This is a reproduction of an article from 1994, for when I want to walk down memory lane. I love how he mentions NASA, which is where I spend my time in 2019.
The IBM WebExplorer began in June of 1994 when the World-Wide Web was beginning to gain mass appeal. IBM was developing OS/2 Warp and planning to include an Internet Access Kit. IBM looked at Mosaic, developed by the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA), but a few IBM programmers wanted to develop their own browser. To find out more about the IBM team that created the WebExplorer, I jumped into my WebExplorer and headed out down the Internet.
First stop was the IBM Home Page (http://www.ibm.com). This colorful page is one of IBM’s access ramps to the Internet (see Figure 1). This page offers news about IBM (as I write this, the lead story is “IBM Halts Shipments of Pentium-Based Personal Computers”); a message from our CEO, Lou Gerstner, welcoming all newcomers to the IBM World-Wide Web server; and other related items about IBM and the Internet. One of the listings, “Developing WebExplorer: four folks, four months, no sleep,” sounded interesting. With a click of the mouse, I took the next exit and headed for http://www.ibm.com/Features/4guys.html
Editor’s Note: For a quick primer on exactly how to use the WebExplorer, see Phil Lieberman’s article “A Guide to OS/2 Warp’s Internet Access Kit” later in this magazine.
The article that appeared explained how David Greenwood, Barbara Walters, Scott Penberthy, and Mike Ward pulled together and built a great interface to the World-Wide Web. Not an easy task mind you, since David and Barbara were in North Carolina and Scott and Mike were in New York. The article goes on to explain how, while working late nights, they met one deadline after another to create a web browser that would take advantage of OS/2 Warp’s capabilities.
Here is what they had to say about the hardships they encountered while writing the code:
Putting together the 100,000 lines of code in WebExplorer was not without its hardships. Since the effort began as an after-hours project, quirks like automated lighting and air conditioning posed some unusual challenges.
“After 8 p.m., the lights go out in our building,” explained Greenwood. “You have to run down the hall and push a couple buttons every 20 minutes to stay out of the dark.”
To make matters worse, the WebExplorer code was being compiled on a 486 PC. “Each change of code took about 10 minutes to run through the compiler, so you’d get to make one or two changes; then you’d have to run down the hall and push the button to keep the lights on. That would give you enough time to run back and make one or two more changes, and then run back down the hall for the lights.”
“And on top of that, our air conditioning shuts down at 7 p.m.,” added Walters. “You have to remember that this was summertime in North Carolina.”
Just goes to show what four people can accomplish in four months if they don’t mind missing a little shut-eye.
Take a trip to http://www.ibm.com/Features/4guys.html and find out the special features they added to the WebExplorer to make it worthy of OS/2 Warp.
You’ll be amazed at how some people are using the Internet. Let’s visit the Center for Innovative Computer Applications at the University of Indiana. We can go see Dennis Gannon, Juan Villacis, and Shelby Yang, who have set up cameras to take pictures of their offices every three minutes. By connecting to their web server, we can see inside their offices. The address for spying on the CICA folks is http://www.cica.indiana.edu/news/spy.html. I looked in on them on January 4, 1995 at 4:33 p.m. and Shelby was the only one working.
From Indiana, let’s go to the University of Colorado. There they have another innovative example of using the web. They connected a thermometer atop the CU/Boulder Engineering Center roof to a web site. By connecting to http://www.cs.colorado.edu/htbin/temp you can get the current temperature on the building. On Thursday, January 5 at 12:44:44 p.m. MST it was 35 degrees (see Figure 2). Notice the comment tells you how to “feel” the temperature using the middle mouse button!
Figure 2. Thermometer at University of Colorado
Now let’s extend our road trip across the Atlantic Ocean to England where we can spy on the Trojan Room coffee machine at the Cambridge University computer laboratory. Connect to URL http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/coffee/coffee.html to see how much coffee is left in the pot. (I thought the beverage of interest would have been tea!)
These examples show some of the innovative ways to use the Internet. While you may not care to see Dennis Gannon’s office or know how much coffee is in the pot in England, just envision ways you could make use of such technology in your company.
In the coming issues we will visit a wide range of sites, including the Louvre Museum in Paris, the White House, weather stations, NASA, colleges, electronic malls, and many others. We will see many uses for the Internet and the ways people around the world are creatively delivering information on the Information Superhighway as we travel into the 21st century.