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VMSZealot

Old Mac, Modern Internet

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Back the late 1990's, when the Pentium III came out, Intel ran some ads crowing some nonsense about how the Pentium III was going to transform your Internet experience because, well reasons. For a long time my jaded response to that was that clearly how that was going to work was with the increased power of the PIII inside your computer would be smart enough to just make up Internet content for you instead of having to wait for it to trickle through your modem. (Since, really, at the time the limiting factor for rendering web pages mostly was the time it took to download them, even on relatively low-end computers, IE, something like a 133mhz Pentium or even a fast 486.)

What I've come to realize lately, though, is effectively what I was saying there is true now: your CPU *is* essentially "making up" a lot of what you're seeing on the web today, in the sense that it's showing you programmatically-generated rather than static content. The reason a browser tab rendering a modern dynamic website takes up literally hundreds of megabytes of RAM and sucks all the CPU it can get is because there are so many active, moving, computing elements churning away in both the foreground and background that the "server-side" alternative to it would essentially be to have to push a live interactive video stream to your computer. Strictly speaking doing so might well be less CPU taxing than running all that javascript, but from a bandwidth (and to a lesser degree, server-side computation) standpoint that would be unworkable for the sort of Internet connections most people have.

 

Yes, you can certainly argue that on some level we don't *need* all that "fluff" (some of which we actively don't want, like all the behavior tracking and animated ads, etc), that for you Facebook would be just (if not more) useful if all it needed was a statically rendered HTML 3.2-compliant page with standard HTML <form> tags (and, heck, let's say <tables> instead of CSS), but there simply isn't any economic reason for the industry to give that to you. People are drawn to flashy things, companies want greater control of their IP and the presentation thereof, advertisers want deeply embedded tools for tracking and monetization... deck is pretty thoroughly stacked here.

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Does it need to though?

Absolutely.

 

The point is that the actual things most web sites are doing on a fundamental level should be manageable on a much older machine.

I think the problem is that you don't understand what most websites are doing on a fundamental level. Thousands of man-years have been spent optimizing web browsers for performance. The only way you will make them faster is by ripping out features wholesale. When you start doing that, websites will stop working at all.

 

You can't get websites to work on '90s computers by changing the browser. You have to change the content.

 

Which brings us to an alternative idea to creating sites designed for '90s computers. You could transform a page into content that a '90s computer could display. I didn't mention it before because I think creating '90s sites would be better long-term. Because if you try to make your transformation code generic to work on many sites, then it will be really bad at it and hardly ever work in a satisfactory way. If you make transformation code for specific sites, then you have to keep it up to date whenever that site changes the way it functions. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Edited by anthon

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You can't get websites to work on '90s computers by changing the browser. You have to change the content.

 

Personally I'm fine with the whole crappy html only experience I get in Netscape 4, I just would like to be able to load sites that are now https only such as 68kmla I think our machines could handle https if there were a 68k browser out there that knew how to do it on the modern web.

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I'm currently working on building the first release of Mozilla for PPC mac. based on what I'm looking at it had a build target of a PPC mac running MacOS 7.6. the 68k c++ seems to be present in the source as the maintainers were asking for someone to devise a 68k build of Mozilla, but no one ever stepped up. My thinking is that if I can get it to build on a PPC mac (In Sheephshaver) I can start to strip down features until I'm left with just a bare bones Browser. At which point I would try come up with a build process for 68k macs. From there we could implement modern ssl support if possible. or at least patch up a few web standards.

 

I've been documenting my efforts here: http://andrew.colchagoff.com/netscapeI'm currently blocked by a lack of a single build tool, but I think I've got a cd on it's way from ebay that will supply the tool I need.

 

Loving this idea - I'll be following closely.

 

I have mountains of Apple Developer CDs but sadly they're in storage until my house is finished being renovated - sometime in the Autumn.

 

In the meantime, good luck!

 

Edit: oh and if you haven't already - please start a thread that I can set notifications on :)

Edited by james_w

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I don't see why it should be. No reason they shouldn't be able to handle/open some pages according to a given machine's capabilties. Pages with text only or with a handful of images should be quite doable. http://textfiles.com/for example really should be loadable even on 68k machines. TenFourFox is great, that's true.

 

There's also SSH potentially w/MacSSH, although like many programs it's probably somewhat out of date. 

