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ENQUIRE

Last Edit: 10/01/17

In the early 1980's, Tim Berners-Lee created a computer program, named ENQUIRE, that would develop some of the concepts that would form the basis for the development of the World Wide Web in the late 1980's. Berners-Lee was a computer scientist who worked periodically for CERN during the 1980's, and he previously studied, and graduated, from Queen's College, Oxford University.

The code for the ENQUIRE program was written during 1980, and it was based around hypertext; just like the World Wide Web. Hypertext was pioneered in the 1960's by Douglas Engelbart for his NLS computer system. The purpose of ENQUIRE was to develop a document system for CERN: so that scientists, working on 'interlocking' projects could easily find documents related to their research.

The ENQUIRE system was composed of 'cards'; which can be likened to a webpages. The cards of ENQUIRE included hyperlinks which linked to other cards. The problem with ENQUIRE was creating independent cards - a user needed an existing card to create a new card - and the problem of updating cards due to ENQUIRE using bi-directional hyperlinks. The hierarchy of ENQUIRE was too rigid and lacked accessibility.

However, Berners-Lee was inspired to create the World Wide Web from his earlier work on ENQUIRE, and to build a hypertext system that would solve the 'problems' that hampered the development and accessibility of ENQUIRE. The World Wide Web would be composed of unidirectional hyperlinks: which meant that hyperlinks would only need to operate in a single direction, unlike with bi-directional hyperlinks that operate in two directions, and requires the original card/page to be updated when a new card/page is created.

ENQUIRE ultimately proved a failure - in terms of it being implemented within the research divisions of CERN - but it was vital for providing a conceptual basis for the future World Wide Web. It is believed that the original ENQUIRE program - that was stored on a diskette - was overwritten by either Brian Carpenter or Robert Cailliau during the mid 1980's.