Cello, the first web browser for Windows
September 21, 2011
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I just noticed that the original homepage for the Cello WWW browser is no longer online. So I put it up for download and brushed up a mirror of the Cello website that I had created years ago. Some images still were linked with absolute URLs and one page was missing. That’s fixed now.
Cello was the first browser for Windows. It was developed by Thomas R. Bruce of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. Lawyers typically had PCs with Windows in their offices, but no version of Mosaic for Windows was released until September 1993. Cello beat it by three months. Actually Cello was more than just a web browser. It supported other protocols like FTP, Telnet, and the then still rather important Gopher. It could send emails and read newsgroups.
Nowadays it is not of much practical use any more. It won’t start unless it finds Winsock software, so it is not fit for an HTML reader on an unconnected old PC or on a Windows installation on DOSBox. It runs well under XP (better than Mosaic, which tends to crash quickly) but often will be unable to connect to a given server, and of course it could only display very old or very simple websites correct anyway.
One thing that has always fascinated me about it is its very uncommon style sheet. It uses larger fonts than other browsers, and it uses lots of colors. Lists are displayed in red, headers are maroon, navy, or blue depending on rank. Links, on the other hand, have no separate color, and have a dashed border instead of being underlined. Unordered lists have custom bitmaps for bullets. Horizontal rules are black, solid and rather thick. The cursors are uncommon too, cross hair is the default, over links it changes to an up arrow, and the busy cursor is a square with three borders and the word “NET” within.
I have created a style sheet that reproduces the way Cello displayed web pages fairly well. I had to compromise a bit with the cursors, but the colors and fonts should all be correct, it even ignores the center tag and leaves a lot of space at the bottom of the page just like the original. I used it as an alternate style sheet on Astoria (the computer and DOS sections still have it), and I took the liberty to add it to my mirror of the Cello website, so that it looks as if it were viewed in the browser it presents.