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Video of Bob Frankston's tour of the WWW in 1994
A video I took of the screen as Bob Frankston surfed the web in May 1994 with NCSA Mosaic
In June of 1994 I was "volunteered" to lead a session on technology or something for alumni at my year-15 reunion at Harvard Business School. There were some classmates who were going to speak about satellite TV, as I recall. I asked my friend Bob Frankston if I could make a videotape of some stuff he had in his office that I could show, too.

At the time Bob was working for Microsoft, which he continued doing for a few years. While his job was officially in Redmond, he managed to spend about half-time at home in Newton, Massachusetts, "commuting" to work every month. He spent a lot of time on airplanes, both to Microsoft and to conferences. This actually worked out well for Microsoft. Bob's home became the prototype for home networking (which he helped push and steer), leading to Microsoft adopting DHCP support and other things so home networks, as they still do today, generally "just work" and don't require a sys-admin or constant rebooting and reconfiguring when you walk in with a new device like corporate networks of the day often did.

Bob was enamored by these new things -- the commercial Internet, the World Wide Web, and such. (When he was at Lotus Development Corporation years before, the computer that handled "lotus.com" for this new fangled thing called Internet email was on his desk. When he acquired the domain "lotus.com", as he recalls, "microsoft.com" was still available but he didn't take it, too.)

I set up my camera and he took me on a tour of the web using the NCSA Mosaic browser. He had an ISDN telephone line that gave him a data connection to Microsoft across the country. Microsoft had a connection to the Internet. Loading each page, due to latencies and bandwidth, took about a minute, so I usually stopped the camera while we waited.

Bob showed how there were directories of links. The links could be clicked on and those pages may have other links, and so on. In one part he starts at the MIT SIPB web page (he was a co-founder of the Student Information Processing Board -- SIPB -- in the 1960's that helped students get "free" computing time in the days when that was rare). Eventually he shows the page of a researcher at Microsoft which links back to MIT and then the SIPB page (SIPB ran the MIT web site at the time). To my audience at HBS, who were generally computer naive, this non-hierarchy of the web was something to emphasize.

In hindsight, he showed lots of important aspects of the web in their early stage: Directories of links, weather and other maps that can be clicked on for more information, online shopping, sports reporting, and government information (from the White House, thanks to Al Gore and his staff -- yes, Al Gore was always pushing things that helped the Internet).

This was May 30, 1994. Netscape was founded less than two months before. In the video you see NCSA Mosaic (Marc Andreesen led the team that developed Mosaic before leaving to co-found Netscape and build a browser there).

Here's the video:
The video was a hit at my reunion. A few of the people who saw it told me years later that it inspired them to become involved with Internet-related endeavors.

Here it is, 19 years later, and I hope this video shows today's developers, many of whom were still in diapers when this happened and can't imagine a world without the web, how basic and painfully slow it was when it started and how visionary you had to be to believe it would end up what it is today.

-Dan Bricklin, 29 June 2013


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