A look back to 1995

Web Informant turns 11 this month. Hard to believe that for the most part I have been writing these things for so long. Harder still to believe that many of you have been reading them (and commenting on them too) for so long. So first off, a boat load of thanks. It has been a lot of fun to write these things, and I hope I can keep them coming for another 11 years.

I got into a reflective mood this morning, after taking a trip down memory lane by reading Techweb’s excellent historical view of the Web.

They claim that the Web was invented in the summer of 1991, although I have seen references to earlier than that. Most of us didn’t start really using it until the first Windows and Mac browsers came out a few years later.

So let’s go into the Wayback machine and see where what was happening 11 years ago:

We had browsers that were just beginning to display tables and images in-line, and Netscape was still the dominant force in browsing technology. They began developing their own browser extensions then, which was the beginning of their demise, helped by Microsoft, too many programmers, and AOL along the way. Now Microsoft is losing browser mind share to Firefox. Funny how the pendulum swings back and forth.

If you got a copy of these early browsers, they fit on a single floppy disk, and we still had PCs that came with floppies too. For those of you too young to remember these, the ones we used in 1995 could hold a megabyte of data and were small enough that you carry in your shirt pocket, back when shirts had pockets. Now we can buy USB key drives that hold 1000 times as much for about $50. I guess it is time to throw out my collection of floppies now.

Around 1994 the Web started to take off, with some reports putting the growth in actual sites from the low thousands to more than 25,000 sites by the end of the year. Back then, email and FTP traffic were the dominant information flows, and let’s not forget about Gopher, the first hypertext protocol, too.

Before 1994, we had computers that had integrated TCP/IP protocols in them, they were called Unix computers. For the rest of us, we had to deal with installing a separate piece of software that handled communications. Remember NetManage? Microsoft Windows for Workgroups and the Mac OS 7.5 both included support for TCP/IP in their operating systems that year.

Back in 1995, OS/2 was still a viable operating system and IBM had high hopes that it would still become popular, even going so far to take its Warp codename and use on the product. And OS/2 had built-in TCP/IP protocols, if memory serves correctly, long before Windows did. I remember that IBM had Kate Mulgrew appear at the launch event — she played Captain Janeway on one of the Star Trek series. Linus Torvalds was still in graduate school working on the thesis that would eventually spawn Linux and reinvigorate the open source world and make Unix safe for the rest of us.

Back in 1995, I first started writing about how the browser was turning into its own operating system and computing environment. Now we have plug-ins galore for all of the major browser versions, and many commercial software products have some kind of browser interface too.

Back in 1995, there weren’t too many affordable choices for broadband access — indeed, I don’t think the term was in much use then. I think I was still using an ISDN line, and happy to get all of that 112 Kbps of connectivity that I got. Cable modems and DSL lines would happen later. Back then, we had lots more phone companies too before they all started combining with each other. And AT&T was still selling just long distance and not the local provider for the middle of the country. MCI was still doing business, and UUnet was one of the stronger ISPs around. Neither had gotten involved with Bernie Ebbers’ thievery yet.

Back in 1995, I already had my own domain name strom.com for several years, which seemed like a novelty at the time. It was easy to obtain a domain name — and they didn’t cost anything either. Cybersquatting, phishing, ad banner tracking, and cookie stuffing were all still relatively unknown. Blogs hadn’t been invented, nor podcasts, wikis, or mashups. We were still using Yahoo to search the Internet. It was a time of relative innocence. No one used VPNs. Routers still cost thousands of dollars. Ethernet was locked in a battle with Token Ring, and wireless networks were expensive and not found anywhere near places selling coffee.

If you want to go into the Wayback machine back 20 years, take a look at something that wrote here.

One thought on “A look back to 1995

  1. Several readers sent in their comments. Here are some samples:

    — .. and Compaq was the number one PC company in the world… Eckhard Pfeiffer allowed himself to be dressed in lederhosen at a company meeting, and then hooked to a guy wire that flew him 70 feet in the air to illustrate “how high we could soar”! Bubble? What bubble?

    –We bundled MacTCP, which Apple had been making for several years, with Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh in 1993, which was key, since TCP/IP was hard (well, impossible) to get any other way.

    — Back in 1985, CVC changes its name to Quantum Computer
    Services. In November, it released Q-Link, an online
    business service that debuted on Commodore Business
    Machines. In 1991 Quantum Computer changed its name to AOL. The rest you all know.

    — I haven’t been reading your Informant for 11 years but I’ve been faithfully reading it for several years.

    — Thanks for the walk down memory lane (when it was paved with kB instead of GB).

    — Oh, it’s very depressing to think that Star Trek Voyager (with Kate Mulgrew) dates back to 1995.

    I went to the local (Santa Ana, CA) IBM office for the satellite broadcast of the launch of OS/2 Warp . I believe that event was held in 1994, before ST-Voyager. (My wife still has the souvenir T-shirt with an Interstate-style 94 sign on it). IBM was proud that they were coming out with Warp a year before the delayed and ballyhooed Windows 95.

    The whole production had a Star Trek theme going (surprise!), with the speakers being “beamed” onto the stage. I recall that it was Leonard Nimoy, not Ms Mulgrew who made the celebrity appearance, and even made a commercial for OS/2 Warp.

    — David, I particularly enjoy reading about the past (I guess it’s because there seems to be more and more of it.)

    Recently found in my garage – shrink warp box of OS/2 2.0. Also the 7 floppies for an early Windows install. The floppies are still in their unopened poly envelope. Can’t tell which release, but the copyright is 1990-1995. I think I’ll put them out on EBay.

    — Thanks for the trip Mr. Peabody.

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