Introducing Hack a Day: the retro edition

Hack a Day hasn’t change its format since 2004. Even though MAKE has gone Web 2.0 with buttons using mouseover, and Instructables has fancy drop-down menus, Hack a Day has been a constant black background, green text child of the web circa 2004. A while ago, we decided it was time for an update to our layout. Today we’re pleased to announce an open beta test for our upcoming update – Hack a Day: the retro edition.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is a joke, and no, we’re not going all Web 0.1a on you.

The retro edition is a little side project to our upcoming update where we’ll be rolling out a new template for Hack a Day. We’re going to fix a lot of the problems with the current template – searching, and an admittedly terrible commenting system design – and generally ‘cleaning up’ the design. We already have the store up and running, so progress on the update is slowly being made.

As far as the retro edition goes, we’re keeping that. We’ve had a few nerd-offs trying to load Hack a Day on the oldest computer possible, so a version of Hack a Day built for computers from 1983 seemed like a worthwhile goal. Think of it as a challenge: if you can send in a picture of your Commodore PET loading up the retro edition, we’ll add you to the retro successes page.

There’s a bit more we’d like to do with the retro edition, namely guides to getting your old computers up on the Internet. As a little bonus (and in keeping with the retro theme), we’re putting up a few classic Hack a Day posts from the days of yore.

So, there you go. We’ve tested the retro edition on a Mac PowerBook 170 and a Quadra 700, but feel free to dig out your old hardware and give this a spin.

EDIT: As far as the ‘retro competition’ goes, [Jaromir] wrote in and brought up an interesting point: Loading that .GIF logo would be really hard on computers with kilobytes of ram, so I’m changing that to a .BMP. Just so we’re all clear, there are no official rules, you’re competing against yourself, and if you can get a picture of an old computer loading this site, you’re going to be listed on the ‘successes’ page.

52 thoughts on “Introducing Hack a Day: the retro edition

  1. You really want to change the layout? For me, it seems to be better than any other website i frequent. It’s simple, easy to look at, and does its job more than good enough. Sure, redo the way comments are handled if you wish, but i really liked the way HaD has always been.

    1. and yet another “report” instead of “reply.” Whoops.

      ’cause I really, really agree with ScubaStan. I hate all the bells and whistles that websites have been adding lately. They generally don’t look significantly better, and serve no real purpose except to make a given website run slow. It’s like everyone on the internet has a grudge against anyone using a Netbook or a machine more than 2 years old.

  2. please, make it a regular thing, though I can understand if you at least automate the process of creating the page. retro.hackaday.com is much much easier to read on my phone. (I hate the mobile version of this site.)

    1. The problem with making it a regular thing (mirroring hackaday on the retro page) is that we don’t get ad revenue. Honestly, we love it here, but servers aren’t free. Since we’re getting rid of all the PHP and Javascript on the retro version, that means we can’t host ads.

      Yes, I know how awesome it would be to have a mirrored version of Hackaday with this 1993-era HTML, but that would probably be abused. A lot. The retro version might turn into a ‘best of last week’ version, but we simply can’t mirror it.

      Oh, and if you’ve disabled AdBlock for Hackaday thank you.

      1. odd thing is, when i read this, i realized i’ve never seen an ad on hackaday, so went to turn adblock off. adblock is already off. any ideas why i’m not seeing ads?

        1. possibly an issue with our extremely old and hacked together browser. The only ads we run are un-intrusive. There’s a banner at the top and some google ads in the right column. We don’t do links inside our text nor do we do video ads or anything.

  3. I wonder how it looks on my TRS-80. Yes, I really still do have one. A portable to boot! I think it has a 16×80 character B&W (not gray scale) LCD. Don’t know if it’s still functional though.

  4. Please DO NOT update hack a day to be web 2.0 bloat.

    The current version works quite nicely on dialup on an old Pentium II 400MHz and Windows 98.

    Fancy scripts and menus add nothing to most sites dealing with just presenting text (as this site does.) They just make the sites slow, incompatible and unusable. You don’t have to go back to retro edition, just keep the simple version you have.

    Nash’s Observation: Progress was alright once,
    but it went on too long.

