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InventorTim Berners-Lee

ENQUIRE was a software project written in 1980 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN,[2] which was the predecessor to the World Wide Web.[2][3][4] It was a simple hypertext program[4] that had some of the same ideas as the Web and the Semantic Web but was different in several important ways.

According to Berners-Lee, the name was inspired by the title of an old how-to book, Enquire Within Upon Everything.[2][3][5]

The conditions

Around 1980, approximately 10,000 people were working at CERN with different hardware, software and individual requirements. Much work was done by email and file exchange.[4] The scientists needed to keep track of different things[3] and different projects became involved with each other.[2] Berners-Lee started to work for 6 months on 23 June 1980 at CERN while he developed ENQUIRE.[6] The requirements for setting up a new system were compatibility with different networks, disk formats, data formats, and character encoding schemes, which made any attempt to transfer information between dissimilar systems a daunting and generally impractical task.[7] The different hypertext-systems before ENQUIRE were not passing these requirements i.e. Memex and NLS.[7]

Difference to HyperCard

ENQUIRE was similar to Apple's HyperCard which also lacked clickable text and was not "hypertext", but ENQUIRE lacked an image rendering system.[1] The advantage was that it was portable and ran on different systems.[1]

Differences to the World Wide Web

Documentation of the RPC project                       (concept)

  Most of the documentation is available on VMS, with the two
  principle manuals being stored in the CERNDOC system.

   1) includes: The VAX/NOTES conference VXCERN::RPC
   2) includes: Test and Example suite
   3) includes: RPC BUG LISTS
   4) includes: RPC System: Implementation Guide
      Information for maintenance, porting, etc.
   5) includes: Suggested Development Strategy for RPC Applications
   6) includes: "Notes on RPC", Draft 1, 20 feb 86
   7) includes: "Notes on Proposed RPC Development" 18 Feb 86
   8) includes: RPC User Manual
      How to build and run a distributed system.
   9) includes: Draft Specifications and Implementation Notes
  10) includes: The RPC HELP facility

Help  Display  Select  Back  Quit Mark  Goto_mark  Link  Add  Edit
A screen in an ENQUIRE scheme.[1]

ENQUIRE had pages called cards and hyperlinks within the cards. The links had different meanings and about a dozen relationships which were displayed to the creator, things, documents and groups described by the card. The relationship between the links could be seen by everybody explaining what the need of the link was or what happen if a card was removed.[4] Everybody was allowed to add new cards but they always needed an existing card.[6]

Relationship Inverse Relationship
made was made by
includes is part of
uses is used by
describes is described by

ENQUIRE was closer to a modern wiki than to a web site:

  • database, though a closed system (all of the data could be taken as a workable whole)[2]
  • bidirectional hyperlinks (in Wikipedia and MediaWiki, this is approximated by the What links here feature). This bidirectionality allows ideas, notes, etc. to link to each other without the author being aware of this. In a way, they (or, at least, their relationships) get a life of their own.[4][8]
  • direct editing of the server (like wikis and CMS/blogs)[2]
  • ease of compositing, particularly when it comes to hyperlinking.[2]

The World Wide Web was created to unify the different existing systems at CERN like ENQUIRE, the CERNDOC, VAX/VMS Notes and the USENET.[1]

Why ENQUIRE failed

Berners-Lee came back to CERN in 1984 and intensively used his own system.[1][4] He realized that most of the time coordinating the project was to keep information up to date.[4] He recognized that a system similar to ENQUIRE was needed, "but accessible to everybody."[4] There was a need that people be able to create cards independent of others and to link to other cards without updating the linked card. This idea is the big difference and the cornerstone to the World Wide Web.[4] Berners-Lee didn't make ENQUIRE suitable for other persons to use the system successfully, and in other CERN divisions there were similar situations to the division he was in.[1] Another problem was that external links, for example to existing databases, weren't allowed, and that the system wasn't powerful enough to handle enough connections to the database.[1][2]

Further development stopped because Berners-Lee gave the ENQUIRE disc to Robert Cailliau, who had been working under Brian Carpenter before he left CERN. Carpenter suspects that the disc was reused for other purposes since nobody was later available to do further work on ENQUIRE.[9]


The application ran on terminal with plaintext 24x80.[4] The first version was able to hyperlink between files.[2] ENQUIRE was written in the Pascal programming language and implemented on a Norsk Data NORD-10 under SINTRAN III,[2][4][6][8][9] and version 2 was later ported to MS-DOS and to VAX/VMS.[2][4]

See also

  • Gopher (protocol) - another hypertext protocol
  • History of the Internet
  • History of the World Wide Web
  • NLS (computer system)
  • Project Xanadu


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Berners-Lee, Tim (May 1990). "Information Management: A Proposal". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Berners-Lee, Tim. "Frequently asked questions — Start of the web: Influences". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Jeffery, Simon; Fenn, Chris; Smith, Bobbie; Coumbe, John (23 October 2009). "A people's history of the internet: from Arpanet in 1969 to today" (Flash). London: The Guardian. pp. See 1980. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Berners-Lee, Tim (c. 1993). "A Brief History of the Web". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  5. ^ Finkelstein, Prof. Anthony (15 August 2003). "ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING". ICT Portal. BBC. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "History of the Web". Oxford Brookes University. 2002. Archived from the original on 25 September 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  7. ^ a b Berners-Lee, Tim (August 1996). "The World Wide Web: Past, Present and Future". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  8. ^ a b Cailliau, Robert (1995). "A Little History of the World Wide Web". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  9. ^ a b Palmer, Sean B.; Berners-Lee, Tim (February–March 2001). "Enquire Manual — In HyperText". Retrieved 30 August 2010.

Further reading

  • Berners-Lee, Tim (2000). Weaving the web. The original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web. New York: Harper Business.

By: Wikipedia.org
Edited: 2021-06-18 19:10:54
Source: Wikipedia.org