please visit their web page if you want to attend.

UppLYSning is arranged by Lysator in cooperation with the Department of Computer and Information Science.