Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The Mosaic web browser is 20 years old

It’s funny how your mind can play tricks on you, and I still think of things like ‘The Web’,’ The Internet’, and even browsers, as things that are not more than a few years old, but in reality have now existed for decades. See, for example, my recent ramblings on the Internet.

I’m happy to be corrected, and would indeed want to be if my memory is in error, but I’m reasonably sure that the Mosaic browser was bundled as part of CompuServe’s offering. Our business was an early adopter of the Internet and the services it offered, and this was driven by the move by corporate email from individual dial-up accounts (living on PCs or mainframes) between business, onto Internet bases mail services, which meant one no longer had to dial-up every company with its own email server at the end of phone line and modem, and merely had to send and receive email whenever you were online – in those days, that was still done via dial-up and modem, but at least only needed a single call, to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and not every email account.

In those days, you paid, paid, and paid again to be online (by the minute on dial-up)

Our original corporate web site cost around £3,500 to set up (this was around 1990 or so), and when we wanted edits… well, these were generally totted up and worked out at about £1,000 a time, three or four times a year. When I got my hands on HTML knowledge, and FTP, we asked the company to give us access to edit the content ourselves. Guess what? They wanted a one-off payment of £3,500 to allow us that access. As an alternative, they offered to write us a bespoke web site editing sytem, so we could alter the content ourselves, at any time. Guess what? This was also costed at £3,500. For the record, we cancelled their services a few days later, and I rattled half-a-dozen pages into our own web space within a week. The only mistake I made was to use FrontPage (it formed horrible html) – but it was quick (and free), I corrected that after a while, and just wrote plain HTML.

We used a Glasgow company for hosting, and to provide our dial-up Internet connection. It was expensive, but we wanted someone local we could hassle and get advice from, rather than an anonymous online provider. They didn’t really measure up, and after a while we went for one of those anonymous online providers… and it worked out just as good, and cost less.

Prior to that, we used the aforementioned CompuServe. Although their account gave access to many services and groups it provided, we really only used it for the cheap (and reliable) Internet connection it provided.

And I’m pretty sure that takes me back to the Mosaic browser connection, which I’m pretty sure is what they provided for graphical browsing. In those days, finding a web page that was truly graphical was relatively rare, as the tools to produce such thing were also relatively rare, and most pages comprised long runs of plain text, with scanned pics or drawings to illustrate the material if you were lucky.

Read a little more about Mosaic here: Mosaic. First real web browser.

I have to admit to spending far too much time watching the little activity indicator in the top right corner, which had the data flow animated behind the Earth symbol. Face it, on 56 K dial-up, the presence of any reasonably large graphic on a page was a good reason to have a tea or coffee break!

Although Mosaic dates to On January. 23, 1993, when programmer Marc Andressen released it, most folk know the Netscape browser, which arrived in 1994. However, that didn’t rob Andreessen of his  fame, since it transpires that he was also the founder of Netscape.

I quite like coming across these ‘anniversary’ articles. I used to think I had a rough note of when I was using these various services, but then discovered I no longer had the receipt, since all these fee based Internet services were all paid for using a company credit card – and that meant handing in the receipts to the accountant, so I can’t refer to them to remind me of actual dates.


January 28, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t remember that CompuServe had “internet” service as early as 1990. They were still thinking themselves as “bigger” than that internet-thing (was it called “internet” that early? I can’t remember). Part of what cause them to lose the battle was their delay in allowing this interconnection. The world eventually passed them by. My recollection is that you could not even send emails from CompuServe into @domains until ’93 or beyond. Memory fades. I don’t remember the “bundling” of the browser, but HTML emerged first about 1991 but nobody “heard” and I recall it being 1993 and beyond. I recall seeing a browser at work (Mosaic or Netscape?) in 1993 when I returned to USA after living in UK for a period. We had some Netscape servers running and were experiimenting with what would later be known as “intranets”. The “internet” for normal people didn’t really take off until starting in 1995 when Microsoft released Windows 95 that had a built in browser and it and the computers it ran on were capable.


    Comment by rms | February 3, 2013

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