Thirty years ago, the web opened up to music in Geneva

If you were asked which group is the first in the world to have a web address that begins with WWW, what would you answer? You might think about the arrival of the web in the early ’90s, and it would take a short turn in the Billboard ratings From this period, between Madonna and Michael Jackson or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Except no. The franchise goes to a Swiss group! A somewhat unknown band that sings about science, Les Horribles Cernettes. Initials: LHC. A clear reference to the Large Hadron Collider or the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The girl squad Born in 1990, initially as a parody group. But, unexpectedly, success is on schedule. The protons and neutrons in the song appeal to physicists. Then 1991 saw the “professional” beginnings of the group that would consist of Michelle de Gennaro, Colette Marx Nielsen, Lynne Verono and Angela Heaney, three young women working for CERN, the last ICRC employee at the time. True darlings of the Hardronic Festival, the Paléo equivalent of the European Center for Nuclear Research, Les Horribles Cernettes would have remained a bit of a musical oddity, halfway between a physics textbook and a folk song. It was without counting on the chances of history that this high-energy rock band was a 2.0 legend.And As it describes itself.

In the right place at the right time

birth girl squad It coincides with that on the web, when it is still just a humble web that connects scholars to each other. No social networks, no stream, no avatar, just a place to share knowledge, serious, rigid. This is where Les Horribles Cernettes come into play, somewhat in spite of themselves. We are in 1992. The group is preparing to play at the World Fair of Seville of the same year, perhaps the most important date of its existence. CERN has its own stand and the quartet makes its way between Guns N’Roses, Phil Collins, Tina Turner and other Scorpios invited to the event. For the occasion, Silvano Di Gennaro, Group Director, is preparing a CD with clip and music colliderhit them at the time: “Tim Berners-Lee [créateur du World Wide Web, ndlr] He was passing by and I saw the cover photo on my computer, Silvano De Gennaro recalls. He said to me, “Oh, Cernettes! Let’s put it on the web!” Yes, it’s that simple.

Simple actually, but at the time this download was almost subversive. The web is for physics and not for anything else. The cover of this album is therefore the first unscientific snapshot ever published on the web. Except that no one really realizes it and what today is a small part of digital history is then not an event. Largely because Triple W is still used by only a handful of netizens, mostly physicists: “There were web pages for the various clubs at CERN. On the music, there was our picture. We’re used to seeing it, and we never thought back then. ,” recalls Michelle de Gennaro, the group leader.

A drop in the ocean of the web

It will be necessary to blow out the twenty candles in this photo so that the four singers realize their place in the modern history of digital technology: “My phone began to ring, says Lynn Véronneau, one of the horrific Cernettes. The journalists wanted our testimony about those years. It was at this moment that I began to understand the significance of this moment. , which was a history of establishing what is the web today.The beginnings of a social network, humorous, artistic, traits did not flow naturally at the beginning of the nineties.

Thirty years later, the shot has sunk among the billions of others that have since been downloaded. If it’s a funny tale to tell by Les Horribles Cernettes, today it remains a sign of the technological and computing prowess achieved between 1992 and 2022. The Silvano de Gennaro computer that was used to download this image had four megabytes of live memory. The person who used to write this article has 2000 times more. It’s not just a simple photo either, but a montage created with the first version of Photoshop. Ketch exudes from this creature Digital, a contrasting blend of fuchsia and heavenly hue, our four performers float above in poses and dresses reminiscent of the ’90s. There, too, full style, is a true witness to his time.

Four friends on three continents

However, it would be unfair to reduce Michelle de Gennaro, Angela Heaney, Colette Marks Nielsen and Lyn Verono to a stroke of luck. Before they were the top four faces of music on the web, they were above all singers. Tim Berners-Lee’s invention was serendipitous, the creation of Les Horribles Cernettes was the result of a shared passion for singing and science, at a time when we are gradually moving, at least in CERN, from Browse the USA to me Browse on the web.

The last meeting of the Cernettes dates back to 2017 and I’m not sure they’ll make it this year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this famous photo. But the group is still alive. Its members have notably produced a song about confinement, and stanza in the key, although they are spread over three continents, between Cannes, Mauritius, Washington, D.C., and Scotland. It was necessary to hold a video conference for everyone to meet and discuss these strange years. Three decades later, the Web once again brings together these four faces, among the oldest faces on the Web. However, they seem to ignore the comedy of the situation. The end of the interview looks like a nostalgic discussion between girlfriends. This might also be the magic of these three Ws…

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