Stanford’s Linear Accelerator Laboratory operates the longest particle accelerator of its kind — it’s produced ground-breaking work in particle physics over the decades, as well as several Nobel prizes. But surprisingly, it also played a major role in the early web: By hosting the first web site in the US. It wasn’t much to look at, but that’s not important.
Of course, the world wide web was the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee, who proposed the concept while he was working as a fellow at CERN. But in 1989, one Stanford physicist named Tony Johnson watched Tim Berners-Lee present the web at a conference in France — and brought back the idea to California. “I first saw a demonstration of the web at a conference in Southern France in 1991,” Johnson said in Stanford News this week in a story about the school’s Wayback archive site. “I immediately thought that it would be a great way of sharing information on the Internet.”
Together with a colleague named Paul Kunz, they set up the first web server outside of Europe in December of 1991. That included America’s first web page, a utilitarian affair that included an address book and a help site you see above. The web grew fast, and four years later, they had spruced it up quite a bit, adding a jazzy graphic of particles colliding and even a photo:
As Allison Meier points out on Hyperallergic, this year is the web’s 25th birthday, which means that SLAC and other early web players are taking a moment to reflect. That includes the White House, which put up this amazing specimen as its first internet presence: