The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Monthly Archives: May 2012

How We Surfed Ten Years Ago

This is, of course, not a computer ad. It’s the first photo in a longish series. Later on, the lady somewhat predictably sheds all her clothes and does some weird things to her nether regions. This is beside the point here. While used as a prop and not even on, the computer and desk are not a stage setting, but an actual workspace.

The EXIF info is intact, so we know that the photo was taken late in 2002. The rig was probably fairly new. The monitor is a Proview, probably from 2000. I’m not sure but I think it’s a 15″. If it was the photographer’s, he would probably have run it at its maximum resolution, 1024×768. Other people might have preferred 800×600, so text would be better readable.

On outfits like these, the web was viewed, and in most cases designed, ten years ago. The desktop revolution of the years that followed is often a greater obstacle when viewing these old sites than changes in HTML standards and coding habits.

Here are a few reviews of Proview monitors from around 2001:


Journalistic Writing and Layout

HTML was born in an academic surrounding, and had markup for the needs of the academic writing style: six levels of headers, lots of different lists, special markup for quotes and the contact information of the author, and not much else. On the whole, not all too much has changed. Netscape re-invented HTML as a content-independent layout language, something very much frowned upon by the powers that be, mainly the W3C, who worked hard at replacing all the Netscape tags with there sometimes superior, but often horribly impractical and absurd CSS layout model.

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Only 1.5 GB

I just got served an ad for some MMORPG saying, “Only 1.5 GB. Free download!”

And I remembered, how ten years ago, I sat up a whole night through, seven hours, to download Enemy Nations, a bit larger than 300 MB.

Another six years earlier, Blizzard had found it advisable to warn potential downloaders of the Diablo demo: “The demo is just over 50 mb in size. At 28.8k, it will take approximately 5 hours to download.”

Only 1.5 GB.

Times sure are changing.

Poetry and CSS3

I’ve made a little experiment. I formatted one of my favorite poems by Christina Rossetti with all the bells and whistles CSS3 offers, box shadows, rounded corners, embedded fonts. The experimental thing about it is that all the formatting is done in the style sheet only. If you look at the source, you will find no HTML tags in the text at all, just the title and the link to the style sheet at the top.

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The Origins of the Polandball Language

The origin of the Polandball language lies probably in reverse krautchan. It has long been a habit of krautchan users to translate common English phrases word for word into German without regard for grammar or semantics. “Deal with it” for example becomes “Handle mit es”, which in German makes no sense whatsoever.

The famous “Poland cannot into space” seems to have sprung from the reverse process. It is the word for word translation of a German phrase commonly used if somewhat colloquial.

Later on, however, Polandball language mutated into something more akin to what a Slavic native speaker with poor grasp of English would actually say. Just now I found this phrase on the English FAQ of a Russian site:

“What are you use to made it?”

Polandball lives.

XMP, Listing, and Plaintext Still Work

XMP, LISTING, and PLAINTEXT were three early HTML tags with essentially the same function: To show text as-is, with all the line breaks and white space, and without parsing it for markup. That is the big difference to PRE, where markup is parsed. These three tags are therefore ideal for showing HTML code without having to escape any characters.

XMP and LISTING both recognize their own end tags. XMP assumes 80 columns, LISTING 132 columns, a common standard in text terminals supported by many PC graphic cards as well. PLAINTEXT does not even recognize its own end tag. After this tag, nothing will be parsed any more, which can save loading times.

These three tags have been considered obsolete or deprecated since at least 1993, and I was under the assumption that they were not supported in modern browsers, but treated like PRE. I was wrong. Firefox 12, Google Chrome 18, and Internet Explorer 8 all support these tags exactly as intended. Firefox and IE even differ between XMP and LISTING: If the base font is large enough, they will render LISTING smaller than XMP. This is completely independent of the !DOCTYPE declaration, or of any other tags used in the document.

So, basically there’s no reason not to use these tags, except that the code won’t validate, something I come to see as less and less relevant.

Multiple Versions of Internet Explorer on One System

It’s really frightfully simple: just put an empty file named IEXPLORE.exe.local into the directory of the old version of Internet Explorer that you want to run. That’s all. I don’t know how far up it works, but it works with IE6 and older under XP. Two things:

  1. You still can’t install an older version when a newer one is already there. You can keep an older version when you’re upgrading, or transfer an installed version from another system.
  2. There might be other incompatibilities, since upgrading IE replaces a lot of DLLs. After upgrading form IE6 to IE8, IE4 would no longer run, while IE3 still does.


Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work with IE8 any more. IE8 installs a new rendering engine that will be used by IE6 as well, so all you get is the old interface. Luckily, IE8 can be uninstalled. Now IE4 runs again 🙂