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Screenshots from developers and Unix people taken in 2002 (unix.se)
638 points by r3bl on Oct 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 232 comments

I really liked these.

This makes me feel old. I look at those desktops (particularly the Windows 95 one) and think they look clean and neat, with few distractions. I also know that they ran speedily on rubbish hardware.

After ditching my BBC B (I was poor), I remember using Win 3.1 on a 386SX with 4MB RAM that someone had thrown out and installing software to take over program manager and make it look like Win95 because my machine wasn't powerful enough to run Windows 95... How a second-hand 486DX was a revelation. 16MB of RAM! Unfathomable! What could use so MUCH RAM????

I also remember faffing with config.sys etc. to unload mouse drivers so I could run games that moaned about himem.sys in DOS. And telling every game that I really did have an Adlib sound card and a SoundBlaster 16. I really didn't. It was a £7.50 soundcard I bought from a boy at school (who now works at Amazon and has software patents, well done to him! He was really clever, wrote games, played piano like a pro too. Nice guy).

Then the upgrades to Win95, 98 (oooh Web desktop!), installing RedHat 5.2 (no, not RHEL 5.2), reading PC Plus and any magazine that mentioned Linux in an effort to learn more (dialup was expensive), and to make my abysmal VESA graphics card run X, then running FVWM, KDE1 (looked like CDE, how reassuring), GNOME1 (it's squishy), KDE2, 3.5 (perfection, everything was configurable) then going back to GNOME2 (it was simple), then abandoning it all after GNOME3 and KDE4 (hmmm a cashew) and going to OSX. All the Linux desktops I used in tandem with Windows XP and 7 to "keep my hand in" both markets.

I also dabbled with BeOS; it was really really fast. Upon examination in recent years, the development API for it was really simple too. Pity the wxWidgets wrapper for it was shut down.

It's amazing what having rubbish hardware will make you investigate.

How I miss Netscape, the feeling of discovering something new in computers that made you go "wow" (IE4 and DHTML), or the feeling of "this is really great and USEFUL" instead of "this is really pretty", the joy of getting X to run, or learning a new Linux command whilst stuck in the CLI, getting VNC to work, doing X-window forwarding. I miss the lack of Internet, the fact that knowledge of systems came through hard work and patience, through reading and waiting for the next month's magazine that I bought with my paper-round money. I truly am an old fart.

> clean and neat

Really? You miss that special "concrete gray and primary blue" feel?

I think I used every MS operating system starting with DOS, and I miss exactly none of the "historic" interfaces. To the extent I get annoyed when institutional IT departments force you to use the "classic" theme on modern windows boxes ("It's faster!" - no, it isn't to any human perceptible degree, and I appreciate not having to stare at beige rectangles all day).

I think engineers have a lot of nostalgia for this old stuff, but it's misplaced - interface design has moved foward in huge strides in the last decades, learning from mistakes. We've given up excessive skeumorphism, but we've kept improvements in design, layout, graphics, and perhaps most importantly we've learned that you need someone with serious visual and UX design skills to make an interface.

I'm not sure about the 'huge strides'. I feel nowadays with 'flat design' (is that the right term?) I don't know where I can click and what actions will be performed. It's like the UI is a bunch of text labels, but they may actually be links, but they may actually perform an action. Although there's no way to know, since the label doesn't say what action is performed, and since we don't have mice anymore, we don't have hover-hints.

Take as an example the calling apps in Android. It'll show contacts, with name, an avatar, maybe a phone number. Which of these are clickable? Which of these will result in the phone making a call, and which will result into going into looking at the contact? How do I send an SMS rather than call? How do I edit it? How do I get a call history? Every time I use it I click on things without being sure what will happen and I am always surprised at what happens.

Fair points. The lack of affordances is bothersome indeed, but presumably the UX design fashion will swing back in the other direction at some point in the near-ish future.

I think that apart from the specific problem of not knowing what's clickable and what's the consequences of clicking, which we have right now, there's the more general problem that we're having all the time and that is the random changing of shit for reasons which have little to do with improving anything.

Such as, you have to keep making new versions of things so that nobody clones your old stuff and takes some of your market share, and you kinda want to do everything in a new way so that cloning all those versions gets harder - and you know that users will be forced to upgrade whether they like it or not, or else they won't be able to interoperate with those who upgraded unwittingly, and/or those for whom you actually made the upgrade worthwhile.

Or you have so many people on your team and you need them to do something to justify the size of that team.

Or because you took over a project and you need to show how much should be done here and how great it is that you took over.

Or because you want to work around someone's UI patents, and maybe file your own while you're at it so that new competitors are forced to invent yet another kind of UI.

> Which of these are clickable?

All of them

> Which will result in the phone making a call

In the calling screen, each one. In the contacts screen, none.

> and which will result into going into looking at the contact?

In the calling screen, the three dots. In the contacts screen, each one.

> How do I send an SMS rather than a call?

Click the text balloon icon (in the detail view)

> How do I edit it?

Click the edit icon (in the detail view)

> How do I get a call history?

Scroll down a bit (in the detail view).

Have you actually used the thing you're complaining about?

> Have you actually used the thing you're complaining about?

But see, that's exactly the problem. In your answer to his comment (to which he asked plenty of questions almost facetiously to prove a point), you showed off all the inconsistencies. The actions taken by the symbols are different depending on the context.

