Les Horribles Cernettes: The first image on the web

Les Horribles Cernettes: The first image on the web

Have you ever thought of the origins of everything on the Internet? For example, what was the first song posted online? Or the very first YouTube video? Or maybe the first cover art? This article tells the story of Les Horribles Cernettes, the band founded by CERN female employees and employees' girlfriends, and how their band photo became the first on the web.

What is the story behind the first cover art on the Internet?

The parody pop band Les Horribles Cernettes was founded by the female employees and employees' girlfriends of CERN who were performing at the CERN music festival. At the same time, the acronym of Les Horribles Cernettes was LHC – the abbreviation of the Large Hadron Collider that CERN was building. Their songs were dedicated to various physical phenomena, scientists' lives, and other CERN-related matters in a funny and ironic way. Songs like “Every Proton of You”, “My Sweetheart is a Nobel Prize,” and others were very well received by the public. One song was even dedicated to the Collider with such lyrics:

I try the network, but you crash the gateways

You never spend your nights with me

You don't go out with other girls either

You only love your collider.

The group became extremely popular and got invited to various scientific conferences and events.

In 1992 Tim Berners-Lee decided to post the picture of Les Horribles Cernettes online. And this is how it appeared on the World Wide Web. It was considered the first photo on the web, though, in the official statement of Les Horribles Cernettes, they said, "Nobody knows which was the first photo on the web. But our photo was one of those that changed the web from a platform for physics documentation to a media for our lives. It was the portal that opened the Web to music and arts, and to anything fun!”. So, the photo might not be the first one, but the cover art is.

The ex-analyst of CERN Silvano de Gennaro told how the photo first appeared online: ”Back in 1992, after their show at the CERN Hardronic Festival, my colleague Tim Berners-Lee asked me for a few scanned photos of "the CERN girls" to publish them on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the "World Wide Web". I had only a vague idea of what that was, but I scanned some photos on my Mac and FTPed them to Tim's now famous "info.cern.ch". How was I to know that I was passing a historical milestone, as the one above was the first picture of a band ever to be clicked on in a web browser!"

The funny fact is that you can still listen to Les Horribles Cernettes on Soundcloud.

Myths and legends