cyber history collection
and timeline @ tranquileye







































Since the late-1980s I have been collecting texts and images that represent the history of the Internet, and in particular what used to be called "'Net culture" or "cyberculture." Here are a bunch of those texts; many can also be found at hacker\culture. I didn't write any of these files, and I don't claim ownership of them.

Let me know what you think.

~ John Stevenson


No claim of copyright is hereby stated.
Last updated 2001 09 07.

Part of the tranquileye family of Web sites.

Film critic Roget Ebert asks: "Time for a Net obituary or a celebration?"

"The Internet Bubble has been compared to the Tulip Craze, when 17th-century investors bid the price of Dutch bulbs to insane heights. Both bubbles burst. The collapse of the Internet economy was inevitable, and clears the way for sane and reasonable rebuilding. Good news: There are more tulips in the world than ever before."


Pyra launches Blogger, a simple Web content management tool for creating weblogs.


A screenshot of the Yahoo! home page, 1997. The most popular Web destination of the 1990s, Yahoo! defined an entire genre of Internet resource: the portal.

Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden of Wired Magazine predict "The Long Boom"

"We are watching the beginnings of a global economic boom on a scale never experienced before. We have entered a period of sustained growth that could eventually double the world's economy every dozen years and bring increasing prosperity for - quite literally - billions of people on the planet. We are riding the early waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world. And we'll do it without blowing the lid off the environment."

One of the reasons for the growth in interest in the Internet in the early and mid-1990s was community networks, or FreeNets. In his prophetic "How to wreck a community network", Seattle Community Network founder Doug Schuler explains some of the ways that community networking projects can come unraveled., the first big online retail project, and its first interface.

Hotwired, the first high profile Web magazine.

Frequently Asked Questions about USENET

"This document discusses some questions and topics that occur
repeatedly on USENET. They frequently are submitted by new users, and
result in many followups, sometimes swamping groups for weeks. The
purpose of this note is to head off these annoying events by answering
some questions and warning about the inevitable consequence of asking
others. If you don't like these answers, let the poster of this
article know."


NCSA What's New page for Mosaic was the first weblog of sorts, presenting news on new Web servers and Internet services.

Overhearing the Internet

By Robert Wright of the Voice of America. "Surely you've heard of the Internet. Almost surely you hadn't heard of it a
year ago."

The Project Gutenberg E-Text of Bruce Sterling's Hacker Crackdown

In 1993, Science Fiction author Bruce Sterling aimed his considerable writing talents to dissecting and understanding all the forces at work between Hackers, police, and the people they've had an effect on. He does a very admirable job. While no book (so far) has captured the 1980's computer hacker experience perfectly, this book makes you come away with a feeling that the major issues were touched on and that no-one (on either side) got the short shaft. (This is a major accomplishment in itself.) Sterling is an excellent writer, and while compared to other works in this directory this textfile is a bit on the mammoth side, it's worth it. This file also highlights the work of the great Project Gutenberg, which for 20 years has endeavored to transcribe as many classic works to electronic texts as their staff of volunteers will let them.

The First Web Cam

In 1991, a group of thirsty researchers at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory pointed a camera at a coffee pot and wrote custom software to allow the image to be displayed on all their screens. In 1993, Dan Gordon modified the original system to allow it to respond to web requests. With Maryyn Johnson, he connected it to the web, and XCoffee is transformed into the first webcam.

Slides from a Cern presentation on the World-Wide Web, 1992 or 1993.

World-Wide Web: The Information Universe, Berners-Lee, Cailliau, Groff, and Pollermann of CERN.

Preprint of an article that appeared in Electronic Networking: Research, Applications and Policy, Vol 1 No 2, Meckler, Westport CT, Spring 1992.

"The World-Wide Web (W3) initiative is a practical project to bring a global information universe into existence using available technology. This article describes the aims, data model, and protocols needed to implement the ªwebº, and compares them with various contemporary systems."

Getting Started: When this page was first written (1992?) people had only occasionally heard of the Web. Many more people had access to FTP and Telnet than a good web browser. The W3C has stopped providing some of the "bootstrap" services which were necessary initially to spread the word.

W3 Software: This is a list of products related to the WWW project with a link to a status summary of each one. For list of previous milestones, releases, etc, see the "Features" list for each product, linked to the wish lists.

W3 vs WAIS and Gopher: What's the difference betwen W3 and WAIS? What's the difference between W3 and Gopher? Why invent yet another system? Which one should I use?


How it really happened... by Richard Bartle

Bartle writes about early multi-user dungeons, or MUDs.

The first web browser - or browser-editor rather - was created by Tim Berners-Lee and called "WorldWideWeb" as in 1990 it was the only way to see the web. Much later it was renamed Nexus in order to save confusion between the program and the abstract information space (which is now spelled with spaces). The differences between this screenshot of WWW and the 1990 version:

  • The whole thing would have been grey scale as NeXTs were at the time just grey scale;

  • The inline images such as the world/book icon and the CERN icon, would have been displayed in separate windows, as it didn't at first do inline images.

Information Management: A Proposal

Tim Berners-Lee, at CERN proposes the creation of what would become the World Wide Web, March 1989.

"This proposal concerns the management of general information about accelerators and experiments at CERN. It discusses the problems of loss of information about complex evolving systems and derives a solution based on a distributed hypertext system."

The Robert Morris Internet Worm

On November 2, 1988, Robert Morris, Jr., a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell, wrote an experimental, self-replicating, self-propagating program called a worm and injected it into the Internet.