Why? I should know what clicking will do BEFORE I do it. I shouldn't have to have used it before.

I have used pretty much all MS operating systems as well, except windows 10, and I remember how windows XP felt "too colourful and distracting" when it first came out (with those very bright green grassy hills wallpaper, along with green and blue taskbar), how Vista's start menu was so slow when compared to XP, how windows 7 grouping of programs in the task bar, showing only the program's icon, was painful, or how terrible windows 8 entire user experience was.

While many engineers have a lot of nostalgia for old stuff, much of it is not displaced. Interfaces got a lot better, for those people who are not completely acquainted with computers. But power users, such as many engineers, still use terminals and other tools that while less intuitive, are much more powerful.

"Really? You miss that special "concrete gray and primary blue" feel?"

Yes. I also miss being able to do everything with a keyboard shortcut. This is a much-overlooked feature of the Windows UI that I think is not given enough credit.

I did it all in Windows - from 3.1 to NT3 to NT4 to XP - and I learned to hate hate the Windows OS and registries and so on ...

But I always liked the UI and given the choice between the Mac UI (not the OS) and ... say ... NT4 or XP ... I would choose Windows as the UI.

(FWIW, I do prefer a minimal ratpoison/ion UI over all of them)

I prefer the modern flat design, but that's subjective. I agree with you about they keyboard shortcuts. I hate using a mouse it trackpad, it always feels slow and clunky. I recommend the vimium browser extension of you aren't already using it. Let's you navigate browsers better with your keyboard. Works best on chrome but there's a ff extension too.

But.. OS X has tons of hotkeys. You have 3 modifier keys, and the apple extended keyboards are symmetric around the space bar, which for some reason nobody else understands.

Admittedly, ctrl+shift+f2 to get into the menu bar is a bit clunky, but you can change that to something simpler.

It's Ctrl-F2 for the menu bar isn't it? Ctrl-F3 for the dock, something obscure to reshow a hidden window, no idea about restoring a window from maximised state hence after-market ShiftIt installation.

But in Windows you could really do everything with the keyboard, tabbing between controls, pressing shift-tab to go back. Oddly they went overboard in Windows 7 (or Vista?) and made the headers of list views in Explorer tabbable-to, which greatly slowed down Windows-E, tab tab tab tab to get to the pane on the right. F4 for the address bar, F2 to rename etc. etc. all good fun

> interface design has moved foward in huge strides in the last decades, learning from mistakes

Windows's UI has changed little in two decades, and some of the changes have actually made things worse.

Windows 95 was the first and the last Windows version where Microsoft poured millions into making a super-accessible, usable and intuitive user interface based on actual user studies, and it showed.

Windows 98 brought totally-not-product-bundling "web integration" to try and convince the US Government that Internet Explorer was a feature, not a product. This is where the scourge of Active Desktop, HTML Help, the bloated 98+ shell and other things came from. The change in Windows Explorer paradigm might have been good, but it was also a "web integration" change and Microsoft's own research from 95 showed that the 95 model was the most intuitive, so I doubt the change would have helped usability.

ME/2000 (the desktop was the same) changed very little UI-wise. They gave things a nicer coat of paint, though.

XP added the Luna theme and a second column to the start menu. Vista made everything glossy and added search to the start menu. 7 reorganised the taskbar. These were improvements overall.

Windows 8 came along and added an entirely new desktop environment and very poorly connected it to the existing one, creating a frankenstein UI.

Windows 10 now fixes a little of the Windows 8 mess, but it's still a mess. There's several different popup menu styles. There's multiple scroll bar styles.

And in Windows 10 there is still different tab styles, even on the same page (go to Explorer's options/preferences dialog and note how the first tab is themed and the second tab page IS NOT themed).

MMC has different icons to Windows Explorer. Different parts of the tree view in Windows Explorer have different icons for other parts of it.

Nothing matches. It's a mess.

In Windows it is a bit odd anyway, as anything drawn using GDI or GDI+ goes through the CPU. This includes the "classic" interface. For accelerated interfaces (Aero), the GPU is involved (but don't ask me how - perhaps someone could elaborate?), so on rubbish GPUs it may be slower than going through the CPU, perhaps? Windows should tell you that your computer is rubbish so won't attempt to use the Aero interface.

If you elect to not use the Aero interface, it'll then attempt to mimic the Aero interface entirely in software using GDI+. This is indeed far slower, as the command to draw a series of lines and bevels obviously means more CPU calls than a single "draw grey rectangle" command. The interface is not drawn using precached bitmaps, but is done by software commands. More complicated drawing = more CPU = slower

Windows gives the option to turn off effects like shadows and transparency, window contents whilst dragging etc. in "performance" options in Control Panel, as these would mean more CPU calls (there's more drawing going on). If it wasn't faster, why would it be under "performance"?

But as you state, to a human perceptible degree it may not be noticed. I find that opening Windows Explorer on Windows XP is a far faster drawing experience than opening it on Windows 7, where it needs to fade into view and then redraw the tree on the left, the pane on the right, the toolbar with gradients (gradients are not free!), the "places" tree above the tree on the left (how confusing), and the giant blue panel that sits at the bottom to draw a picture of a computer in addition to the status bar.

