Hackaday readers fit into two broad categories: those who experienced the wild and woolly early days of the Internet, and those who are jealous that they missed it. And it’s safe to say that both groups will get something out of this aggressively Web 1.0 retro experience, courtesy of a server that was actually part of it.
This comes to us via The Serial Port, a virtual museum dedicated to 90s technology, where curators [Mark] and [Ben] managed to find a pair of Cobalt RaQ 3 servers from the late 1990s. The RaQ was the first true “Internet appliance,” designed to be as simple as possible to set up and operate. If you wanted to get your small business online, machines like these were just the ticket. They were designed to be as plug-and-play as possible, and they did a pretty good job of it, at least for the time.
The machines that showed up were quite the worse for the wear, which is understandable given the decades since they were last relevant, but that just makes it all the more fun to get them going again. One didn’t even come close to booting, but the other showed more promise.
The video below is the first of a three-part series, and has a nice introduction to the RaQ and its important place in the early Internet, as well as a peek inside the two machines. That revealed some leaky caps that needed replacement in Part 2; after that minor surgery and a little persuasion, the 300-MHz screamer was ready for a test run. It worked, and The Serial Port put it right to work in Part 3 hosting a gloriously retro home page. Hit the link at the top of the article and enjoy the 90s all over again — the visitor counter, the mixed fonts, the “Under Construction” animated GIF, and the reminder to bookmark this page in your browser, which was probably Netscape Navigator. We love the guestbook, too. But — no marquee?
Nice job, [Mark] and [Ben], and kudos for keeping this little slice of computing history alive.
Continue reading “Web Server Like It’s 1998 With This Restored Internet Appliance” →
We think of the Internet extending to small devices as a modern trend, but it actually is a good example of how everything makes a circle. Today, we want the network to connect to our thermostat and our toaster. But somewhere between the year 1990 and the year 2010, there was a push to make the Internet accessible to the majority of people who didn’t own a computer. The prototypical device, in our mind, was Microsoft’s ill-fated WebTV, but a recent video from [This Does Not Compute] reminded us of another entry in that race: The Audrey from 3COM. Check out the video, below.
Many devices, like the WebTV, wanted to take over your TV set to save on a display. That doesn’t sound bad today, but you have to remember, the typical TV set in those days was not the high-resolution digital monster you have today, so the experience of surfing the Web on one was suboptimal. The Audrey actually had a cute little screen and a compact keyboard.
Continue reading “The Internet Without The Computer: 1990s Style” →
In 2020 there is nothing novel or exciting about an online device. Even the most capable models are designed to be unobrusive pucks and smart speakers; their function lies in what they do rather than in how they look. In 2005, an Internet connected device was a rare curiosity, a daring symbol of a new age: the “Internet of Things”!
Our fridges were going to suggest recipes based upon their contents, and very few people had yet thought of the implications of an always-on connected appliance harvesting your data on behalf of a global corporation. Into this arena stepped the Nabaztag (from the Armenian for “rabbit”), an information appliance in the form of a stylised French plastic rabbit that could deliver voice alerts, and indicate status alerts by flashing lights and moving its ears.
Continue reading “Teardown: Nabaztag” →
You’re likely familiar with the old tale about how Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple and started his own company, NeXT. Apple then bought NeXT and their technologies and brought Jobs back as CEO once again. However, Jobs’ path wasn’t unique, and the history of computing since then could’ve gone a whole lot different.
In 1990, Jean-Louis Gassée, who replaced Jobs in Apple as the head of Macintosh development, was also fired from the company. He then also formed his own computer company with the help of another ex-Apple employee, Steve Sakoman. They called it Be Inc, and their goal was to create a more modern operating system from scratch based on the object-oriented design of C++, using proprietary hardware that could allow for greater media capabilities unseen in personal computers at the time.
Continue reading “BeOS: The Alternate Universe’s Mac OS X” →
For the last few years, the Last Great Hope™ of the consumer electronics industry has been voice assistants. Alexas and Echos and Google Homes and Facebook Portals are all the rage. Over one hundred million Alexa devices have been sold, an impressive feat given that there are only about 120 Million households in the United States, and a similar number in Europe. Look to your left, look to your right, one of you lives in a house with an Internet connected voice assistant.
2018 saw a huge explosion of Internet connected voice assistants, in sometimes bizarre form factors. There’s a voice controlled microwave, which is great if you’ve ever wanted to defrost a chicken through the Internet. You can get hardware for developing your own voice assistant device. 2019 will be even bigger. Facebook is heavily advertising the Facebook Portal. If you haven’t yet deleted your Facebook account, you can put the Facebook Portal on your kitchen counter and make video calls with your family and friends through Facebook Messenger. With the Google Home Hub and a Nest doorbell camera, you too can be just like Stu Pickles from Rugrats.
This is not the first time the world has been enamored with Internet-connected assistants. This is not the first time the consumer electronics industry put all their hope into one product category. This has happened before, and all those devices failed spectacularly. These were the Internet appliances released between 1999 and 2001: the last great hurrah of the dot-com boom. They were dumb then, and they’re dumb now.
Continue reading “Alexa, Remind Me Of The First Time Your Product Category Failed” →