Origins of Wikipedia

In 1994, when I came back to Italy, personal computers were still in their early stage.
Digital encyclopedias were not existing, to find general information you still had to look at the national encyclopedias such as Encyclopedia Britannica in English, the Enciclopedia Treccani in Italian, the Larousse in French and so on, still printed on paper and consisting in tenth of books (1).
However, a group of visionary Italian entrepreneurs, working under a brand called CARISMA whose offices were, if my memory does not fail, in Parma, proposed an international and global repository of the human knowledge that, as far as I know, would have been the mother (grand-mother is better) of the Wikipedia we are using every day.
The hearth of the project was a data repository or database kept somewhere in the world and to dedicated laptops connect through radio waves (WiFi exists from 1997).
Those laptops (2) were complete with antenna and a thermal printer.
The project did never became real, it was really ahead of time; furthermore, the technology was not yet ready for that. Another point to consider is that the access would not have been free of charge, but under a yearly subscription, whose fee would have been quite high.
However, it is worthy to note that a group of Italian visionaries envisaged Wikipedia ten years in advance. As a matter of fact, Wikipedia began in 2001 (3).

Gianluca di Castri

11/04/2020


(1) Some digital encyclopedias were existing on CD- ROM , such as Microsoft Encarta (1993)
(2) The laptops were already existing, albeit expensive and not commonly used (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_laptops). In Italy the firsty laptop was Olivetti Quaderno in 1992
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia

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