The Electronic Revolution

The Electronic Revolution THE ELECTRONIC REVOLUTION We are all aware of the first and second industrial revolutions as described in our Text: “Technology and American Society, and how they have influenced our lives and cultures today. This material has been presented in a limited amount so we may have an understanding of the major technological transformations of the last three centuries and the causes and effects of technological change. 1 I will present in this paper a limited view of a subject not covered or classified, which (if not already) has affected our lives.

Even though the Electronic Revolution is a broad statement in itself, and may have different meanings to many people, I will concentrate on one aspect of this Electronic Revolution; “The World Wide Web. But what is the World Wide Web? Where did it come from, and why is it so popular and so potentially important? Is it a system of both communications and publication? How does it work, what effect does it have on our lives, and what can we expect in its future? These are the questions I will attempt to answer. The Industrial Revolution dominated the economy.Half of the population contributed to the manufacturing of man-made goods. The enactment of the Patent Law of 1790, the improvements with our infrastructure, and the availability of a vast array of natural resources entered us into the modern era of the factory, and rapid technological change. The Second Industrial Revolution was of course related to the first except for it’s growth, which was even faster. Major developments with the internal combustion engine, electricity, chemicals, continued improvements of transportation and the organized research lab propelled us into the Twentieth Century.

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The Electronic Revolution, related to both revolutions has produced technological changes even more rapidly than the first two.Major developments with metallurgy, solar and nuclear power, circuit boards, microprocessors, and the establishment of the “Information Highway” will beam us into the Twenty First Century. Technological change is often dependent on existing needs, and does not emerge all at once. That the rate and amount of technological changes are influenced by outside sources other than the specific technology at hand. One of these outside influences is our political climate, and how the laws of government can have an impact on the rate, amount, type, and by whom technology is developed. The Clinton administration, shortly after Bill’s inaugural address, had paved the way for a specific technology to advance at a high rate of speed.By vowing the government’s commitment via dedicating funds for research and development, instituting certain corporate tax breaks, and creating the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) 2, to support his much-hyped information superhighway (or, more properly, Global Information Infrastructure). Thus “The World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web is among the most rapidly adopted technological entities of a century that has seen many changes, and understanding it might be crucial for understanding the next century. The World Wide Web dates back to March of 1989. In that month, Tim Berners- Lee of Geneva’s European Particle Physics Laboratory constructed a proposal to develop a “hypertext system” for the purpose of enabling efficient and easy information sharing throughout the world’s researchers in the field of High Energy Physics.3 The basic proposal consisted of these components: ? A consistent user interface. (Availability) ? The ability to incorporate a wide range of technologies and document types.

? A “universal readership”; that is, anyone on the network, on a different computer, could read the same document as anyone else, and could do so easily. (Standardization) This idea would allow collaborative researchers to present their research, complete with texts, graphics, illustrations, and ultimately sound, video, and other means as required. October 1990: almost a year later, the project was presented again with some minor changes.

Two months later the project began to take shape. Work began on the first “line browser” for the World Wide Web (WWW or Web), and by the end of 1990 this browser and a browser for the “NeXTStep operating system were well on the way. 3 March 1991: now two years later after the original proposal, the first WWW browser saw limited network use, and two months later, the WWW browser was extensively in use at Geneva’s European Particle Physics Laboratories, and the Web was off and running. By October 1991: merely ten months after starting work on the project, seminars, workshops and newsgroup announcements were held about the Web. In addition, this brought the installation of the gateway for Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS) searches (Now known as WAISgate, a critical development for the Web’s future as a search and browsing tool).

With his proposal it seems that Tim Berners-Lee had a technological break- through of the century at hand even though he was improving on existing technology. As we have seen from our lessons, technological achievements are often a result of past technological advances that were previously discovered or improved. Such a case being the discovery of a Penicillin strain by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Even though three men had received the Nobel Prize for penicillin, women had discovered the mold’s usefulness centuries ago. (Halsbury 1971, 19; Raper 1952, 1) One individual, Elizabeth Stone, an early antibiotic therapist specialized in treating lumberjack’s wounds with poultices of moldy bread in warm milk or water, “she never lost a patient” (Stellman 1977, 87).8 By the end of 1991, Geneva’s European Particle Physics Laboratory, made the Web available to the High Energy Physics community. It is important to realize that the Web is a concept, not a program, a system, not even a specific protocol.It might be more accurate to call it an interface, or even a meta-interface (meta: (Greek) after; an interface that incorporates other interfaces).

However, words with meta as a prefix went out of favor during the early nineties. Calling the World Wide Web a concept, however, does not actually answer the question of what the Web is and what previous technologies it uses. To due so we will look at three areas: Hypertext, Internet, and Multimedia.

This will help us understand both the World Wide Webs past and future. Hypertext was introduced back in the seventies by the sometimes visionary, sometimes flaky, and always provocative Ted Nelson.13 Hypertext is extremely simple.

A hypertext document is one that provides clearly visible links to other documents in a hypertext computer environment. Selecting a link in one document moves you directly to another. Not entirely completed, it was Nelson’s vision to link all the world’s information in a huge hyperlink system. The Internet (Net)is a global system of networked computers that allows user- to-user communication and transfer of data files from one computer to any other on the network.Multimedia is the combination of presentational technologies in an effort to appeal to as many of our senses as possible, by drawing on graphics, sounds, animation, and video to create a full, rich computing experience.

The World Wide Web has been described as a “network information delivery system” or “distributed information system. Neither really tells us what it is. Lets try this: “The World Wide Web is a convergence of computational technologies for presenting and linking information dispersed across the internet in an easily accessible way”. 4 The World Wide Web contains the technologies necessary to give the Internet a pretty face. While certainly in need of further development, the Web lets information presenters place graphics, sound, and video within a page, and users with a direct, high-speed connection can download them quickly enough to feel the full effects of the interactive relationship with the computer.Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how the World Wide Web was started, what it is, how rapidly it developed, and how the need of a certain group (the High Energy Physics community) developed an advanced technology of an existing one so it may benefit.

Quite often, a technological leap forward takes place because of the availabi …