Come on, Sir Tim!
Celebrating Web 2(no point)0
The Register is proud, on this important anniversary, to be republishing that historic document for the first time, so that we can all reflect properly on Sir Tim's achievement, and feel retrospectively superior to him for the wretched syntax he devised to do HTML tables.
By the way, don't be fooled by any transparent forgeries you may find knocking around the web, this is the real dope. Ho yuss.
16th March 1989
I have been thinking about what we said down Le canard et le chien et la particule élémentaire théorique the other night. Now that I have had time to turn it over in my mind, I understand what you were getting at, and can see that it really boils down to a communications problem.
But I think I now have a solution. A solution which, like all really great ideas (if I may be pardoned for saying so - I find myself with enormous confidence in this one) has a wonderful simplicity and symmetry at its heart.
This solution that will not only impact life in our lab, but may in the fullness of time bring great contentment to many more souls in this little world of ours.
The thing is, Jacques is really going to come to terms with the fact that, yes, sometimes it IS going to be his turn to get the coffee in. He is a mere mortal, like the rest of us. He needs to come to terms with this fact.
That bridgehead achieved, I'm pretty sure Paulette won't be permanently wound up and so not go off on one every time Bertl uses her VAX terminal, which in turn will allow Torben the time to browse the experiment usage log to his heart's content instead of monopolising it whenever people want to get on. And all will be sweetness and photons in our corridor.
So would you like me to have a word in Jacques' coquille-comme? Telling him to stop being such a prat is something that not only would useful to my long term management ambitions, but also would afford me considerable personal satisfaction.
What do you say, chief? I'll be in later - we can talk about it then, if you like.
PS: On a less serious note, do you remember that time when the LEP team snagged our Mac II? And then tried to give us back that Swiss government built PC/AT clone that made a noise like a wounded hairdryer and a VDU so faint that you had to turn out all the lights to see if it was on?
Well now those wretched ISOLDE people are trying to grab our NeXT box, the cheeky monkeys. They say they want it for doing 'complex calculations and graphical simulations that animate in real time'. Yeah, right. Not because its black finish matches the Linac2 colour scheme, then.
And you know what they plan to give us back?
Only a bloody AMSTRAD!
It would be funny, if it weren't tragic.
Fear not. I have a wizard scam to out-manoeuvre the rascals. To put them off the scent, we need to come up with some high profile 'application' for the NeXT, instead of leaving it there on the shelf, switched off. Preferably something that has some pretence of being trans-departmental.
I've devised a doozy.
You will remember ages ago I knocked out a little app called Enquire on the Vax? It works quite well for organising stuff, so naturally the [nationality redacted] refuse to use it.
My idea is:
- Glue a few NeXT friendly graphics on the front of Enquire,
- Sprinkle a few software marketing terms ('hyper-' this and 'turbo-' that) to confuse the forces of darkness such as the Director and his bunch of admin zombies,
- Recode some of it in Objective C so that nobody can argue about which platform it runs on,
- Bung in the Ops manuals,
- Bung in the Unix man text - oops, I mean 'hyper-text',
- Push out the whole lot as a 'Turbo Universal Reference Document System' (TURDS for short - this part might need some more work) for the whole of the CERN network.
Neat, eh? No way is ISOLDE going to be able to touch our NeXT when she is running THAT beauty.
(By the way, have you seen Objective C? It's a scream. It's like the C language, into which somebody has melted half a pint of Smalltalk. You can bet your bottom dollar that THAT is not going to be around in 20 year's time. By then, of course, we will all be coding in Occam.)
One thing: I'll have to devise a document format, so that people can post up their documents on the system. I thought maybe some sort of highly-dilute SGML. Apart from anything else, a few angle bracket <tags> always seem to go down well with the [nationality redacted] contingent; I think they view them as some sort of tribute to Citroen.
Here are some tags I thought we could have:
<P> - mark a new paragraph
<H1>, <H2>, <H3>, <H4> etc - These indicate different levels of headings. I wonder how many I dare put in before the Director of Communications tumbles to the fact that I am mocking the awful style of his PR releases. I think <H6> would be about right; he still won't understand the joke, but everybody else will see how ridiculous it is.
<LISTING>...</LISTING> - This would be a tag which just treated our 'hyper-text' like ordinary text. This would allow us to load everything in pronto, and really get our plan to conquer the Earth rolling!
<NEXTID nnn> - This would be a mysterious tag that nobody really understood, which wouldn't work unless the software was running on a NeXT. (Fun though this 'hyper-text' is, we must not lose sight of the primary goal!)
<IMAGE SRC="Filename"> - Again, one to emphasise our need for NeXTness - a way of including images on the page.
<IMAGE_COMMENT SRC="Filename"> - This would be a way to allow people to comment on images, especially moving images. We could develop a special jargon for comments, possibly reflecting [individual's name redacted] immortal prose style, like this:
Lol! Waaay out video dude!!!!!!!! Thats got to be The. Best. Vid. Clip. Evaaaaa!!!??!!! Thats M.A.S.S.I.V.E
Although that might be taking the joke one step too far. I can't imagine a situation in which that sort of prose would get into the system!
Possibly I might even add some sort of cross-linking system, so that you can navigate from one place to another. But that part isn't too important - the main thing obviously is to secure the NeXT.
Oh, and assuming you aren't prepared to swallow TURDS (as it were), we should devise an impressive moniker for the thing - something alliterative that conjures up huge confidence and ambition. How about the Giant Global Grid? Or something with a slightly [nationality redacted] twist - always good for getting Euro-grants. How about the Magnificent Mondial Mesh?
Tell me what you think.
PPS: Sorry; seem to have got carried away there. Don't forget about Jacques and the coffee! ®