File Manager on Windows 3.1 was really fast by comparison.

EDIT: Actually, on OSX I am left with "whitewashed concrete grey" with "primary pre-school colour" red orange and green. Full circle really!

It's definitely noticeable. I disabled the fancy UI on a cheap little HP laptop I bought a year ago, and it runs way faster. Maybe it has a crappy GPU, but turning off all that extra visual stuff definitely makes a huge dent.

> but don't ask me how - perhaps someone could elaborate?

From Vista onwards, GDI draw calls are executed on the GPU on a per-window basis, then the individual windows are also composited together on the GPU.

It's entirely possible that in this time period and for the hardware in question (aging corporate workstations), there may have been very poor to nonexistent GPU support in the onboard video chipset. If the choice is rendering 2D in the CPU, or rendering 2D with 3D assist using a GPU which doesn't exist and is emulated on the CPU, the first is most likely faster and uses less memory.

That said, it's entirely possible that this policy persisted after it no longer made sense.

I still think that Windows NT 4 was the best Windows OS ever. And may be the best GUI ever. I always switch to classic theme, if I have to use Windows. In last versions it's not very classic, though.

For me, it was W2K. It has the stability of NT series better usability, drivers and it was quite fast. Windows XP made simple things a lot harder and slower :)

2k was the first Windows version I remember that I didn't have to reboot daily. In my first proper job (a web developer, in 2000, writing what you'd now call 'single page applications' in DHTML) I'd go home at night and not even log out. The next day, it'd be waiting for me. At most I'd reboot weekly.

I also loved the workstation-y, crisp UI that would let me drag a window with its contents around the screen. My computer wasn't even all that powerful by the standards of the time.

Yep. Win 2k will always hold a place in my heart. My family bought a computer that came with Windows ME, and of course it crashed constantly. After getting incredibly frustrated with this my friend had a copy of this bizarre OS called Windows 2000. It took a long time to get all the drivers for everything initially, but it was stable. Damn stable.

I honestly had a server running Windows 2000 untill about 4 years ago. In that time, it was only really rebooted for system updates. It's sitting in my spare room.

I always liked 2k as well, and it was a good halfway point if you wanted to play games on Windows but not be stuck with a completely crap OS. It was relatively stable, as anyone who also admin'd Unix/Linux boxes at the time could tell you. It crashed just infrequently enough to be forgivable, which was a new thing for MS in my experience (Win 95c was a not-so-close second).

I remember having competitions with classmates and such with several hundred days of uptime on Win2k :). We were rather chuffed with ourselves at the time. Those were the days.

As someone who traditionally has not been a Windows user, W2K is by far my favorite Windows release (7 is probably second). When I was young my house had a Win98SE box that crashed constantly and loved to run ScanDisk at startup. Updating it to Windows 2000 was nothin short of a revolution — the machine suddenly became usable! And even better, it didn’t have any consumer-oriented junk clogging it up. It was what Windows should’ve been from the start.

Back in the day, I really liked the NT4/95 UI. Although I think that Windows 7 was a real improvement. Otherwise, I grew to really hate NT4. During my training, I used a desktop running it for a couple of months, and the complete lack of USB support was a real pain.

During my training, I worked - for a couple of months - on a web application where the test/development environment ran on a Sun machine running Solaris 8, and eventually I install Cygwin/X on my desktop (which ran, can you dig it, Windows 2000!) to start a CDE session and work from there. That grey/pink look somehow looked both butt-ugly and incredibly stylish. ;-)

Someone told me that the classic theme went away in window 8/8.1/10, made me kind of sad because I too always changed to the classic theme.

The "best GUI ever" can't possibly have such a horrid overlapping mishmash of methods for accessing various control panels and system settings.

Interface design has certainly taken huge strides, but I don't think they're in a good direction. UIs are increasingly trying to be "pretty", which is in the eye of the beholder, but not useful.

I think most of the UI on the Mac is really pretty and tasteful with it's low-key grayscale icons, but not very functional. The icons tell you nothing; I'd rather have simple english words. I have to use iTunes to put (lots of) files on an iPhone, and it's a ridiculous chore involving lots of clicks and dismissing pointless dialog boxes.

As the population gets better at navigating UIs, UIs have become increasingly silly and even perverse to compensate. (Or rather, because they can.) XCode, for instance, has some ridiculously hidden features. Without google you could never get the thing to work.

> The icons tell you nothing; I'd rather have simple english words.

Gmail is also guilty of this crime, although at least you can configure it to use text labels. No, I don't want to learn your particular abstract iconography just so I can read my frickin' mail.

And don't get me started on the unholy abominations that are the new iPhone Music and Podcast interface workflows. Wtf.

I think some sort of "Iron Law" is at work here - a company never does better than needed.

Apple has such vast lockin and momentum that they can make bad UI decisions and probably suffer no consequences.

>Really? You miss that special "concrete gray and primary blue" feel?

At least it was easy to read. Nowadays I often can't really focus on UIs because of lacking contrasts.

While now everything looks more "nice" the usability (as in how easy it is for the eyes to focus/find something) often is worse than it was some time ago.

> "It's faster!" - no, it isn't to any human perceptible degree

MS uses it as the default on server systems because it is faster and IT departments are often forced to make the best of aging hardware, and sometimes turning off the effects can, in combination with a lot of other little tweaks, contribute that little bit needed to make a system useful for another budget period.

