What better way to re-launch my eelearning blog than in celebration of the 25th Birthday of the World Wide Web this past Saturday. On August 6, 1991 Sir Tim Berners-Lee published the first web page on the Internet and the real world would never be the same.
(The image above is one of my favorite artifacts from internet history. It represents the basic scope of the Internet as of June 18, 1985)
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey (Fox & Rainie, 2014) noted the widespread impact the Web has had on U.S. society, with 87% of American adults using the internet and 39% of them reporting it is essential for their livelihood.
But let me paint a picture for you.
25 years ago I was in my first year as Acquisitions Editor for Academic ESL at Heinle & Heinle. I don’t remember the exact specifics, but if we had computers for employees to
use, they were 4 Mac Classics with no real hard drive that were shared by everyone on the editorial team, sales reports and budgets were done in Lotus 1-2-3 (before WYSIWYG)
The company had a receptionist (Hi Martha Liebs!) whom through all incoming telephone calls came and she would redirect to the appropriate person or “take a message.” Those of us who traveled for the company, we would, at least one day, have to call Martha to “get our messages.” The messages were stored on small pieces of paper – hopefully in legible handwriting.
Authors would send us a large stack of manuscript pages, which we would then make physical copies of (the copy room was a very busy and important part of the organization) the manuscript which would be sent by snail mail to 5 – 15 reviewers, who would write their comments on those pieces of paper and send them back to us. The editorial team would then consolidate all of those comments, authors would then revise the manuscript, and more piles of paper would be printed, copied and mailed back and forth.
As for those of us who traveled, there were very few ATMs at that point and online banking, of course, wasn’t around. So we had to get cash advances from the company before we left on our travels. Your travel agent became your best friend – working to find you the best deals for flight, hotels, rental cars – providing you with a printed itinerary with all your reservation information. Some even provided you with a printed, customized set of maps to your destination if you were driving!
Sending out a mailing to a group of our customers or authors often became a “come have pizza and stuff envelops” event for the entire company.
You get the picture. The pace of change has been startling. I can’t imagine life or work without the World Wide Web and Internet. Yes, jobs have been eliminated. There are very few receptionists and copy rooms are gone. But more jobs have been created. Communications and the ability to live and work across time and space have been radically changed.
So happy birthday, World Wide Web!