    Just say no to Web 2.0

    (For me the whole scripts thing is a pain because it makes pages load slow, render slow and break a lot. I wonder if anyone has investigated the net effect of such changes on bandwidth – the server has to send all those scripts and pictures and bells and whistles. Seems like it would cost the maintainers more too.)

  5. Challenge accepted! :-)

    By the way, the retro website is from the future: it says “Posted on July 12th, 2012″.

    ===Jac

  6. Bravo!

    Should we try to display it on the old high-speed-rotating-carbon-brushes-LEDs-drum? Too much wind at 3600RPM, must wear goggles and leather aviators’ helmet to view it.

    lol, blink.

    – Bill “entire amasci.com still hand-written html” Beaty

  7. I’ll refrain from commenting on the new template until I actually see it ;)

    I love the challenge idea though, so much that I might actually participate.

  8. Do anything you want, and yes, you deserve to monetize this sucker. Follow the original google plan – small text ads – served from HAD’s server, and maybe a banner or two.

    I beg of you – stick with the non-registering cookie identity posting methods, and don’t require javascript. Maybe HAD needs a drop-shipping hacker store, with prices slightly higher than it’s advertisers.

  9. Uhm okay, hello there! HaD is powered by WordPress, right? so one could simply alter the design and put a virtualhost with the other design onto the other page!

    the videos may be carried out as links and the images be converted automatically :)

  10. Frak…and I just left home without my IBM luggable. Next time I get back I’ll have to see about finding a working isa nic so I can see HaD on a tiny green screen that makes my eyes hurt. I’m also gonna bookmark the page in my phone for the next time I’m in nowhereville Texas without a fast enough connection for gmail.

  11. This is of course nowhere as cool as an Apple ][, but as there doesn’t seem to be anything old yet I just wanted to give it a shot with IE5 running on Windows 3.11:

    I got Windows 3.11 running in a VM and use it on developments just for the kicks of it. Funnily not even the blink tag seems to work.

  12. This is of course nowhere as cool as an Apple ][, but as there doesn’t seem to be anything old posted yet I just wanted to give it a shot.

    I present to you IE5 running on Windows 3.11:

    I got Windows 3.11 running in a VM and use it on developments just for the kicks of it. Funnily not even the blink tag seems to work.

  13. Good luck. I tried to get another member to use a listserv instead of twitter and was nearly excommunicated.

  14. Web 2.0 doesn’t mean bloat. If you follow smart usage of the new standards, you should be able to degrade gracefully to be functional to older clients. A good all-around approach is to use simple HTML markup, the simpler the better. Make sure that it is at least readable. Put all navigation in your page using unordered lists and link tags — don’t generate it with DTML! Then use javascript libraries (e.g. JQuery and YUI) to add the fancy-looking user interface for clients that support it. Add CSS to control look/feel as needed but make sure that that you use CSS compatible with older clients wherever possible. If you follow this approach, you won’t piss off anyone (unless they just want to be pissed off at something.)

    1. do you used jquery on a old computer ? its really slow, i don’t want wait 1-2 seconds until a website reacts to a click…

      you will piss off many many people..

  15. Second to that, if anyone wants to pull this off with an Apple ][, I’ve already found your solution. You have to have the uthernet card, and use a tomcat webserver to proxy images:

    http://rich54321.tripod.com/bruther/bruther.html

    (disclaimer: I wrote the image conversion code used by this project — originally the image conversion was for the Apple Game Server project reported here long ago.) The webapp downloads the image and converts it to the odd/funky format that the apple uses for its hi-res graphics mode. Rich added other stuff like proportional text, but I don’t know how far he got. Anyway, long story short, you _could_ do this on an Apple // already for the past several years. Trouble is that uthernet cards are hard to come by.

    (and if you insist on 100% native image conversion, there is an old program called ][gif which displays gif images without any external conversion on an Apple //. :-)

  16. How about Gossamer on a ti-83+? They’re really old, and even embedded hardware.

    It won’t load the logo though. It’s text-only.

  17. Heh, I’m typing this comment using my NeXTstation and OmniWeb. I posted a picture to my twitter @FozzTexx.

    Just also wanted to let you know that bmp wasn’t a “web standard” at the time so OmniWeb doesn’t like it. It’s good with the gifs and jpegs though.

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