I always thought that it was because servers tend to be used via remote desktop, and the classic UI compresses better and feels faster across a network connection

The classic Windows UI was exceptionally customizable. I often configured inverse color schemes that worked better in dark rooms. At one point I even edited some of the core OS binaries to change the text on the Start button, get custom logos and messaging, etc. Classic Linux and Windows desktops were all about customization, so the defaults don't really matter. Last time I checked, it wasn't even possible to set a custom solid color background on OSX without using a transparent PNG image.

Just now I checked the background settings under OS X (you got me curious), and thankfully you can set a custom color without setting a transparent PNG (see screenshot). I think it’s been this way for several major releases now, but it wasn’t always true.


> You miss that special "concrete gray and primary blue" feel?

Compared to aluminium-gray-and-no-blue OS X? I don't think mainstream UIs have much to boast about in terms of the evolution of colour palettes.

There's a lot of subtlety in choosing colours and feels, not all greys are the same. I mean think of how many premium devices come in grey aluminium finish - there's lots and they look great. No one has ever made a "concrete finish" device, because that would be horrible.

Likewise, you can't put OSX and win95 next to each other and say "they're both grey, therefore they are basically the same" because that's obviously rubbish - the shading, layout, spacing, and shapes of osx are much more pleasing because they benefit from years of refinement by people who are visual designers rather than engineers.

> No one has ever made a "concrete finish" device,

Most hand-held plastic devices of the 80s/90s were hair-cell finish, emulating the texture of leather. Engineers knew that smooth plastic will scratch and show scratches. Also the hair-cell feels better to hold.

Think of a Motorola pager for instance.

Hair-cell is kind of a micro-concrete.

Heh, since we're stuck on Windows 7 I still use classic mode despite having a very capable machine, out of preference. I also use fluxbox when on *nix.

All Linux desktops are themable. Gnome1 and Sawfish has hundreds of nice themes.

> This makes me feel old. I look at those desktops (particularly the Windows 95 one) and think they look clean and neat, with few distractions.

They also look like someone tried to come up with their own ideas. Everything today is flat, sketchy, inexpressive and boring.

> How I miss Netscape, the feeling of discovering something new in computers that made you go "wow" (IE4 and DHTML), or the feeling of "this is really great and USEFUL" instead of "this is really pretty", the joy of getting X to run, or learning a new Linux command whilst stuck in the CLI, getting VNC to work, doing X-window forwarding. I miss the lack of Internet, the fact that knowledge of systems came through hard work and patience, through reading and waiting for the next month's magazine that I bought with my paper-round money. I truly am an old fart.

I sometimes find myself thinking the same, but I guess it's the slow pace that allowed me to fixate that knowledge that I miss. We made a lot of these discoveries by piecing together various puzzles. It forced us to think what happens "underneath".

Nowadays, when everything is a "how to X" Google search away, you need a little discipline to keep thinking, instead of blindly following instructions.

> the joy of getting X to run

I think you mean "the joy of having X finally running". The actual "getting it to run" part was pretty much the polar opposite of joy.

Yeah, "the joy of getting X to run" part didn't really resonate with me, either :-)

That last phrase is really quotable! Agreed.

> This makes me feel old. I look at those desktops (particularly the Windows 95 one) and think they look clean and neat, with few distractions. I also know that they ran speedily on rubbish hardware.

Are you kidding? It was nightmare to do anything on Windows 98. There were so many things that could result in "dead" state and only solution was to restart and not to mention those frequent BSOD. There was a reason why we were advised that we should save our work often because the whole thing was so damn unreliable.

If you thought Win98 was bad, you need to try WinME :)

Windows 2000, however, was the pinnacle of MS Operating Systems. It has been downhill ever since.

Oddly, there has been a stream of APIs since then too, yet you can get by writing in the old ones no problem!

As a software user, I appreciate that.

But having worked on a Win32 application for two years, I am glad I will never again have to touch that pile of poo.

At the time it was created, Win32 might have been a nice API, given the underpowered machines it was designed to run on. But compared to building GUIs on a POSIX-ish system using Gtk+, it was an incredible pain.

I can understand why many Windows developers were so happy to embrace .Net; one might like it or dislike it, but it is a huge improvement on Win32. (As for MFC/AFX, I only had the most fleeting contact with it, so I cannot say for sure.)

Yes I can understand why .Net was so embraced by developers. Underneath it calls Win32 for you anyway I presume, so it's a nicer wrapper. Kind of like using wxWidgets on Windows is nicer than writing Win32 calls!

I have done some MFC and did not enjoy it, despite similarities in my mind to wxWidgets. I see C++ jobs here in the UK want MFC experience, which saddens me as it means that desktop development for Windows in C++ is either MFC or Borland's rotting VCL. I can really see why C# and .Net took off in the face of that.

"Are you kidding? It was nightmare to do anything on Windows 98. There were so many things that could result in "dead" state and only solution was to restart and not to mention those frequent BSOD. There was a reason why we were advised that we should save our work often because the whole thing was so damn unreliable."

This is all true, but those are problems with the OS, not the UI. The OS was terrible. The UI (NT4/XP/w2k) was pretty decent.