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A simple website made in 1999 would work on a 68k machine, but those sites are long gone. Heck browsing on a much newer single core x86 machine sucks as well.

 

I use my old gear for what it was good for, and leave newer machine for modern tasks.

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I do ssh on my SE/30 (can't remember which program - I'll let you know later)

 

With regard to working email on an old Mac, I'm working on it (first 'sprint'). Other solutions exist, but mine will be the easiest and most flexible (or what's the point!?). As to why, well the old Macs, and particularly the compact Macs, are particularly well suited to the way I work. I'm not great at multitasking, and these old machines force the user to focus. Well, that and I'm too cheap to buy a new version of Fontographer - so I still use my old Macs anyway.

 

For internet, I see no reason why an old Mac - even one with a 68k CPU - shouldn't browse the modern web (other than for tasks like internet banking of course!). A proxy server can handle https and forward http to the requesting Mac, can convert images to a lighter, easier to process, format, and maybe even ensure than a lighter css is specified (I'll have to think some more on this). Obviously, JavaScript (where available) should be eschewed with great prejudice.

 

I'm also pondering putting up old sites that I have archived - just for the fun of having the 1990s online again!

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Cool. I don't have anything that old and as my 6100 is out of commission I don't have anything real old to try at the moment.

 

On the matter of email, something that uses POP and SMTP is probably the best choice, although many servers will probably require SSL and TLS (e.g. gmail does apparently) unless you run a separate older/custom server and give yourself your own email address (probably such a system would become a spammer target if it looks reasonably legitimate to other mail servers).

 

Yeah, I agree. Anything that's text and pictures and essentially read-only should be browsable and being able to read/post on forums would be nice. Really what you want with javascript is a mechanism for ditching anything relying on non-standard JS or libraries like JQuery so that basic javascript is still supported. Someone really should port Dillo (https://www.dillo.org/) to the older macs if that's even doable and maybe add JS support (http://duktape.org/) somehow.

 

Throwing up some old/simpler sites would be neat to look at at least.

 

 

 

Browsing the web is no more a 'modern task' (first web browser in 1990) than playing audio/video, recording music, word processing, sending email (email in use since 1970s), playing games or really anything else. People mostly do exactly the same things they've been doing since the late 80s and early 90s just with more powerful hardware and fancier software.

Edited by Nathan

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The code for email is far advanced now, although currently it only supports IMAPS for incoming and serves up POP for the vintage machine. Time permitting, I should have it going by the end of the month (I don't have much time to work on it).

 

Outgoing, which I haven't done much on yet, might be SMTP all the way or SMTP to IMAP. It depends on what works best for iCloud mail and gmail.

 

Come to think of it, I could probably synchronise Claris Organiser to iCloud with some crafty code - make 68k Mac iCloud compatible! But I'm getting ahead of myself…

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Browsing the web is no more a 'modern task' (first web browser in 1990) than playing audio/video, recording music, word processing, sending email (email in use since 1970s), playing games or really anything else. People mostly do exactly the same things they've been doing since the late 80s and early 90s just with more powerful hardware and fancier software.

I'm not clear what your point is here. Yes, these are all "tasks" that we've been doing forever, but in every case the functionality available to the user inside the software to do these things has *massively* increased. The first web browser from 1990 didn't even have the ability to display images inline (Mosiac, circa 1993, was the first there). Heck, it was several years before HTML (and the http protocol) even contained a mechanism for submitting <form> data, IE, the web was by definition *completely* non-interactive(*) in 1990.

 

(* "interactive" defined in this case as "being able to process input from the user". Certainly there are broader definitions of interactive software that would say that simply navigating hypertext qualifies because the user is able to dynamically choose what they're viewing, but, well... no.)

 

In short, your argument seems to boil down to saying that because Halo is a video game and people have been playing "video games" since the 1970's you should be able to run Halo on your Atari 2600, and that makes *zero* sense on anything but an irrational, emotional, "cry for help" sort of level.

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I'm not clear what your point is here. Yes, these are all "tasks" that we've been doing forever, but in every case the functionality available to the user inside the software to do these things has *massively* increased. The first web browser from 1990 didn't even have the ability to display images inline (Mosiac, circa 1993, was the first there). Heck, it was several years before HTML (and the http protocol) even contained a mechanism for submitting <form> data, IE, the web was by definition *completely* non-interactive(*) in 1990.

