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What HTML is

HTML stands for "Hyper Text Markup Language". It's the invisible code behind all web pages. Of course, you don't need to know anything about it just to surf the web, but if you design web pages, this is the best place to start.

In spite of its name, HTML is not a computer language really. It is actually a fairly simple script. A script is a set of terms that is interpreted by another piece of software. In the case of HTML, they are abbreviations, such as "A" for anchor. And the software that interprets HTML is a browser.

Unfortunately, this script was written, quite possibly in a big hurry, almost twenty years ago. And it's too late now to change some of the silly words that have been used, although there are many attempts in process now. By the way "A" is the most fundamental HTML tag (as they are called), as it establishes a "hyper link". Stay with me on this, remember that all of this was written mostly by young men who grew up watching Star Trek.

A "hyper-link" is simply a link that takes you to another page by clicking on it. Pretty impressive in the 1990s, pretty ordinary now. "Hyper" just means fast, as in above and beyond, and link means, well, link. In the old science fiction movies, when the captain pushed "hyper-speed", the space ship went really, really fast.

The first class I taught in HTML was in 2001. Like everybody, I had only been using it for a short time. And like everybody, when I realized how simple and silly it was, I was amused. Many of my students could hardly believe that such an important technology as the web could possibly have such a goofy underlying structure, but it does.

In case anyone asks you, and I doubt they will, "A" stands for "anchor".