You're quoting a criticism of Win98, then saying that "the OS" (nt/2k/xp) was the bad part. I don't think it's fair to lump in NT with 9x in that way. The criticisms of Windows 98 and the criticisms of NT are going to have a lot in the former category that isn't in the latter.

I feel like these days Windows has the opposite problem as you describe. The kernel is OK but explorer.exe sucks at copying directories.

Haha yes true. Windows 95 second release wasn't so bad. But as you said, 98 was bad. It was better with service packs. You realised what junk it was when you looked at 98's task manager compared to NT's and XP's.

I saw a demo of BeOS at MacWorld (Jan 1996 I think) that blew my mind. The guy started a video playing. He started playing a 16-track audio arrangement. He opened a web browser and more. Flipping between apps, the video player never lagged, the audio never skipped, you could adjust the audio mix instantly... it's like that BeBox could do anything and everything, all at once.

And the hardware that BeBox was running: two PowerPC 603e's. This was not the powerful PowerPC of the era, it was the crummy, low-cost one. They ran at a measly 66MHz. BeOS could drive those things like nothing else, though, it was amazing.

FWIW, I swore I was looking at Win98, and was surprised to learn (it's on the page, straight from Dennis Richie himself) that that's actually WinNT4. I would never have guessed.

I plan to get my 486SX put back together; here's hoping it works. It has 8MB of RAM. (And an SB16... and a radio card... and I recently came upon an ISA ethernet card which hopefully works.....) :D

I remember the first time I enabled Web view in '98 and discovered View Source in my desktop menu. I closed Notepad very quickly. lol

I'm looking forward to building CDE and running it, FWIW. Hopefully I can get it working on something appropriately old! :P

BeOS et. al. FTW. I hope to seriously play around with it sometime soon.

The reason I commented was because I've historically had terrible hardware too :P but it's made me realize how much old/unoptimized/inefficient hardware is so badly needed by developers today... new computers are like new cars, strong, silent types, not like the old noisy tech of old where you could get a visceral idea of what you were doing by sensing the system lag - like on my old 800MHz Duron I was using earlier this year, the mouse cursor could lag four different ways and I knew what each one meant (disk I/O, swapping to death, CPU usage by one process, or CPU usage by many processes). On this note, Netflix' new internal Flux monitoring system is interesting, it provides an "unconscious-compatible" view of data in the same vein.

And yeah, I saw the Netscape screenshots. The scrollbars look really cool IMO.

You might like to look into http://xpra.org, it's sort of VNC + "wow". :P

What else is there...

You might like to have a look at http://vmwaros.blogspot.com

Haxial KDX might be a fun (pointless :P) thing to chase...

Hm, I can't think of anything else. The x86 assembler in bash that was on here last fortnight comes to mind, but nothing else is coming to mind right now...

> I also know that they ran speedily on rubbish hardware

This is not consistent with my memory of the time.

Definitely. Listening to an MP3 while browsing the internet? Hope you like pops and skips every time you load a new page. Starting a game? Better close everything first. Hitting swap? Have fun sl...ow....l...y... moving your cursor where you want it.

Applied to Windows and Linux both, with the bonus on Linux that X11 couldn't even move windows around the screen without all kinds of artifacts and stuttering.

Then again, you can't even fit a single browser tab with Gmail open in the RAM they ran on, so you gotta cut them some slack.

However, BeOS was practically miraculous and suffered few or none of those problems on the same hardware. That it didn't survive the OS wars is proof that we are not in the Best Timeline.

"then running FVWM, KDE1 (looked like CDE, how reassuring), GNOME1 (it's squishy), KDE2, 3.5 (perfection, everything was configurable) then going back to GNOME2 (it was simple), then abandoning it all after GNOME3 and KDE4 (hmmm a cashew) and going to OSX. All the Linux desktops I used in tandem with Windows XP and 7 to "keep my hand in" both markets."

The only thing 'disappointing' in this is you didn't/didn't mention countless attempts to get E(nlightenment) running. After an overnight compile, of course!

> The only thing 'disappointing' in this is you didn't/didn't mention countless attempts to get E(nlightenment) running. After an overnight compile, of course!

lmao. I so badly wanted to check it out, but couldn't for the longest time because it was such a pita to deal with.

Years later I finally got it installed successfully and found it wasn't as snazzy as I had hoped sigh.

Oh well, such fond memories of old skool linux :)

Man I miss BeOS. I do not, however, miss WinModems.

right on.

I still remember that day of someone on IRC boasting about running multiple instances of Netscape in addition to IRC. I was like.. wow! such luxuries! Maybe next year I can upgrade my cpu/ram to get to the multi browser instance club

You know you've made it when you can casually say “I don’t know how to make a screenshot, because I normally use my computer in text-mode.”

Badass Richard.

He also tends not to view websites like HN, GitHub, etc., at least as of a few years ago. I'm not sure if it is because he is still in text mode all the time, because he disagrees with using sites that might somehow involve something that isn't free source, or because he just delegates to others the task of surfing the web and getting information for him. He definitely spends a lot of time emailing though.

I admire him a lot. From some discussion with him and what I've read, I have the feeling that he is in a constant battle with much of the world to try to get them to free all software. I really can't say for certain whether he is really going too far, but his dedication and courage go far beyond what most people are capable of. Even if you disagree with him, it's difficult not to admire him for that.

