123 votes
Accepted

Why did modems have speakers?

Much of this has been covered by previous answers, but to try to summarize: Adding a speaker was cheap and easy. The additional parts were standard, reliable, and inexpensive. It provided rich, ...
jeffB's user avatar
  • 2,826
109 votes
Accepted

What technological factors drove the rise of "high-speed" modems in the early 1990s?

Up to 9,600 baud it's just iterative application of fairly straightforward analogue-domain ideas as and when standards emerge. Then there's a significant improvement on the digital side that bumps to ...
Tommy's user avatar
  • 36.6k
67 votes
Accepted

What warning was given on attempting to post to USENET, circa 1990?

The message was This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire civilized world. Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of dollars to send everywhere. ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
64 votes

Why did modems have speakers?

Not all modems from back in the day had speakers, for example an early popular modem was the Hayes Micromodem II (available for Apple ][ and S-100 machines) and it did not have a speaker. But the ...
bjb's user avatar
  • 16.1k
63 votes

What did AOL use for pre-web GUI client?

In addition to Stephen Kitt's answer, you can go back even further from Windows 3.1 to the Apple II version of America Online, circa 1989. Certainly not as popular or long-lived as the MS-DOS and ...
bjb's user avatar
  • 16.1k
61 votes
Accepted

What did AOL use for pre-web GUI client?

AOL provided (and still provide) their own client, which — at least back then — was called “America Online”. This was available on a variety of platforms, including DOS: (based on GeoWorks) and ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
60 votes
Accepted

Detect ancient web browser server-side to present appropriate HTML?

If you want server-side detection, you’d probably have to rely on the User-Agent sent by the browser. A better approach would be to serve the safe HTML version of the site by default, and enrich it on ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
59 votes
Accepted

When connecting to the Internet via Dial-Up, why did ISPs require a username/password to authenticate the session?

No, the identity of the customer couldn't be confirmed by the phone number alone, for a number of reasons: Customers expected to be able to call in from different locations, using different ...
sfrey's user avatar
  • 606
57 votes
Accepted

Why weren't audio decoders used to create a makeshift internet in the 70 and 80s?

Of course, people did use modems extensively for ad hoc networking at the time. You'd call up your friend and transfer a file. You'd call up the local BBS and chat and transfer files. Your question ...
RETRAC's user avatar
  • 13.6k
57 votes

How can I visit HTTPS websites in old web browsers?

Forward proxy It turned out that configuring my own forward HTTP proxy was actually really simple! Here's how I did it. First, I placed the following nginx configuration file in /etc/nginx/sites-...
Jaap Joris Vens's user avatar
54 votes

What was the design rationale behind multi-port and multiple connections (and back-connections) designs of the early protocols like NFS or FTP?

At least for FTP, the actual file transfer happened over a different connection to support a particular file transfer mode that isn't used much today. Suppose you have three machines, A, B, C, and you ...
Greg Hewgill's user avatar
  • 6,869
47 votes
Accepted

When did HTTP start compressing text?

Compression of document bodies is negotiated between clients and servers (and proxies), using notably the Accept-Encoding header: the client indicates which compression algorithms it supports, and the ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
32 votes

When TCP was first invented, was the initial sequence number required to be random?

The first standard specifying modern TCP is RFC793 from 1981 (with predecessors dating back to 1974), which says about initial sequence number selection: To avoid confusion we must prevent segments ...
jpa's user avatar
  • 1,696
32 votes

Why did modems have speakers?

So why were modem speakers such a persistent feature, and "fixture" of the time? Three basic reasons: Adding a simple amplifier and a speaker is the most easy way to handle unexpected situations In ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 219k
31 votes
Accepted

What led to the fall of shell accounts?

There were probably many reasons, but I can think of these: Misuse/abuse. When I had shell access to systems (with my private TCP/IP provider, or later in uni) in the mid 1990's, there was a constant ...
AnoE's user avatar
  • 1,549
30 votes

How can I construct a dial-up network in my home, purely for the kicks?

