Remembering the pre-Netscape browsers

Originally published at:


Small typo, it’s NCSA Mosaic. Some programmers from France (INRIA?) later even added table support. Trying the modern web with this browser is … underwhelming. Even Google’s search page, which is probably the most compatible page on the whole wide web, doesn’t render to anything remotely usable.


I’m surprised there wasn’t a link to the working reproduction of Berners-Lee’s browser in there. Surf the World Wide Web like a Tim Berners-Lee with this browser-in-a-browser:

[Update] I see Gopher is still alive and well too:


I’m old enough to remember asking the university IT lab about this “Mosaic” thing, and being told I’d be “pioneering.” I may have typed my enquiry on PINE.


That’s gopher via HTTP. Who has a browser that still can access gopher:// Firefox dropped support 11 to 12 years ago.

(Update) grrrr… thanks stupid BBS software! It doesn’t even render the gopher URL as a link…


John Barth told me about hyperlinks way back when I was a teen, possibly a tween.I believe he called it ‘glossing’ in Giles Goat-Boy. This was the one part of the book I remembered most (and a lot of it is memorable, simply for being weird). So when I grew older, I already knew what ‘hyperlinks’ were.

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I remember using Lynx in college. Apparently, it still exists and people still use it. Ahhh, the good ol’ days. I’m still mad about having to give up PINE at work.


I still use Lynx on occasion whenever I need to do a quick web thing from a command prompt or when connected to another machine over ssh.


I use ALPINE, a modern rewrite of PINE, for my main email program. It does what I need and doesn’t do what I don’t (i.e. all that graphical crap in email)

Why yes, I am a crusty old UNIX admin, why do you ask?


Started with Mosaic - I was all “Oooh! Ahhh!” cuz it had purty pictures unlike the text only BBS stuff.

And I still miss Hypercard. We made a few interactive storybooks with that including Ali Baa Baa & The Forty Thieves - about a toy sheep that had Arabian Night adventures on the bedspread desert landscape. Fun stuff.


I remember some people seriously arguing that the web should remain text only, that any content that couldn’t be read on Lynx was bad. While that battle was quickly lost, given the super bloated web sites we have today, it doesn’t seem entirely crazy.

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My boss at Unisys insisted that the proper name of the World Wide Web was “Mosaic.” She also agreed strongly with upper management’s decree that no new material could be added or changes made to a website without an approval signature by a senior manager. Fortunately the website I was building was for DARPA, not for Unisys, so I was exempt from that rule.

My site, which first went up just before Christmas 1993, had an image of 500 gumballs with a link mapped to each one of them. That was the entire known contents of the Web. This was about a quarter-century after we’d finished the Hypertext system at Brown.


Mosaic here as well. I was all grown up though in the 1990’s.

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I have a bbc glossy document for this kind of thing when I find I’ll post!


Nostalgic for the early internet? No. It really was not worth the trouble.

Nostalgic for the last time we could turn it off and go back to our normal analog lives? Yes.


Seems w3m or elinks are the way to go these days if you want text-based browsing. (They even have table support!)

I can vaguely recall using Mosaic at a demonstration kiosk at the Ontario Science Center, but I think Netscape 2.x was the oldest thing I ever had at home. I don’t miss that at all – though I do find myself nostalgic for big ol’ animated “throbbers”.

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No thank you. Not interested. I had enough of the crappy web when I had to live through it the first time. Remember the Real Player? bah.


It matches the mis-spelling in the pic. “ViolaWWW”? “VI-OLA”!?

Excuse me, I have to invent a time machine so I can go back and correct this egregious error in the timeline.

This article calls for a companion piece- “Remembering the pre-Netscape PCs”. Remember when if you wanted a one gigabyte hard drive you were looking at a $2000 custom built tower and your friends and co-workers were like “What on earth are you going to fill all that storage space with?”.

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