 

(* "interactive" defined in this case as "being able to process input from the user". Certainly there are broader definitions of interactive software that would say that simply navigating hypertext qualifies because the user is able to dynamically choose what they're viewing, but, well... no.)

 

In short, your argument seems to boil down to saying that because Halo is a video game and people have been playing "video games" since the 1970's you should be able to run Halo on your Atari 2600, and that makes *zero* sense on anything but an irrational, emotional, "cry for help" sort of level.

 

Clearly. You're missing it by miles 100s of miles at least and being rather snide about it too.

 

What I'm getting is that many macs could access the internet in the 1990s and maybe even the early 2000s and that the basic content has not intrinsically changed. It is still comprised mostly of text and images which, at a basic level, these machines are capable of rendering. Drawing text and pictures has not become any harder. Even so-called "interactive" pages are hardly a new thing, even if older browser don't support the newer mechanisms/approaches they did do those sorts of things then afaik.

 

Frankly I could probably have used my 6100 running 7.6 and using Netscape 4 in 2006 to log in to gmail at least with the basic html interfaces if only it weren't for the issue of expired security certificates and the basic https/ssl issue.

 

MacWeb (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacWeb) from 1996 supposedly has support web forms.

 

Ultimately it should be possible to have a browser on some of these machines at least that can show the text and pictures it can handle and not the things it can't. As it is you may not be able to load anything at all even the text or pictures that should be within the capacity.

 

 

This is not all like expecting Halo to run on an Atari 2600, it's far more akin to being surprised that an "enhanced" version of an old game won't run on the original hardware specs AT ALL even though all it does is bump the asset resolution/detail up a little bit or being frustrated that some website totally refuses to work on your couple versions behind browser.

 

It's about the basic numbskullness that a website today comprised of essentially the same elements as one in the 1990s potentially won't work on a browser from then simply because there aren't any up to date security certificates or because it can't load a video or someone has gone way, way overboard using JS and more importantly, some trendy library that won't work in every browser now much less in one that's 10 or more years old.

Edited by Nathan

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I think the misinformation here is that "web sites today are the same as they are in the '90s."

 

This could not possibly be further from the truth, at all.

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Case in point; during Prime Day, Amazon's website displayed their deals in a grid. Each square had the ability to add the item to cart, showcase current stock levels, run a countdown timer until the sale started & ended, and refresh itself as status required. That's much cleaner than forcing the user to refresh the entire page, and it's no doubt easier on Amazon's servers.

 

But yes, it was much more complex than just an HTML table, so therefore it was evil and should be stopped.

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I think the misinformation here is that "web sites today are the same as they are in the '90s."

 

This could not possibly be further from the truth, at all.

 

It's not misinformation. The point is not that websites as a whole are the same, but that the majority of the content presented is. Think about it for a bit.

 

Even Facebook is just text, images, some animated GIFs (or similar) and video. The real changes are the addition of some kinds of video/multimedia content and aspects of the formatting and interaction plus sheer volume of content. Yet on account of some of those changes being made the sites are sometimes totally unviewable/unloadable . Otherwise it's a 3 column layout with css and some dynamic aspects. The javascript alone is probably the biggest burden.

 

At the end of the day a somewhat less dynamic view of the basic content of the website could probably be managed by an early powerpc and ram usage is probably the biggest hurdle. If you could strip the ads and avoid loading of anything other than static pictures in the news feed... We aren't talking about a switch to some kind of full body VR web browsing here.

 

Case in point; during Prime Day, Amazon's website displayed their deals in a grid. Each square had the ability to add the item to cart, showcase current stock levels, run a countdown timer until the sale started & ended, and refresh itself as status required. That's much cleaner than forcing the user to refresh the entire page, and it's no doubt easier on Amazon's servers.

 

But yes, it was much more complex than just an HTML table, so therefore it was evil and should be stopped.

 

 
How complex is it really, though, at it's fundamentals? A full desktop application could do that easily.

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One thing that's interesting about this conversation, every time it comes up, is that it almost always completely excludes the possibility that there is anything interesting on the Internet other than the web.

 

The web (a particular application) is the main thing on the Internet (a network) that has really passed 68k Macs by. E-mail still ultimately works the same way it did 30 years ago. IRC does, hotline does, FTP does, Gopher does, etc etc etc.