A/the correct solution would be to set up some sort of small local PBX. In the spirit of retro you can probably score an analogue PBX for not very much money and the mechanical ones are arguably even ...
pndc's user avatar
  • 10.9k
30 votes
Accepted

Why does the default base64 encoding use forward slash /?

I'm not aware of a (published) rationale for the choice of '+' and '/' as encoding characters, as well as '=' for padding / end-of-message, and I strongly suspect there isn't one. Base64 was designed ...
Michael Graf's user avatar
  • 9,890
29 votes
Accepted

Was ARPANET connecting mainframes or terminals?

Strictly speaking, ARPANET connected IMPs (Interface Message Processors), or similar pieces of equipment, but people thought of it as connecting mainframes or minicomputers and that’s what appears on ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
29 votes

What led to the fall of shell accounts?

The two most significant reasons were: Direct TCP/IP access via dialup SLIP and PPP protocols (and later via broadband connections to homes and offices) eliminated the need to access the Internet ...
Sotto Voce's user avatar
28 votes

Latest web browser compatible with Windows 95 / 98

That latest web browser I am able to find is K-Meleon 74 Windows 9x Edition. It was created in 2014, when the Pale Moon engine (Goanna) was backported for Windows 2000. It requires KernelEx (and the ...
trlkly's user avatar
  • 383
28 votes

Was the Stack Exchange "Happy April Fools" page fitting with the '90's code?

People have actually tried this. The answer is "No". In particular, you may notice, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, an old-timey "Best viewed in Netscape 3.0" bug. It does not in fact work ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 1,479
27 votes

When IPv6 was designed were there any specific considerations for other planets?

The address space is only one (maybe the easiest to solve) problem you'd have when extending Internet protocols beyond earth, especially with a supposed pretty low number of projected extraterrestrial ...
tofro's user avatar
  • 34.1k
27 votes

Why was Wireplay "faster and more reliable" than dial-up Internet, since they both used the same hardware?

This article from British Telecom says Wireplay launched in June 1996 as a way to host multiplayer games over a closed dial-up network. This is why it was "non-Internet": All players were ...
Jim Nelson's user avatar
  • 3,773
27 votes

Why did they switch from phone numbers to IP addresses?

Phone numbers are no more related to IP addresses than USPS ZIP Codes are. I believe you are conflating these two concepts: Phone numbers were, and still are, used to identify the endpoint of a ...
jwh20's user avatar
  • 3,029
26 votes
Accepted

What was the equivalent of "America Online" (AOL) outside America?

In the UK, CompuServe, CIX, and Demon Internet were the most influential early ISPs, but there were plenty more, such as Dircon, Pipex and Freeserve. Freeserve built by far the largest customer base,...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 13.1k
26 votes

Latest web browser compatible with Windows 95 / 98

I have not tried any of these, not having a Windows 98 system, but a bit of research reveals: Internet Explorer 6 SP1 was the last IE, in 2001. Firefox 2 was the last Firefox in 2006. Netscape 8 (...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 13.1k
26 votes

Why weren't audio decoders used to create a makeshift internet in the 70 and 80s?

Much more than speed (typical ordinary user modems in the 1970s and even early 1980s were just 300 bps), the problem was long distance. Many areas did not even have unlimited local calling at the ...
manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact's user avatar
22 votes

What was the equivalent of "America Online" (AOL) outside America?

Given the uniquely American roots of AOL, Why should AOL be anymore unique American than a C64 - selling quite well in all of Europe and some other parts. my assumption is that it was not so ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 219k
21 votes

When connecting to the Internet via Dial-Up, why did ISPs require a username/password to authenticate the session?

In addition to sfrey's answer, using caller ID would prevent multiple accounts logging in from the same phone number, as in a family situation or a small office. But the real reason is probably due ...
Jim Nelson's user avatar
  • 3,773
21 votes

What was the design rationale behind multi-port and multiple connections (and back-connections) designs of the early protocols like NFS or FTP?

For FTP, I think there are two factors here: The absence of multiplexing multiple data streams over a single transport connection, and The server-to-client connection for data transfer. The benefit ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.2k

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