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Back From the Past: Stanford Resurrects First U.S. Website

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory created the first known U.S. website—and staff members saved the data

2 min read
Back From the Past: Stanford Resurrects First U.S. Website
The very first U.S. web page, built by researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, went live in December 1991.

In 1991, the World Wide Web was just a toddler. Tim Berners-Lee at European particle physics laboratory CERN had developed the idea two years earlier and used his NeXT computer to host web pages for the laboratory, but there were few followers. Then in December the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory put up what is thought to be the first website hosted in the United States.

Then SLAC physicist Tony Johnson saw a Web demonstration at a 1991 conference in France. He and SLAC physicist Paul Kunz, using software brought back from the conference, set up the first known U.S. web server. SLAC rolled out its first web pages between 6 and 12 December 1991.

The home page  [pictured above] had just a few lines of text and links to a phone book and a database. This web site design was quickly superseded by later versions. And that, of course was before there were any formal efforts to preserve web pages. It was before anybody knew you’d want to look at an old web page—and long before the Internet Archive started its Wayback Machine preservation effort in 1996.

But a few SLAC staff members did tuck away the code for those first versions of their website. So “Stanford Wayback,” a project that’s part of Stanford Libraries’ web archiving initiative, was able to bring the original web site back in honor of the Web’s 25th anniversary this year. They’ve also revived several other versions of the SLAC site.

It’s worth taking a moment to look and remember how far we’ve come from a few lines of text and links.

imgSLAC’s home page in September 1993.

imgSLAC’s home page in December 1997.

imgSLAC’s home page today.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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