Tim Berners-Lee as a Graduate Trainee and the Birth of the World Wide Web
I knew Sir Tim When he was a Graduate Trainee
Tim Berners-Lee is widely known as the inventor of the World-Wide Web and therefore the most significant Internet pioneer. Well, I worked with Tim when he was just a graduate trainee!
He and his then wife Jane joined Plessey Telecommunications in Poole, England in 1976 and. despite a First from Oxford in Physics, Tim was refreshingly down-to-earth in manner and appearance.
He was good looking with no horn-rimmed specs. Nor did he wear an anorak. Why someone so dazzlingly bright chose to work at Plessey is a bit of a mystery. The pay was modest and Plessey wasn't particularly entrepreneurial but Tim and Jane fitted in well in the thriving Plessey social scene.
Tim worked in the so called 'Maths Lab', a bit of a geeky backwater, where he messed about with distributed transaction systems, message relays, and bar code technology. This private venture stuff wasn't Plessey's forte and two years later Tim moved on to another local firm where he wrote typesetting software for intelligent printers, and a multitasking operating system.
The great Innovator
Tim was one of those people who never just follow in other people's footsteps but totally reinvent solutions to problems. He designed his own computer architecture from scratch while an undergraduate.
He hand-built the machine, based on the 6800 chip, using a soldering iron. It was this originality of approach which eventually led him to add a GUI interface to the Internet and invent HTML and the concept of the World Wide Web.
He then spent a year and a half as an independent consultant included a six month stint as consultant software engineer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Hence Tim is probably the most famous software contractor ever!
Whilst there, he wrote, for his own private use, a program named "Enquire". Although never published, this program formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the World Wide Web.
World Wide Web
From 1981 until 1984, he was a founding Director of Image Computer Systems Ltd. Work here included real time control firmware, graphics and communications software, and a generic macro language.
In 1984, he took up a fellowship at CERN to work on distributed real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control.
In 1989, he proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web. Based on the earlier "Enquire" work, it was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents.
He wrote the first World Wide Web server and the first client, a wysiwyg hypertext browser, in 1990. The program "WorldWideWeb" was first made available on the Internet in the summer of 1991. The rest, as they say, is history.
The location of the Plessey factory where Tim was a Graduate Trainee
So where is Sir Tim today?
Tim Berners-Lee holds the 3Com Founders chair and is a Senior Research Scientist at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He is co-Director of the new Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) and is a Chair in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southampton, UK. He also directs the World Wide Web Consortium, founded in 1994
In 1989 he invented the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990. His specifications of URIs, HTTP and HTML were refined as Web technology spread.
In 2001 he became a fellow of the Royal Society. He has been the recipient of several international awards including the Japan Prize, the Prince of Asturias Foundation Prize, the Millennium Technology Prize and Germany's Die Quadriga award. In 2004 he was knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth.
Click to Image To Enlarge!
The only Momento
I only have one memento of my association with the Great Coder, now revered by net surfers world-wide. My wife is a horder (God bless her) and kept her Plessey leaving card.
There in the top left corner of the right hand page, amid 50 or so 'also rans' in the world of software, is written "Good luck! Tim and Jane Berners-Lee".
No HTML in sight. It's a shame that even software superstars seem to struggle to find anything significant to write on a leaving card!