ENQUIRE was a software project written in 1980 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, which was the predecessor to the World Wide Web. It was a simple hypertext program that had some of the same ideas as the Web and the Semantic Web but was different in several important ways.
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. The scientists needed to keep track of different things and different projects became involved with each other. Berners-Lee started to work for 6 months on 23 June 1980 at CERN while he developed ENQUIRE. 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. The different hypertext-systems before ENQUIRE were not passing these requirements i.e. Memex and NLS.
ENQUIRE was similar to Apple's HyperCard which also lacked clickable text and was not "hypertext", but ENQUIRE lacked an image rendering system. The advantage was that it was portable and ran on different systems.
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. Everybody was allowed to add new cards but they always needed an existing card.
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ENQUIRE was closer to a modern wiki than to a web site:
Berners-Lee came back to CERN in 1984 and intensively used his own system. He realized that most of the time coordinating the project was to keep information up to date. He recognized that a system similar to ENQUIRE was needed, "but accessible to everybody." 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. 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. 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.
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.
The application ran on terminal with plaintext 24x80. The first version was able to hyperlink between files. ENQUIRE was written in the Pascal programming language and implemented on a Norsk Data NORD-10 under SINTRAN III, and version 2 was later ported to MS-DOS and to VAX/VMS.
Edited: 2021-06-18 19:10:54