  He also tends not to view websites like HN, GitHub, etc.,
  at least as of a few years ago. I'm not sure if it is
  because he is still in text mode all the time
just as a side note, not that I think he's wasting his precious time like us anyway:

at least for vim, there's a nice plugin [0] for reading HN. most probably there would be something for his emacs/org-mode as well.

[0] https://github.com/ryanss/vim-hackernews

Stallman using vim. Good joke.

Yes, there is a hackernews package for Emacs. I've never used it, though.


This is the very last thing I need.

For personal reasons he doesn't have a personal internet connection at all.

He has some sort of bot that he emails links to and it sends the source (or plaintext?) back to him for reading.

(At least it was like that a couple of years ago)

I believe he also has issues with non-free JavaScript which I suppose precludes him from using websites that use JavaScript (or I guess he could block it).

I used to think his browsing/emailing habits were silly, but then I started working in the park about 5 years ago on nice days. My phone data plan at the time was pretty crappy, so I rigged up a system using a local imap server and offlineimap/msmtp/msmtp-queue to effectively work offline. I'd get my batch of emails once at the beginning of the day, and I could attend to them (reply, forward, copy, etc) over the course of the work day, and batch-send them all out when I'd be connected again.

I never got to the point of having a bot fetch web pages for me, but I can see it as an extension of what I had set up. For someone who travels as much as Stallman, I think it's a very efficient way to browse and email when internet connections are either spotty or not to be trusted.

As of a few months ago, he has been browsing the web (sometimes) using IceCat and Tor.


I wonder if he realises that browsing over Tor with IceCat will be causing him to have quite a distinct browser fingerprint. He should just use Tor Browser.

He could just be changing his user agent to normalize it.

There is a lot more than just the useragent when it comes to Tor Browser versus any other browser. Tor Browser has many changes to try and make every instance of Tor Browser look identical, everything from the HTTP headers to window size to timing functions being rounded uniformly. Although I am guessing he browses with javascript turned off, which does defeat most of the fingerprinting techniques.

In case anyone is wondering, on Linux you can take a screenshot of the current virtual console by reading from /dev/vcs. The numbered devices allow you to read from a specific virtual console, and each device has a 'vcsa' counterpart that includes colour and cursor information.

It's common to not know how to do something, and easy to find out how if you decide to. There's nothing very special or beneficial to me about a) not bothering to figure something out and b) broadcasting that. "I don't have X running so I took a photograph instead, here it is" would be more useful and more humble.

Maybe that is the one thing EMACS cannot do.. making screenshots ;)

It does fall back on imageMagick, but there is screenshot.el ;)


A good old Russian site linux.org.ru has a huge archive of Linux screenshots (1999-), you should check it out http://www.linux.org.ru/gallery/archive/

I can't thank you enough for this link. This is the exact nostalgia boost I needed. (Many nights while in college, computer parts all over my apartment floor, installing FreeBSD, NetBSD, Slackware, Debian on different boxes just because) I tried every possible WM/Desktop I could find.

This is where I got started using Linux. Oh the memories. I even have some of my (terrible) screenshots on there and had submitted a bunch of news articles and hundreds of comments. Now I don't even remember my username.

Oh the memories of nights spent downloading sources on Dial-Up and nights compiling them on Gentoo. Back then we all had hope for the bright future for Linux on desktop, but it never made it, now we are all on OSX :/

Speak for yourself, i use GNU/Linux everywhere, even on the PHB-supplied Apple notebook. You can pry my comforting illusion of freedom from my cold, dead hands!¹


1. I refer to the multitude of binary blobs required to make anything work these days. Lamentable.

Gentoo: My linux educator.

The fact that you needed to make your own kernel and configure a lot of things on your own made me learn a lot about Linux and GNU. Much more than debian or redhat. There is great value in that I think.

To be fair, I use Debian at work and gentoo on both my personal boxes. So not all of us are on OS X (though my work laptop is a macbook since I didn't get a choice).

Most of my developer colleagues indeed are using OSX, and have for years already. Using Stetson-Harrison method, we have 80% OSX / 10% Linux / 10% Windows.

+1 i3wm on Archlinux until I bought a Mac. Every once in awhile I get itch to go back. Then I go for a walk and the urge passes. :) Thx for sharing.

"Richard Stallman, july 2002:

I don’t know how to make a screenshot, because I normally use my computer in text-mode."

Classic RMS

aloof, self-centered, unhelpful. Classic.

I'd go with 'honest' and 'blunt'.

His life's work on the other hand is definitely helpful, to all of us.

You're right that it's unhelpful. 1/3 isn't that bad.

"I do not tend to listen to music through my workstation, since that both distracts me and wastes cpu power. My workstation is a dual CPU, 500 MHZ system, but I like things to work fast, not be bogged down with decompressing music, etc." (Jon Hall)

I remember this being a concern around when mp3s started to become popular–it's quite amazing how far we've come since the age where an mp3 would soak up an appreciable amount of CPU and saturate an internet connection seemingly forever while downloading.

I just started playing an old mp3 file on my new-ish MacBook and was surprised that it was using 15% CPU...before I realized that it was actually loading it from the cloud storage that holds my 7000 song/50gb music library for next to no cost (it dropped to 1% CPU moments later after it had buffered)–never mind having subscription access to essentially all the world's music.