 

Some of these are "solved" problems. You can use a security tunnel to strip SSL off of connections as a gateway or proxy. You can also use your own server to aggregate mail into an IMAP mailbox that a 68k mail client can access.

 

I think the real question here is whether or not there's enough interest in building out infrastructure for non-web applications.

 

This is a personal opinion, but even back in the day, the web was really never what I found "interesting" about my vintage Macs. It's better now, in that I derive entertainment from the web today, but it was never something I did a lot of back in the day. Even back when I was using my PowerBook G4, I had a web browser open and I was on an IRC channel, perhaps downloading files from an FTP server or moving something with hotline, and getting my mail with whatever was hot for that at the time.

 

The suggested solution that somebody might develop plain-HTML content and then people who want it can go read it is probably the easiest solution to this "problem".

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Other than the text itself? literally everything about how web pages work has changed in the last 20 years. Multiple times. It's an entirely different platform today than it was in the late '90s.

 

You can't just go "oh it's text" and conclude that something's wrong with everybody who has endeavored to deliver text over a network and display it in a web browser in the past 20 years.

 

 

How complex is it really, though, at it's fundamentals? A full desktop application could do that easily.

 

 

It's incredibly complicated. A sufficiently large table and there's a liklihood that before you even get to "how should I present this?" may actually overwhelm a 68k processor.

 

That entire process is completely different than what web pages could do in the '80s. Gosh, it wasn't until at least the mid '2000s (2005, actually) that ajax was introduced and started to be used to update parts of pages without reloading the whole page. I would bet that Netscape 4, IE4, and perhaps even Classilla are completely incapable of doing that. And that kind of task is something even this forum does.

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Plus: the older you get, the less likely you are to have a rapid application development technologies that include the ability to make calls out to web sites in order to get information like this. Microsoft was introducing this stuff in the early 2000s, before that it was presumed you were going to interface directly with a database instead of through middleware API calls on an httpd.

 

In fact, there's a big aversion these days to developing desktop software at all, since with electron you can just wrap your app in a standalone copy of Chrome and put it in an exe or app file and have it almost look native, which is considered "good enough" by many. (Slack, Atom, Spotify, Teams.)

 

At the peak of this being a Problem™ (or at least the peak so far) Slack on average people's computers was using more than a gig of RAM on its own.

 

For something you can do in 7.1 on an '020 with like 6 megs of RAM.

 

Is it sad? yes.

 

Is it bad? No, not really.

 

Is it inconvenient if your only computer is an original LC, Color Classic, or Classic II? Yes, but let's be real, the web was barely existed outside of CERN in 1990.

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Even Facebook is just text, images, some animated GIFs (or similar) and video.

 

It's pictures with millions of pixels and videos that are larger than most old Mac hard disks. Are you going to force everyone to upload only 180px images again? Is this a campaign to Make QuickTime Great Again?

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Also text that refreshes automatically, quickly enough that some people use it as an actual chat platform, in lieu of something like IRC or AIM. Also, that's before you discover Facebook Messenger, the actual chat platform built into the web site.

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If you could strip the ads and avoid loading of anything other than static pictures in the news feed...

 

If you did that, your Facebook page would be completely blank. It doesn't have any static pictures or a news feed. What it has is a payload of Javascript over 2MB in size that makes hundreds of network requests for assets, templates, content, etc. It has its own rendering engine (called React) that builds a DOM from scratch and feeds it to the browser. The browser has to apply DOM and CSS layout rules that are orders of magnitude more complex than 3D rendering applications were in the '80s. A modern browser executes over a dozen interpreted programming and markup languages, compiles source code to machine language in real time, and has hundreds of advanced, computationally expensive APIs. Websites depend on all that functionality. If that functionality is not there, they don't work.

 

How complex is it really, though, at it's fundamentals? A full desktop application could do that easily.

 

You are confusing "fundamentals" with how you imagine you could implement it given your chosen constraints, not how the web actually is in reality implemented.

 

The web has fundamentally changed. You were ignorant, and have been informed. Now you're in denial.

 

If you want content that is usable on a '90s machine, you'll need to create it. Or dig it out of the internet archive.

Edited by anthon

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Some of these are "solved" problems. You can use a security tunnel to strip SSL off of connections as a gateway or proxy. You can also use your own server to aggregate mail into an IMAP mailbox that a 68k mail client can access.

