30 Years of Electronic Publishing

It was in 1989 that the first database of accredited English courses "EFL Coursefinder" came into being. That was also the year that Tim Berners-Lee invented the "world wide web" - something which we (personally) first became aware of in 1994. Nobody had heard of Google, the biggest Internet player was probably Compuserve (and many of us had used email and "listservers" and "gophers" for several years already), and the French would be happy with the Minitel for many years to come. But it was a key moment in English language course information publishing.

Early Years

For the first few years we published the data by distributing 5.25" and 3.5" disks; the data had no pictures, no videos, no enhanced text. It could be installed on a PC hard drive by typing A:install A:\ at the C:\> prompt which, as some will remember, was what the screen would offer you in those days. The lucky PC operator could then search and find accredited programmes and even - if they had a printer attached - print the contact and other details. So, pretty crude, but at the time pretty neat. In 1996 we produced a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and, published now on CD-ROM, schools could include pictures of their schools and email addresses and - if they had them - links to their websites. In 1997 we moved the whole database to the web, having selected the domain EnglishinBritain.co.uk to be the vehicle. The CD-ROM stayed alive for 8 years all told, but already by 2000 it was becoming clearer that the web was a natural winner. Not everyone agreed - such is the nature of technology, and Minitel remained a fully nurtured dinosaur right through to 2012.


So here we are with a responsive website, an app for the dominant mobile technologies, and a PDF that updates itself every day. How long will that apply? The one certainty is that students and professionals will always be drawn to quality, and so resources that deliver what they need accurately, reliably and fast are going to be in demand for as far into the future as it is possible to see.

With warmest thanks to the hundreds of managers and the millions of students who have made the past 30 years possible. It has been an adventure, a privilege and a pleasure. Now bring on the next 30!

David Blackie

link to app