The Electronic Revolution

.. lity of complimentary technological developments that allow the resolution of fundamental problems. 9 We can also see how Corporate Research Laboratories (the first by GE, 1901) play an important role to organized technological developments. We know that technological advancements have been the greatest single source of economic growth. It creates entirely new products which in turn supports the improving quality of our material lives.

At the same time we may find a resistance to change by people who are faced with new technologies. Weather it be in some form of a guild, simply a lack of understanding, or to preserve the old fashion way of life. The Internet has emerged as a huge, rich source of information accessible only via a series of not-so-friendly interfaces. Telnet, FTP, Archie, WAIS, and even E-Mail, (to name a few) are powerful, but complex systems. The rapid growth of the Internet’s user base has resulted in an increasing number of people who have neither the patience nor the desire to learn the intricacies of these interfaces. Even those who know them, however, are aware that easier systems can very quickly result in greater productivity. Enter the World Wide Web, the conceptualized system that would allow users to access information across computer networks in a standardized, attractive, accessible, and user friendly format.

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1992 was a year that we first saw the development of two browsers to interact with Internet interfaces via the World Wide Web server at the Geneva Lab. These browsers were presented to various organizations and audiences. By 1993 there was fifty Web servers in existence and traffic on the Web increased approximately 10 fold by mid 1993. By October 1993 there was approximately 500 servers. The Web again, was rapidly moving forward.

1994: The New York Times continually published articles about the Web and it’s potential uses. A browser was developed by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University for the use with Microsoft Windows. Development of systems to “Secure The Web” were in place and the licensing of browsers to commercial developers, such as Netscape Communications took hold. 12 Web browsers that take full advantage of this new technology make the Internet easy to use. It is not hard to see where the history of attractiveness and usability has come from in the computing world. Essentially, the World Wide Web and its browsers have done for the Internet in 1994 what the Macintosh did for the personal computer ten years before. (But that’s another Electronic’s Revolution story!) Simply put, people could use Macintoshes easily, and that’s something that was never true of the IBM PC or its mainframe predecessors.

The Mac hid the difficulties of the command-line with a bunch of objects you could click on with a mouse. When Microsoft released Windows 3.0 with its icons and point-and-click interface, the masses indeed took over. Now with World Wide Web browsers that offer an interface that is as easy to use as the computer itself, the Web threatens to overtake all Internet use. Perhaps, if not already, the most important Internet tool of all, electronic mail. The development of technology is an inherently dynamic and cumulative process. Dynamic, because a technology is never perfect; there is always room for improvement.

Cumulative, because for one advance paves the way for another. 10 Remember the Tim Berners-Lee proposal; the World Wide Web, it was simply termed a “hypertext system. It became more than that. In our definition of what the World Wide Web is, it explains that the Web is a cleverly designed collection of technologies. These technologies provided the Web team with materials, tools, and most importantly a knowledge base for the next stage of develoment. This allows for the very real possibilities that other technologies will soon merge from it.

The Internet, it was said, is in need of a “killer app”(advanced application). It needs one tool, one program, one application that would take it from being a much- hyped but difficult-to-use linking of computers around the world to being a highly informative, highly usable database and communication tool. The spreadsheet was the killer app for PCs a long time ago, but so far the Net doesn’t have one. Some have given killer app status to the popular program Mosaic, but Mosaic still has it’s difficulties and limitations. The same holds true for the equally popular Netscape Navigator, which also has been touted as a killer app, and for all the various, alternative and commercial Web browsers that have hit the market over the past year.

The true killer app of the Internet remains somewhere around the corner, and nobody knows if just one killer app can handle the Internets complexity. Until we have one, we simply will not know. What the Internet does have, however, is a killer concept – the World Wide Web. In only a few short years of its existence, the Web has captured the imagination of data searchers and information surfers alike. Is its popularity difficult to understand? The World Wide Web provides the technology needed to offer a navigable, attractive interface for the Internet’s vast array of resources, in much the same way that the tool bar on a word processor screen obscures the intimidating codes that the program actually consists of. Given the Net’s history of nearly impenetrable commands and procedures, and the trend in today’s software to hide complexity behind usable interfaces, this capability is essential if the Net is to become a mainstream set of applications.

Have we or will we be affected by the World Wide Web and does this play a part in what the future may hold? Due to the needs and requirements necessary for the World Wide Web, we have seen, and will see, the Electronic’s Industry grow and expand. We currently use the Web for graphical design of information, dissemination of research (the original purpose of the Internet and the Web proposal), browsing and ordering products, client and customer support, and the display of creative art. For any technology, it’s impossible to predict the future. No sooner are the predictions made than the technology develops unexpected adherents and unforeseen uses. This was the case with Sarnof and the television.

But trends can count for something, and the Web has revealed nothing if not a series of trends toward future use. Let us at look some current use’s and present some ideas to be explored. Publishing: A wide range of publishers have already appeared on the Web. Selected articles from newspapers, magazines, and special groups are common place. Soon everything ranging from children’s books to full magazines. Voting: With the White House and other governments accessing and providing information(FEDWORLD) 11, it seems only a matter of time until the Web can be used for voting.

Live Entertainment: With the Web, entertainment can be interactive. Why not visit a comedy club on amateur night in another state where you can participate with your own material. We can now view video on the Web but much like television it is presentational only. News: The problem with today’s newsgroups is that we get the news they want us to have. With the Web we can select the news and the region that interest’s us.

Education: We now can access research papers from universities and colleges, and view a limited amount of information from their libraries. 6 Soon we will be able to register on-line for courses, and submit term papers and exams. If you answered no to the question of has it or will affect our lives, you may want to rethink that and turn to our children of today, the leaders of tomorrow, and ask the question to them. There are many other applications not mentioned, but you can see the possibilities, and with each possibility comes a new user, a new entrepreneur, a new company or corporation. We can not say for sure how the road will be traveled.

What’s certain is that the World Wide Web is extremely flexible, and that its capabilities have not even begun to be explored. Hopefully. the next time you log onto the Web, or even for your first time, and you see the address, www.., it should have a whole new meaning for you! ** Excluding the required reading necessary to reference quotes, all other material used to write this paper was gathered from the Web. 5 Technology.