Where is the missing NeXT optical drive?

I was talking with Robert Cailliau this morning about our project to restore the first website. He mentioned an interesting anecdote that could possibly lead us to an earlier version of the first website, but it’s a long shot.

In 1997 Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT machine was shipped out to Santa Clara in California for the sixth World Wide Web Conference.

When the NeXT was returned by mail (via Stanford, I believe), the machine’s optical read-write drive was missing. This drive contained a 1990 version of the first website.

The NeXT had a removable drive module that looked like this.

It’s a long shot, but does anyone have any ideas on how we might trace such a thing? Would the NeXT’s serial number lead us to a matching drive number range? Is anyone using this thing as a paperweight?

4 Responses to Where is the missing NeXT optical drive?

  1. Shane Hudson says:

    This sounds promising, and kind of feels like something out of a story. A missing drive? Containing the original files?

    I would say a good place to start is by contacting the organisers of the conference, most of them should be fairly easy to find. Somebody might remember something, though obviously make sure not to accuse them of stealing it!

    If you would like me to go through the organisers and try to email them, I can do.

  2. Dan Noyes says:

    Hi Shane,

    You can try, although efforts were made at the time to locate it, of course. I’m assuming it simply went missing – it’s quite a small item and would have easily got misplaced.

  3. Bebo White says:

    Dan,
    This is the first that I have heard re: the possible loss of the optical drive during WWW6. I did handle that equipment (since I was conference co-chair) and would have tried to insure at that time that all items were returned. Had the issue arisen sooner (not almost 20 years later), we might have pursued it. Clearly there is no chance now.

    I do know of optical drives (professing to be originals) at Rose-Hulman (Bill Pickett & Chadd Taylor) and UNC (Paul Jones).

    • Dan Noyes says:

      Hi Bebo,

      Thanks for the update. As I said, it was a long shot putting out a call for information after all this time…

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