Hackaday Retro Edition: Browser Wars On Solaris

sunn After seeing an earlier Hackaday post on old, old Unix systems loading up our retro edition, [Eugenio] decided he would play out the late 90s browser wars on a few machines of his own. Yes, it’s Internet Explorer vs. Netscape in a fight to the death. No <blink> or <marquee> tags were involved, but a Sun Ultra 5 was. We’re looking at the peak of the workstation world circa 1999 here, and only one browser would emerge victorious (it’s neither IE nor Netscape, btw).

The Solaris 9 system [Eugenio] has supports both Internet Explorer 5 and shipped with Netscape 4. Compared to the functionality of modern browsers, both IE5 and Netscape 4 are ancient and terrible. Remember kids, even the scroll wheel on a mouse is a relatively new invention.

Our retro edition doesn’t have any CSS, Javascript, or any of the new Web weirdness, so everything loaded as it should. One interesting problem [Eugenio] encountered was an inverse color desktop when the IE5 window was in focus. Bringing another window into focus returned the desktop to the right color. I guess Netscape wins the Solaris browser war.

[Eugenio] also dug out an old VT320 terminal and connected it to a Vaio x505 (the same approximate vintage as the Sun Ultra 5). This worked beautifully in both 80 and 132 column mode.

We’re always looking for new submissions of old computers loading up our retro site. We haven’t had many minicomputers loading the site, so dig out those Vaxxen and send something in.

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Retro Edition: Browser Wars On Solaris

    1. I remember unboxing Sun workstations at this medical manufacturing company I used to work for. It was glorious. Next to the drab Compaq and Epson desktops, Sun workstations were glorious works of art.

    2. Yeah, my dad used to work for them before leaving for Mentor Graphics just before the Oracle Buyout…Dad’s office in Hillsboro was always a cool place to visit, even if 8-year-old me only barely understood what he did.

  1. There’s a reason for the invertedness.

    Back in those days, you had 8-bit color. 256 colors max in a indexed palette. You could request the color, but if they were filled up, you were stuck with the next best thing.

    This meant that you had to reduce your color usage, or have the application tell X11 it wanted a private palette… which had a side effect of switching colors like the above.

    Netscape had two modes, the latter was an option on the command line to use a private palette. The former was a bit neat: Netscape would look at how many colors were available, see if it could apply a 216-color version, reduce it a bit if needed, but otherwise use the palette. If it had an odd color it needed, it’ll grab it or dither it.

    IE just said **** it, and grabs a private palette.

      1. I was coming to explain this, but Kelly did it far better than I could.
        Ran into the same problem with my Envizex terminal… modern Linux doesn’t take to 8-bit pseudocolor too well (read: at all).
        RedHat 9.2 looks great though!

    1. Any keyboard can be a Windows-key-free keyboard after selective application of a flathead screwdriver. (Or maybe just a sticker; it’s a handy shortcut key everywhere except full-screen games.)

    2. If you like loud mechanicals, there’s always Unicomp – you could either go for the 101 key Model M keyboard (which eliminates all the special windows keys – it’s identical to the original model M), or buy the 104-key version, then purchase extra key-caps to cover/replace the windows keys. Another option would be to get a real Model M keyboard (which is rapidly becoming more difficult since the hipsters have caught on), and either use a motherboard with a PS/2 port – or buy this adapter from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BSJFJS/) – which is known to work properly with the original Model M to convert it to USB.

  2. I loaded Debian on an Ultra5 last year and ran SunSpider in IceWeasel. I don’t remember the exact numbers but I do remember that my Galaxy S2 was significantly faster.

    1. You mean it actually finished already?

      Not that I’m one to talk, I was running OpenBSD on a Mac 68k (Quadra 700 and 650, IIRC). The joke was that the OS would finish building in time for the next release.

    2. I tried something on %insert hardware decade or two older% and the same thing on %insert relatively modern hardware here% and was really surprised when it turned out the newer hardware with a cpu clock speed many times that of the older hardware and with memory interfaces etc with many times the throughput of the hardware was faster.
      Who would have thunk it!

  3. I wish he had a video, love to see old hardware doing it’s thing.
    @Steve – Pop the windows key off, take off the win logo (dremel?) and use a stencil to put tux on the key.

  4. I was just explaining to one of the new techs how I used to have to support Win95 on some forgotton emulation package for the Ultra5/10/60 for a long-dead company. Kids these days…

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