Control Your Web Browser Like It’s 1969

Imagine for a moment that you’ve been tasked with developing a device for interfacing with a global network of interconnected devices. Would you purposely design a spring-loaded dial that can do nothing but switch a single set of contacts on and off from 1 to 10 times? What kind of crazy world would we have to live in where something like that was the pinnacle of technology?

Obviously, such a world once existed, and now that we’ve rolled the calendar ahead a half-century or so, both our networks and our interfaces have gotten more complex, if arguably better. But [Jan Derogee] thinks a step backward is on order, and so he built this rotary phone web browser. The idea is simple: pick up the handset and dial the IP address of the server you want to connect to. DNS? Bah, who needs it?

Of course there is the teensy issue that most websites can’t be directly accessed via IP address anymore, but fear not – [Jan] has an incredibly obfuscated solution to that. It relies on the fact that many numbers sound like common phrases when sounded out in Chinese, so there end up being a lot of websites that have number-based URLs. He provides an example using the number 517, which sounds a bit like “I want to eat,” to access the Chinese website of McDonald’s. How the number seven sounding like both “eat” and “wife” is resolved is left as an exercise to the reader.

And here we thought [Jan]’s rotary number pad was of questionable value. Still, we appreciate this build, and putting old phones back into service in any capacity is always appreciated.

14 thoughts on “Control Your Web Browser Like It’s 1969

  1. Lol, excellent thought provoking pursuit :-)
    I didn’t know some websites can’t be reached by IP alone, could raise all sorts of problematic issues beyond potential for more noise too, thanks will look into details, cheers

  2. > “most websites can’t be directly accessed via IP address anymore”

    Huh, I didn’t believe this at first, but then I tried it. While obviously the server is reached by the IP address, it is often the case that the actual website requires the DNS name in order to be resolved properly. This is aside from the certificate issue (browser throws up warnings if it doesn’t match the name in the URL). Thus many sites will just give you errors instead of the actual content.

    1. Mostly when loadbalancers are involved this happens, they actually need to see the dns-name in your request in order to send you to the correct back-end server.

      So most shared hosting/CDN services have the same “issue”

      1. Also on plain old php webservers it isn’t working.
        I remember the good old days of rerenting my webserver to different clients to publish their website.
        Apache HTTP routing was done soley on the requested address.
        So all Domains had the same ip but where redirected to server different sites.
        As far as i know. This is still in use on most hosting systems today.

        1. If the web host isn’t set up well, you’ll instead get the first virtual hosts in their httpd.conf, and it might not be what you’re expecting. This is how we end up with complaints like “I typed in my IP and got somebody else’s website!” and the answer is “It’s the IP assigned to your site, but it’s not *your* IP.”

        2. This. Apache has supported named virtual hosts for 25 years.

          If every website required a unique IP, ipv4 would have been crushed more than a decade ago under the demands for servers and clients to access them. Probably two decades ago.

    1. I’ve seen that used with model boats using a step relay from a phone exchange in the boat

      you dialed the function you wanted the boat to do, left, right, speed

  3. Ah, the good old Ericcson T65. Still widely available in trift stores in the Netherlands.

    Fun fact, if you have an older T51 Bakelite with clapped out pick-ups, the carbon pick-ups from the T65 fit the older model perfectly.

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