The Internet Worm Program: An Analysis,
by Eugene H. Spafford 1988

The Internet Worm changed a lot of minds about how interconnected and insecure the Internet was at that time. Using a combination of weaknesses and back doors in common programs, the Worm wended its way throughout the then-small Net and succeeded in crippling it. This document, written during the aftermath, presents a well-thought-out analysis of all the methodology used by the worm, as well as a general oversight of the state of the Internet of the time. Long, but worth it.

Due to geographic location and vocation, my online experience didn't start until the mid-1980s. Halifax, Nova Scotia, had a small but thriving BBS scene, and one of the most interesting boards was the Digitalis Graphic Omniscient Device, or G.O.D. The board ran a massive multiplayer space exploration and trade game. And, oddly enough, after 14 years the server seems to still be up.


The Conscience of a Hacker, by The Mentor (January 8, 1986)

The Mentor's angry scream against the authorities he saw as trying to crush his spark and the spark of people like him. For some reason, this file became the flashpoint that a number of books (including Bruce Sterling's) used as an example of the oppression of the intelligent and the motivations behind the fine art of hacking. Whether it stands up to this sort of light or not, it's a clear statement from someone who feels a lot of pain; and that's what communication is all about.

Phrack Magazine Volume One, Issue One, edited by Taran King (November 17, 1985)

The Phreaking/Hacking magazine that changed everything. While other electronic magazines existed before Phrack, none took the voice of the underground and presented itself as such a dominating, matter-of-fact entity as the Phracks have. Through the years, Phrack has always been dependable as a solidly-written, interest-gathering, packed-with-talent compilation of hot topics going throughout the Hacker Underground as most people have come to understand it. Electronic zines as a general force were usually created so that individual writers' work wouldn't get lost in the wash of sites; by hooking up with a dozen other articles, relatively monstrous 50k-100k files could stand out from the endless grouping of 2k and 15k files that others were putting out. It worked.. very few people don't remember Phrack in some fashion if they were involved in BBSes in the late 80's.


An Apple for the Captain, by Steven Wozniak (October 1, 1984)

BIOC Agent 003 transcribes an Infoworld article that mentions a funny story about Captain Crunch (John Draper), an employee of Apple, reprogramming an Apple II so that it would dial up PBX lines to get free phone codes. In a few short paragraphs, Steven Wozniak describes Phone Phreaking with an innocent sense of fun and exploration, using common technology.

Hackers coverSteven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution published. The book details the creation of the personal computer industry from its hobbiest roots. (Doubleday/Anchor, 1984)

Whatever Happened to REAL Bulletin-Board Systems?

What strikes me about this file was that it was written around 1982 and decries how out-of-touch, vicious, and impersonal the BBS world has grown for the writer. Note the interesting reasons he gives for the downturn of BBS's.

Soul of a New Machine coverTracy Kidder publishes The Soul of a New Machine. The book tracks a team of engineers at Data General Corporation working on an innovative new computer. It follows the life of the project and those involved in it for over a year, from the background of the undertaking until its completion. During this time, the social and professional situations undergo different phases, some quite dramatic. Kidder does a superb work of capturing their essence, and combining them into a coherent account. The result is a gripping tale of of hope and anxiety, of will power and despair, and of immense dedication.


ARPANET Map, March 1977

These maps are from Heart, F., McKenzie, A., McQuillian, J., and Walden, D., ARPANET Completion Report, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Burlington, MA, January 4, 1978.

Bill Gates' Open Letter to Hobbyists

1976 request from Bill Gates that users of the Altair personal computer stop pirating Altair BASIC.

Computer Lib coverTed Nelson's computer classic Computer Lib/Dream Machines is self published. Theodor Nelson is an academic and computer visionary who is generally credited with creating the term "hypertext" in 1965. While hypertext had been conceived of as early as the 1940s, Nelson was the first to construct it within the context of the emerging computer technologies of the 1960s and 70s as a new mode of publication.

The word "visionary" gets thrown around quite a bit when one talks about computers and the Internet: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos ... all visionaries. And then you read this book, which originally appeared in the 1970s, based on ideas Nelson developed in the 1960s, and you discover what visionary really means.

Dream Machines is a bona fide computer culture classic; it is shocking that such an influential and important book is out of print.


ARPANET Map, December 1969

These maps are from Heart, F., McKenzie, A., McQuillian, J., and Walden, D., ARPANET Completion Report, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Burlington, MA, January 4, 1978.


As We May Think by Vannevar Bush, 1945.

In 1945 Vannevar Bush (1894-1974) published 'As We May Think' in The Atlantic Monthly. A condensed, illustrated version was published in Life later the same year. In these articles Bush reflected on how technology could help solve the problems of post-war society. He was particularly concerned about the explosion of scientific information and describes, among other thing, a device, or rather system of devices, that could be used to help researchers search, record, analyze, and communicate information. These descriptions, and Bush's accompanying account of how new tools could radically change the nature of intellectual work, were rich and compelling. Today almost every litany of the pioneers of hypertext, computer-supported-cooperative work, or interface theory begins with Bush and his extraordinarily influential 'As We May Think'.


The Atlantic cable of 1858 was established to carry instantaneous communications across the ocean for the first time.

Although the laying of this first cable was seen as a landmark event in society, it was a technical failure. It only remained in service a few days.

Subsequent cables laid in 1866 were completely successful and compare to events like the moon landing of a century later. The cable remained in use for almost 100 years.