 

 

 

I wouldn't call the problem solved, although it is technically a solution. Having to run a second piece of software and an entire mail server just to get your mail is a major burden and somewhat unreasonable. You might as well just print it out on your modern computer and carry a stack of paper over to your mac, then handwrite your reponses, walk back to modern times and type them into your email and hit send.

 

Other than the text itself? literally everything about how web pages work has changed in the last 20 years. Multiple times. It's an entirely different platform today than it was in the late '90s.

 

 

 

I'm not debating that there has been change, but as far as I am concerned whether it's really a "platform" at all is debatable. And even if anyone agrees it's a platform that doesn't make it a good platform or one to rely on. I'm not sure it's really not that different ultimately. HTTP is still HTTP. There's still quite a bit of reliance on the basic model of requesting a page and then doing further requests if the page says it needs something else.

 

It's incredibly complicated. A sufficiently large table and there's a liklihood that before you even get to "how should I presnt this?" may actually overwhelm a 68k processor.

e

That entire process is completely different than what web pages could do in the '80s. Gosh, it wasn't until at least the mid '2000s (2005, actually) that ajax was introduced and started to be used to update parts of pages without reloading the whole page. I would bet that Netscape 4, IE4, and perhaps even Classilla are completely incapable of doing that. And that kind of task is something even this forum does.

 

 

Uh huh, sure. The size of table wouldn't overwhelm a processor, it would choke up the ram/hard disk. We aren't talking about the 80s though, we are talking about the 90s. The great bulk of Macintosh computers date from the 90s, that is everything from the Macintosh II on. What you are describing seems to be mostly a software level issue rather than any especial limitation of the hardware. Given that the Classilla pages implies you might be "upgrading" to it from Netscape 7 and that wikipedia suggests that netscape 7 was a thing in 2002 and that ajax existed at least from 2004/2005 on I wouldn't be surprised if it supports ajax at least. Support and handling well may not be the same thing.

 

In fact, there's a big aversion these days to developing desktop software at all, since with electron you can just wrap your app in a standalone copy of Chrome and put it in an exe or app file and have it almost look native, which is considered "good enough" by many. (Slack, Atom, Spotify, Teams.)

 

 

That is both disgusting and lazy. I don't see why I (or anyone else) should have to run a browser on top of my OS just to run some software. I'd call that unnecessary introduction of intermediate layers and it's probably less flexible than the JVM. Also, I think it's objectively terrible regardless of what you think.

 

It's pictures with millions of pixels and videos that are larger than most old Mac hard disks. Are you going to force everyone to upload only 180px images again? Is this a campaign to Make QuickTime Great Again?

 

 

No and no. Depending on complexity, a screen sized picture (say 1366x768 might only be a couple hundred kilobytes, even at 20 of them that's only a couple megabytes. It's a sizable chunk of an 80mb hard drive, but once you've got even a gigabyte it's not that big a deal and you aren't keeping them indefinitely. Personally I have next to no need for video while browsing the web and can go back to a modern machine if I need to do watch something.

 

With regard to Facebook what I mean by 'static' is not a continuous stream so much as a fixed window on it that perhaps updates to show the last so many posts as opposed to a continuous stream that reloads as you scroll up and down. Their bloody rendering engine is a pox on humanity and completely unnecessary simply to present some data. It's just a fricking three column layout with dynamic content. Just because it pulls a lot of assets, not to mention a ton of ADs doesn't mean that it is necessary or meaningful to do so.

 

You are confusing "fundamentals" with how you imagine you could implement it given your chosen constraints, not how the web actually is in reality implemented.

 

The web has fundamentally changed. You were ignorant, and have been informed. Now you're in denial.

 

If you want content that is usable on a '90s machine, you'll need to create it. Or dig it out of the internet archive.

 

 

Err, no. I am pointing out the basic elements are highly simplistic.

 

The point I was making is that drawing boxes and updating the content inside of them via a network is hardly some vast burden. If the web is complicated it's because tons of stuff has been shoehorned into in a way it was never designed to be used. It's the equivalent of stacking a skyscraper on top of a modest three story apartment building. A real network application can send and receive happily without dependence on long polling, ajax, or some other pseudo-technology.

 

In any case, you are an asshole with your head stuck up that asshole. Just accept that what you see is not in fact reality at all, but only your viewpoint.

Edited by Nathan

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