I remember when I had a ~100mhz Cyrix 4/586 clone that I used to do desktop publishing (Photoshop, Quark, etc) in the mid-late 1990s. Plenty fast for that, but it could on play 128kbps MP3s if nothing else was running. I would have a tape deck hooked up to to the audio out so I could make cassette tapes for my car from MP3s.

That got replaced with a actual 166mhz Pentium MMX. That one had no problem playing MP3s along with the regular work. Same with the next machine that was a Celeron overclocked to 400mhz.

I could only imagine how I would waste dual 500mhz processors at that time!

That last sentence brought back some memories for me, like when the ABIT BP6 motherboard came out (it was the first of its kind). I just HAD to have one, so I got one and stuck a pair of 500 MHz Celerons in it. That thing was sooooo faaaast! It was so much more powerful than my previous machines (a 486SX/25 w/ 4 MB of RAM and then a P100 w/ 32 MB of RAM)! I remember putting it together and wondering "how am I ever going to use this machine at anything near its full potential?"

This is a great reminder (to me) that, even though it doesn't seem like it sometimes, technology really does change so damn fast.

I had one too, and it WAS fast! I built it from parts I got at the Oakland Computer Show. It was my beloved "duallie". :)

I remember the first MP3 player I downloaded had to spend some time buffering before it started playing the song. It must have been on my old 386.

Which is funny because the effect was important on a 100MHz Pentium, but pretty much negligible beyond that.

How this is true. My brother had an Elonex Pentium 120Mhz laptop, and that was truly brought to its knees when playing an MP3.

Playing mods and xms was alright, unless they were complicated. Encoding MP3s was another thing altogether - I was wowed when a schoolmate had a dual CPU machine that ENCODED faster than it ripped CDs. I could only dream of such a thing - encoding was far far far slower than reading the data from the CD in the first place.

Yep I remember this too. In my engineering college days 97/98 in the 90s we were fairly aggressive early adopters of mp3s. We quickly learned that to reliably dj a party with just mp3s you needed at least someone with a 133MHz Pentium to not stutter or have issues on any tracks.

I had a Toshiba Libretto 30 with a 486DX processor at 100MHz that was exactly on the boundary. It could play MP3s, but only with the Fraunhofer codec: WinAMP was not quite fast enough.

It was a lovely little machine that I set up to dual-boot Linux. If it had had mobile networking it would have been fantastic.

I remember that boundary. Well, I was stuck with way less than that boundary; I had 486DX2 66MHz, which was way underpowered to do any MP3.

There were software for Windows that could play MP3s at reduced quality. I don't know if I had any counterpart of that for Linux at the time...

I've then replaced CPU with one of the AMD upgrade processor (perhaps 486DX 100MHz equivalent or better, I don't quite remember the detail as it was a long time ago), and that's when I could start playing MP3s.

I was able to play MP3s on my Pentium 75 using "amp" on FreeBSD, but they would stutter if I fired up Netscape at the same time and started scrolling the window around.

I remember it took some time before I could play MP3s--for about a year I was stuck playing MP2s instead.

Hey, the PHP creator included a selfie!

(Full disclosure: I write PHP on a daily basis, and reject the opinion that it should be avoided for various reasons, but I recognise the stereotype (that it's not a very 'good' language) enough to derive humour from it - consider it sort of self-deprecating)

In all fairness, it's what I switched from VB to.

My current position is that HHVM's existence means that PHP is a serious contender and kicking it out the window is probably not the greatest of ideas.

The fact that it doesn't have good console interaction support out of the box kind of killed it for me though.

Once my computer setup's stable (this 1024x768 laptop screen isn't that great for dev work :p) I'm going to be looking at some other languages.

I don't mind PHP overall, and since it's so widespread if I want a small script that'll almost certainly run "in most places" I'm likely to turn to PHP. (To continue the console argument, though, it's entirely possible that php[-cli] might not be installed, only the Apache module, which is annoying.) Similarly, if I was to build a major "community-oriented" project which I wanted to succeed... I might actually write it in PHP because it's such a simple language to work with and learn (at least it was in my case).

My personal goal is to keep it a "minority" language, though. Going forward, if I write for my own purposes I want to try and use other things, and if I had to use PHP internally somewhere I wouldn't be that impressed. :p

Yeah, it seems that most of the anti-PHP bias is from programmers building things that they deploy themselves. But for sites that are built by non-programmers (e.g. web designers... there are a ton out there building CMS-based sites, they dabble in programming but don't get too deep), the fact that it easily deploys on most shared hosts can't be beat.

Friends don't let friends use PHP.

> since it's so widespread if I want a small script that'll almost certainly run "in most places" I'm likely to turn to PHP

I'm curious about this though—isn't sh literally required by the POSIX standard? How is PHP more ubiquitous than sh? I certainly don't have PHP installed.

Good point.

