The Web at 25: an Invention with World-wide Impact

On this day 25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, wrote a paper proposing a system of information management that eventually became the concept and architecture of the World Wide Web. Lee’s system was originally designed to help run a particle accelerator at the CERN facility in Switzerland.

Less than two years later, Lee made a unique gift to the world on Christmas Day 1990 by releasing the code to his system for free.

Although Lee’s system was not technically the same as the Internet – which is a series of rules and protocols—the Web as envisioned by Lee today allows ordinary users to access files hosted on other computers around the globe so that all of us can enjoy a virtually infinite amount of data. It is arguably the most important invention of the 20th Century.

A project by Pew Research shows that 87 percent of adults are regular users of the Internet. It has transformed the way we work, how we get our news, how and how frequently we communicate with other people, the way we care for our health, and of course, the way we shop for and purchase goods.

In keeping with our track record for innovation, in 1986 Hammacher Schlemmer became one of the first retailers to sell its products on the Internet, teaming up with CompuServe. The Internet certainly has transformed Hammacher Schlemmer, taking us from our one store in New York City to being at the fingertips of users everywhere. It makes available our selection of unique gifts—the Best, the Only and the Unexpected83791_1000x1000—to computer users at any time and any place.

The recent evolution of the Internet is mobile use, with Pew’s research reporting that 68 percent of American adults say they access the Internet at least occasionally on a cell phone or tablet. As the Internet continues to evolve, many experts think the next step is the “Internet of Things” connecting our appliances, vehicles, data and more, allowing devices to connect to and “talk” to each other.

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