NCSA Mosaic Adventures
what can you do with one of the first web browsers?
A good while ago I'd been reading some stuff on the history of the world wide web and all that, and I had heard about one of the first graphical web browsers, NCSA Mosaic, that could display both images and text on screen at the same time!
NCSA Mosaic was not the first web browser, but it's often considered to be the grandfather of the modern web browser, with plenty of the basic UI features that we still use today.
I like messing around with old web browsers, but I hadn't messed around with Mosaic before, because it ran on Unix. Well, there was Pathworks Mosaic on Windows, but it absolutely sucks.
So I pretty much forgot about Mosaic until I heard about Floodgap Mosaic which is a fork of Mosaic with much better OS support and rendering, which was originally created to serve as a historical simulation, as well as a light, basic web browser for very old machines.
And some more poking around on the web led me to this page of running a modded version of Floodgap Mosaic on OpenBSD, and I already had an old laptop running OpenBSD, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
So on OpenBSD, already in a much better modern web browser, I went over to the GitHub page and downloaded the source, and ran through the following commands.
cp egcc gcc
You have to compile it yourself, so I installed the compiler "gcc" which downloads to the bin folder as "egcc" so I had to rename it to "gcc" for it to compile properly, but after that, I tried running it and... I looked at this screen for a long time, but eventually it loaded up and worked!
As you probably know, I'm really into the oldschool internet stuff, but Mosaic is really oldschool, pretty much at HTML2 spec, so most sites that are even "retro" sites still won't render nicely. So it's really more of a cool historical novelty than something you can actually use on most websites today, but it can try its best to load any site that isn't SSL (it usually ain't pretty), and it does a great job as a gopher client!
So obviously, the first thing I had to try was my own website, and being made of tables, without table support (enabled), it all falls apart.
But, I guess you can technically still use it, and I'm not going to simplify my website to HTML2 so it can be viewed on Mosaic. Some of the other sub pages in the computers page such as this one (which are the most basic HTML on the site) pretty much work just fine!
Now, it wouldn't be a vintage web browser test if I didn't try Kugee's Razorback95, which is so well made that it works on nearly everything, and looks great on more modern browsers.
Of course, just like with my site and basically every site, any 2 column layouts are destroyed and turned into one long page, but it's totally still readable and usable, even if it's a little clunkier to navigate.
I also wanted to try some really old websites that definitley had traffic from Mosaic users back in the day. Some of my favourite websites from the early 90's that are still around are justin's links and the abandoned sites.
justin's links, or at least the older pages on the site were written many, many years ago often in HTML1 or 2 spec, and they render as expected on a browser of a similar age. The page on screen, justin's autobio has been updated over the years, but still renders mostly properly, apart from the background color and image align attributes.
Another old site, the abandoned sites, or "the oldest surviving useless site in the history of the internet", is a collection of very old webmazes or web puzzles, some of which like the Jumping Dragon maze can get very difficult, but being very simple HTML pages from around 1995, they render mostly as expected (with lack of table and META redirect support).
So obviously, you can load old basic pages on an old basic web browser...
Also, the forms on TheOldNet work just fine (they don't seem to work in Netscape 4 in my experience), so you can browse the web like it's 1996 (can't go to 1994 for the real Mosaic experience, the Internet Archive didn't exist back then).
Sites like TheOldNet, which can also act as a proxy for SSL sites, means that you really can still get quite a lot out of the web even on a very old computer running Mosaic!
So that's all I have to show in this page, and it was pretty fun to mess around with Mosaic. If you're really bored one day, go try it out for yourself, and see what pages you can load!
also, the user agent string is
NCSA_Mosaic/2.7ck11 (X11;OpenBSD 7.1 i386) libwww/2.12 modified
i'm sure whatever web admin saw THAT in their log was like wtf
Updated July 27, 2022
dvd3000 is just another netizen yelling into the void
this is my website! and where I've been collecting my internet happenings off and on since 2014.
just come on in and make yourself at home, and don't mind the mess..