The World Wide Web, as it once was seen

Tim-Berners-Lee’s 1989 vision of the World-Wide Web, as seen through a green-screen terminal such as a Cybernex XL-87.

You can see the first version of the World-Wide Web at the CERN website. They simulate the experience as if you were looking at the pages through a green-screen terminal such as one of the old Cybernex XL87s. Illustrated is part of a screenshot, but clicking on the graphic will actually bring you there.

CERN is a research facility in Europe having more to do with physics than with computers. They set up web pages back then to communicate with other physicists and provide links to their graphics files, which they had to download and view some other way, often through an 8-bit color screen if they had one available. In the late 1980s, graphical user interfaces (GUIs) were just emerging, with the first X-Windows installations available on university machines such as a Sun Microsystems computer. Apple soon came up with the first GUI for mass market, soon followed by Microsoft Windows.

In those days, the World-Wide Web ran alongside Gopher, which also ran on a text-based terminal. Gopher is pretty dead these days, having been bested by the promise of the hypertext protocol. What passed for search engines were called Archie, Jughead and Veronica. Archie was an FTP search service, while Jughead did searches within a single server. Veronica allowed you to search nearly any link available on the Gopher network.

And what was Gopher? Gopher was a text-only system of what can be best called links, which led to text documents, binary files, or other resources.

WAIS, the Wide-Area Information Servers, were also available and allowed for text searches for widely distributed documents on many servers, similar to Gopher and Veronica. All of these protocols gave way to HTTP and the world-wide web in the early 1990s.