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banner Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Celebrating the world wide web and the PC
Andy Grove of Intel and Bill Gates from Microsoft pose with old and new computers
Dinosaurs of the PC age, and some old computers
August sees the celebration of two technological anniversaries that make it possible for you to read this or any other BBC News Online story.

On 12 August 1981, IBM released its 5150 personal computer. The machine is the great-great-great-great (you get the idea) grandmother of the PC you are probably reading this on.

The IBM 5150 wasn't the first desktop computer, that honour goes to the Apple I which debuted in 1976, nor did IBM even coin the term "personal computer" - that first is claimed by Hewlett-Packard.

IBM 5150
The original PC - the IBM 5150
The IBM machine wasn't very powerful - indeed a modern washing machine can process more data.

It had a measly 4.77 MHz Intel chip inside, a mere 256 kilobytes of memory and ran Microsoft's Dos 1.0, but IBM's stature gave its PC a legitimacy that other machines had lacked. Its VisiCalc spreadsheet software also made the 5150 attractive to businesses.

It kicked off an industry, an information age and the rest is almost history.

Almost. The other anniversary is less well-known but perhaps could end up having even more of a profound effect on society.

On 6 August 1991, the first draft of the world wide web protocols was posted by Tim Berners-Lee to the alt.hypertext newsgroup on Usenet. The protocols bind the web together and make it possible to leap from page to page via highlighted links.

Missing link

Mr Berners-Lee and Robert Caillou developed the protocols to help the army of scientists working at the Cern laboratory keep up with each other's research, but everyone immediately saw its wider potential.

Prior to the work of Berners-Lee, tracking down information on the internet required the patience of a saint.

The idea of a more straightforward linking and cross-referencing of electronic documents - so-called hypertext - had been around since 1945, but the 1991 WWW protocols were a practical way to make it happen.

And happen it has. In an unprecedented fashion. Which brings us to here, now and this web page.

Your comments:

Happy birthday to internet. You made my life Otherwise how can a boy of lower middle class family of India can think of becoming a doctoral student at one of the most advanced cancer research centres in the world at Washington DC, USA. Thanks to Mr Berners-Lee and Robert Caillou for giving wonderful, fast efficient non biased world. And what you can ask more, I got my fiancee through the same platform. Long live internet!
Dr. Riddhish Shah, USA at present

As an expat, living in Canada, the web and e-mail are near-perfect ways to keep in touch with friends and relatives back home. One can only dream about what other ways of communication are waiting for us in the future!
Joost van der Voort, Canada

I am a backcountry farmer in New Zealand. I also run an environmental consultancy and do freelance writing. 17 years ago I was on a party line with a crank telephone. Today the internet has literally put the world and knowledge at my fingertips. It is my intellectual tractor and I can't imagine life without it.
Ewan McGregor, New Zealand

I'm happy to hear about these anniversaries. In the meantime, I'm glad to see our systems are 100% relia
Alex, California, USA

Six months ago, I couldn't even spell "consultant", now thanks to my computer, I are one!
Dave Wethington, USA

I'd suggest that as a birthday celebration we all simultaneously crash our PCs and see if that causes an energy spike sufficient to light a few candles
Adam Bass, UK

I was 6 when the 5150 was released, I got my first PC 5 years later (an amstrad pc1512)and I have never looked utmost respect and appreciation to Mr Berners-Lee and Robert Caillou, you have shaped our society in ways nobody imagined, and made this once disjointed planet, a global village.
Joe "Webaholic" Archer, UK

Congratulations PC, and thank you for being so flaky that you enabled me to build my career around keeping you up and running.
Chris Purdy, UK

Damn IBM and its infernal meddling. I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you pesky kids
Joe Merchandise, UK

Well done men. Jolly good show.
Will Brown, UK

Jon, UK

I hate my damn computer, I wish that I could sell it. It will not do what I want it to, But only what I tell it
Richard W, UK

In celebration of these two events we invite you to send us your messages congratulating, celebrating or even cursing the PC and the world wide web by using the form below or e-mailing us at

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
See also:

14 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Web mastermind honoured
20 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
BT claims patent on web links
15 Jan 01 | Business
A head in the Loudcloud
08 Aug 01 | Business
20-year-olds ponder life without PCs
03 Aug 01 | Business
Tough times for PC firms
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