Keeping in mind the pre-Netscape browsers

Keeping in mind the pre-Netscape browsers

By Blair Morris

September 23, 2019

Young ones, gather round, and let Ole Grampa Doctorow tell you about the glory days, prior to the development and deprecation of the tag, when tables were still a glimmer in a data-structure’s eye, when a DOM marketed in the back pages of your weekly freesheet and CSS was a questionable DVD-scrambling system.

In those heroic days, dinosaurs still walked the Earth, the doomed cousins and enthusiastic beasts that forked off from WorldWideWeb: forgotten relics of a nobler age with names like NCSA Mosaic, Erwise, ViolaWWW, Midas, Samba and Cello! These fossils are excavated and lovingly cataloged in Matthew Lasar’s 2011 article, restored for Memorial Day weekend content-shoveling by Ars Technica (who note, dryly, that “This story initially worked on Oct 11, 2011, and it appears the same listed below”).

ViolaWWW was released in April of1992 Developer Pei-Yuan Wei composed it at the University of California at Berkeley by means of his UNIX-based Viola programming/scripting language. No, Pei Wei didn’t play the viola, “it simply occurred to make a stylish abbreviation” of Visually Interactive Object-oriented Language and Application, write James Gillies and Robert Cailliau in their history of the World Wide Web.

Wei appears to have actually gotten his motivation from the early Mac program HyperCard, which allowed users to develop matrices of formatted hyper-linked files. “HyperCard was really engaging back then, you know graphically, this link thing,” he later on remembered. However the program was “not extremely worldwide and it only dealt with Mac. And I didn’t even have a Mac.”.

But he did have access to UNIX X-terminals at UC Berkeley’s Speculative Computing Facility. “I got a HyperCard handbook and took a look at it and just basically took the concepts and executed them in X-windows.” Except, many remarkably, he produced them via his Viola language.

One of the most significant and ingenious features of ViolaWWW was that it enabled a designer to embed scripts and “applets” in the internet browser page. This prepared for the big wave of Java-based applet features that appeared on sites in the later 1990 s.

Prior To Netscape: The forgotten Web web browsers of the early 1990 s[Matthew Lasar/Ars Technica].

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