A Trip Down Memory Lane

Jimmy Yu

      This past April marked the tenth anniversary of the Mosaic web browser.  Mosaic was easily the first GUI based, mouse-clicking web browser.  For an historical timeline, check the links listed at the end of this article.  The final release of Mosaic 1.0 was November; Netscape was next in 1994 and then Internet Explorer in 1995.

      This little celebratory event got me to think of some of the modem Internet conveniences that we have and their ancestors, many of which are still in use today.  The first example would be Lynx - a text-only browser.  You can "navigate" or "surf" the web on Lynx by using Enter, Backspace, and of course, those arrow keys.  There was no Flash, Shockwave, animated GIF, etc.

      In the early days of the Internet, there was no Instant Messenger as we know it now.  On the old mainframe computers you had to login and see if the person that you wanted to contact was also logged in.  This was done by the "w" or "who" command showing the users on the host.  If the person in question was on another system, you would then have to "finger" them (finger username@host-site).  You would then have two options.  Echo them a message or "talk" (talk username@host-site) to them.  Both methods would cause text to be displayed on their monitor console, usually a Wyse.  In the case of "talk," the other person would respond back with another "talk" and thereby establish a connection.  You would have a split screen and be able to see each other's text messages.  When the "talking" was over, one of you would use Control-C to end the session.  (Usually loud cussing is heard when someone is in vi doing programming homework and foreign text appears on their screen.)

      E-mails were just text.  After logging in, the system would notify you that new mail had arrived.  You would type "mail" and a listing of the mails would come up on your screen.  Type in the number and the content of the mail is displayed, "r" replied to the sender, "d" deleted the mail, "s" exited the mail program.  To include a file into the e-mail, you had to do "~r filename" or if you wanted to edit the file, "~e filename".  You would have a period at the beginning of the line or Control-D to end text input of your mail.  A Cc: prompt would then come up and ask for carbon copy recipients.  A far cry from the drag-and-drop file include, text formatting, hypertext colored background of today's modern e-mail.

      For get-togethers, we didn't really have chat rooms, but we had Multi-User Dungeons (MUD).  Users would telnet in, choose their own name, and be interactive among all people that logged in.  One of the earliest ones and probably among the oldest on the web today is End Of The Line.  I used to play and interact with players on this site for pretty much all of my college days.  People from around the world can access this site and see an early version of computerized Dungeons & Dragons.  Players accumulate experience points by slaying monsters and rise in rank, eventually reaching the goal of a wizard.  A wizard then has the ability to code more monsters and expand the realm of the MUD by adding their own areas.  Another MUD where I used to play and hang around is Acropolis.  I do not believe they still exist.

      This article brings back and possibly shows the younger generation of Internet users what has happened in the past ten years since the first GUI browser was introduced to the population.  And for me, writing this article has also brought back memories of the bygone years.

Credits and References