Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 16.02
February 2010





Download ATPM 16.02

Choose a format:


by Mark Tennent,

And the Winner Is…Who Cares?

We used to live near a dentist who ran his entire operation in a HyperCard stack he devised himself. All patient information, treatments, appointments, and bills were handled by his stack, running on one of those original, all-in-one Macs that us old hands think of as definitive. No colour, no sound, tiny screen, clunky operating system, no multi-tasking, and a mouse the size of a house brick. But a graphical operating system from the days when windows were holes in buildings.

HyperCard was a forerunner to the Internet as we know it today, the World Wide Web. It combined databases with HyperTalk, an easy-to-use programming language, all wrapped up in a graphical front end. HyperCard also inspired Pei-Yuan Wei, a Taiwanese student at UC Berkeley, to build an adventure game construction set. What he ended up with was one of the world’s first Web browsers called violaWWW, which came complete with a graphical interface plus the ability to run applets, three years before Java was brewed.

This was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Gophers rubbed shoulders with Archie and Veronica. Turbo Gopher VR even used 3D browsing, which from personal recollection could make you feel seasick as you tunnelled through Gopher space. In those days, Macintosh and NeXT (which became Mac OS X) were the systems used by many of the developers of the Internet.

It all came to an end when the University of Minnesota, in a Scrooge-like moment, started to charge for Gopher servers. Unlucky for them, the University of Illinois had just released Mosaic, a free and graphical Web browser, which soon overtook Gopher because it was easier to use. There are still over 100 Gopher servers in the world, which are supported by Mozilla-based browsers plus OmniWeb. The number of servers has actually increased recently.

Mosaic became Netscape and then was accompanied by all the other nascent browsers such as Lynx, Opera, Internet Explorer, Cyberdog, OmniWeb, Camino, and Chrome. We’ve tried them all for the Mac and each, apart from Opera, has been our favoured browser for a while. Currently it’s Safari. On Windows XP, we’ve tried Firefox, Safari, and Chrome but stick with Internet Explorer.

So when we received the news that Chrome has overtaken Safari to become the third most popular method of accessing the Web, the overwhelming urge was to yawn. Some reports have it as zooming past. In reality, it is a difference of a mere 0.17%, but each has increased market share at Internet Explorer’s expense.

Who cares?

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (2)

Grover Watson · February 7, 2010 - 07:32 EST #1
I see Chrome is only supported on Macs using Intel processors. I'm sure there are a large number of users like myself that have both Intel and PPC based macs running on their home network. I've got a Macbook, two G5s, and a maxed out G4, plus the hand helds running on the network. Now, I've got to keep the older stuff current on OSX 10.5.8, and run snow leopard on the Intel stuff. Great. It was nice to read about the early days. I remember playing with hypercard back in 1995.
Heather Isaacson · February 7, 2010 - 17:22 EST #2
Nice little journey into the past, article. Brings back memories. Good descripton of gophers etc....

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article