This year is the 30th, or Pearl, anniversary of something quite important..
You may be old enough to remember David Lange being New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Gorbachev initiating ‘Perestroika’ in the USSR, Pan Am Flight 103 being blown up in mid-air over Lockerbie in Scotland, Ayrton Senna clinching his first World Formula One Championship for McLaren-Honda, or be able to conjure-up a vivid image of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 sitting on the tarmac in Hawaii, minus half its upper fuselage, whether you can or can’t remember, all those things happened in 1988.
But in that year a far more world-changing event went almost unheralded. That year the existence of the Internet was first noted. 30 years on makes it the Internet’s Pearl anniversary. The initial reference was tucked away at the back of a newspaper’s financial section. It didn’t warrant a major news headline, because no-one at the time had any idea of how all-pervasive it would become.
A report, in the Washington Post recorded that; "SMS Data Products Group Inc… won a $1,005,048 contract from the Air Force to supply a defense data network internet protocol router." – whatever that meant. It wasn’t the year of the birth of the internet concept - that had been gestating and morphing through various forms for the previous 20 or so years - but it was the first time the word “internet” had emerged into daylight.
A couple of years later, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, an English scientist working at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research)in Geneva, wrote a program as a "memory substitute," to help him remember the connections between various people and projects at the lab and a multitude of researchers around the world.
The bureaucracy at CERN was slow to recognise his efforts at finding a way to link data between the many incompatible systems within the organization, so he turned to the nascent Internet community for support. In 1991, he made his WorldWideWeb browser and his web server software available - on whatever of the Internet was then in place - and posted notices to several newsgroups. The idea began to take off as more and more propeller-heads in his network around the world began setting up their own web servers. His dream of a freely accessible global information space was finally happening.
From an arcane concept, known only to a few denizens in the rarified world of particle physics, usage of the internet grew slowly at first, then exponentially from the mid 1990s. From about 16 million users worldwide in 1995, the number has exploded to embrace almost 55% of the world’s population (4.2 billion) by the end of 2017.