To be published in Chimia, 1998, 11/98. A Web version has been available since 4/06/98 as

A History of Hyperactive Chemistry on the Web: From Text and Images to Objects, Models and Molecular Components.

Henry S. Rzepa

Department of Chemistry, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, SW7 2AY.

Introduction: 1970-1993

A retrospective view of the development of the scientific and chemical Internet suggests that the chronology can be usefully divided into a classical period dating from around 1970 to 1993, and the modern post-1993 era. Chemists who were aware of and actively used the Internet prior to 1993 tended to have a background of theoretical or computational chemistry, or to have particular responsibilities relating to libraries or information science and retrieval. Although on-line systems such CAS were released for non-expert use as early as 1983, "point-to-point" non-standard connection methods using proprietary programs were needed. The mid 1980s also saw a minority of chemists beginning to use simple text-based electronic mail facilities available via the local "mainframe" computer and early experiments in the use of electronic journals based on full-text delivery of articles. Computational chemistry and molecular modeling techniques also began to make use of computer networks, and by the late 1980s it had become common for people working in such areas to exchange computer files using point-to-point connections to remote resources such as national computer or database centres, although it was still rare to go beyond one's national boundaries. At that stage, it was still necessary to acquire considerable expertise in using a text-editor for extracting and reformulating the information carried within these files into more useable form for local processing. This classical era was characterised by a lack of inter-operability of the information flowing via the Internet, and by a host of incompatible methods used for retrieving any chemical content and meaning from the loosely structured text and other files.1

The Changes since 1993

Several key infra-structures were introduced in 1993, which have dramatically changed the working model.