UNC professor holds piece of internet history

When the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) began a project to archive the birth of the internet, they discovered that they didn’t have the earliest copies of the first web page ever made.

Fortunately for the research organization, Paul Jones, a clinical professor at UNC, has a copy on his computer on campus.

Jones said beginning in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist, circulated a disk with one of the first copies of what is known today as the World Wide Web.

It was a set of pages that linked to one another and could be viewed and edited on any computer within CERN.

Jones said Berners-Lee didn’t start keeping copies of his work until 1992, so when Dan Noyes, the current web manager at the research organization, began a project to preserve and archive the birth of the web last month, he found there was no copy of Berners-Lee’s first version of the World Wide Web.

Jones said he heard about the quest for an earlier version of the website from Noyes, and he announced on Twitter that he had a copy.

Jones said he not only has a copy of the site on his computer, but has also uploaded it to ibiblio.org, an online public library at UNC.

Jones said he copied the site onto his computer when Berners-Lee visited UNC on his way to a conference in San Antonio, Texas, in 1991, because he saw value in it.

“I can see far into the future,” Jones said.

“I understood its true value. Besides that, I rarely just toss stuff out that isn’t taking up too much room.”

R.E. Bergquist, an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science, said there is almost nothing about the world of technology and popular culture that Jones doesn’t know.

“He is an archive of information unto himself,” Bergquist said in an email.

“A visit to his office always entails noticing something in the room that is astoundingly interesting, and there is always an even more interesting story behind it.”

Wanda Monroe, the director of communications for the School of Information and Library Science, said Jones has always been ahead of the times.

“I was working at the University of Michigan in the Computing Research Center in the early ’90s,” Monroe said.

“I kept getting emails from this guy at (ibiblio.org). He was sending things like ‘The Three Stooges’ and other graphics.

“Before, all we had was screens with black backgrounds and green text, so this was very cool. That person … was Paul Jones.”

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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