The Internet was originally the brainchild of the US military, but was very quickly adopted as the research and academic information highway. In those early days an appreciation of UNIX was de rigeur, and with it, all the attendant horrors of "the operating system from hell", with absolutely no pretence to user friendliness.
The beard and sandal stereotype of the typical UNIX guru from an academic background remains in the minds of many of us who have watched (from a safe distance) at the progress of UNIX in the face of the proprietary determination of Microsoft. So much so, that many amongst the Unix community pride themselves in this image, and happily play up to it.
It may well be that this image is due to solve some particularly testing configuration and setup nightmare, UNIX specialists invariably found themselves spending 72 uninterrupted hours whilst wrestling with the problem, and thereafter decided to dedicate their shaving time to more purposeful pursuits; but I have no hard evidence to support this theory.
The Internet remained shrouded behind the general air of Unix mystery until early 1993 when the first World Wide Web products began to appear in the wake of the initiative to create a means of navigating the nooks and crannies of the Internet environment. The most famous of these web browsers is (naturally!) the first, a Windows, X.Window and Mac product called MOSAIC. Most people with an acquaintance of the net already knew that. The National Center of Supercomputing Applications, part of the University of Illinois was funded to produce Mosaic, and that work resides in the public domain.
However, the developers of MOSAIC are now themselves riding the wave of Internet awareness that Mosaic brought about almost single handed, and involved in various projects for commercial exploitation of Mosaic derivatives.
But there are two other graphical browsers that have been overlooked in many quarters: possibly because both are Windows only: Cello, from Thomas Bruce at the Cornell Law School -- and Winweb, from the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC). Both are available free from the Internet, and both are still somewhat "formative", in various states of alpha and beta development. Cello (available at ftp://ftp.law.cornell.edu/pub/LII/Cello/) is regarded by its users as the best of the lot, only failing to rule the waves by dint of its Windows-onlyness, and thus being overlooked by the UNIX users that form the majority of Net opinion making.
Version two of Cello is imminent, and promises to attend to all the wishes and wants that can only be gathered and collated where feedback is instant and informed. WinWeb (at ftp://ftp.einet.net/einet/pc/winweb/winweb.zip ) is the newest and least complete browser, but has some elegant touches.
We look at these two alternative web browsers in our next issue. Or should we call them shavers...?
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