A "small script" might not necessarily be very simple - it might only have 5-10 lines, but those lines might involve parsing HTML, connecting to a remote host somewhere, running a one-time listening server, nontrivially processing a set of files... any number of different tasks.

sh is good for job execution, piping and redirection, and task management, and it launches processes like sed, grep, and awk to handle text processing. Beyond that, simple, one-time HTML parsing can be done with sed and grep, but it doesn't work very well (and I'd never use it in production), I can't really easily connect to a server without netcat or socat (or, in a pinch, bash's exec operator, which is slow in practice - I wrote an IRC bot in bash, its CPU usage skyrocketed easily), or for more complex tasks involving HTTP requests, curl or wget.

It's ultimately impossible to know whether someone has Python, Perl, Tcl, Haskell, Ruby, Node.js, or even PHP installed, and able to run console scripts... but only a language like one of these comes with a base library competent enough to include functionality to achieve all the goals I noted above.

I'm with you there - you can pry PHP out of my cold, dead hands. You just can't beat it IMHO for getting small systems up and running quickly. Lots of available libraries and code, and it's either preinstalled or trivial to install on almost everything these days.

Aren't the preinstalled versions insecure by default?

I find it amusing how almost each paragraph starts with “My desktop is quite boring, but…” :)

The most surprising thing about these is the stark reminder of Microsoft's dominance during this era. Whether it's the terminal emulator running on NT4 or Internet Explorer being the only sensible browser on a Mac, Microsoft has fallen far with this crowd.

This brought back memories for me. Around this time I was in school running 3D graphics packages on NT. SGI was losing out to commodity graphics cards, NT was fast and stable, and OSX was just starting to trickle in to our labs (and would become dominant within several years with the explosion of the PowerBook titanium.

Very true. They succeeded in getting a desktop into most homes.

Staying fashionable is more difficult.

Amazed that Dennis Ritchie used a non-monospace font, I don't think I have seen any other serious developer use one.

Also amused to see the Jerkcity comic open in Jordan Hubbard's screenshot.

I've tried it a few times, but it's just so painful when you want things to align. Now, if you had a really good code layout tool that could 'snap' parts of lines so that they horizontally align at sensible places, I think non-monospace fonts could be useful.

In fact, having smart alignment would be great even with monospace fonts. I work in emacs and it's frustrating when the editor decides to 'fix' your own spacing because the editor-mode doesn't have a very intelligent layout system...

> having smart alignment would be great even with monospace fonts.

The "smart" magic you are looking for is called "tabs".

And they will fight you every step of the way, every time you suggest they use the indentation character for indentation.

Your indentation levels will show up correctly, and that's really all that matters. Relax. Or, if you really care, switch to Go and use gofmt.

I recommend clang-format : http://clang.llvm.org/docs/ClangFormat.html

If you ask really serious .. I dont think any serious developer gives a shit about font being used . Back in the days people used to be happy even to see a character on screen . These days js script writer using bower and other similar things and calling it automation will never understand that. The rush or high of using sun , bare bone x11 linux , developing without any autocomplete , when your experience was your stack overflow .

So please dont talk about serious developer font , its highly offending to all the work.

Well, except for the Lyx and KDE founder, Matthias Ettrich, who calls out his use of proportional fonts in his email on that very page!

The tiling window manager wasn't invented yet? All of these screenshots look like floating window hell. Thank god we live in the future!

ratpoison was started in 2000, I think... inspired by this:


I've been using it since around 2003 or 2004...

Except I don't use the tiling stuff. I like to live in a kind of retro future. My laptop has a retina display that I mostly use for full screen black xterms with a font about the size to fit 80 characters.

The first version of Windows used a tiling window manager (or whatever that sort of thing is called on Windows.)

Wasn't that just a technological workaround, though? The hardware couldn't support overlapping windows.

Back then the (usual) hardware didn't support anything; the Xserver just wrote into some 100KByte of video memory, one bit per pixel. The X server had to deal with overlapping, and could.

Only top level application windows were tiled. Dialog windows were floating above them and they were overlapping.

There was no need for hardware support because windows were not buffered, they repainted itself when the system told them to do it.

It was at least partly due to Apple claiming ownership of overlapping windows.

According to "Barbarians led by Bill Gates" this was an intentional choice justified by studies of number of clicks required to perform some tasks.

Great book, btw.

There was at least Ion and Ratpoison (mentioned elsewhere ITT).

What's in dmr's drawterm looks pretty tiled to me.

That's acme, Plan 9's answer to emacs that does a really good job of managing tiled (text-only) "windows". It also served as an inspiration to the wmii tiling window manager on Linux

rtlwm was written and working around '87. It even has its own entry in the X11 icon font.

fvwm could be tiled.

Anyone looking for Unix screenshots of 2015 should have a look at the /r/unixporn [0] subreddit. As the name suggest, it's a collection of really nice-looking *nix systems, usually providing all the details to "reproduce" the setup.

0: https://www.reddit.com/r/unixporn

I find it interesting how often the phrase "[my desktop] is pretty boring" is said in a nearly shameful manner. These people that were producing content with their computers that was anything but boring (in the practical, effective sense) still felt that their screenshots lacked mystique and beauty.

Well, then there's CmdrTaco's desktop :3

That Return to Castle Wolfenstein screenshot...

Thanks for reminding me that I'm getting old.

RTCW:ET is still well and alive thank you.

Yeah, there's lots of active servers - but it's dying. I think many servers are filled more by bots than people. That said, it's great fun if you know where to play.

RTCW is also fun on singleplayer mode.. and it runs natively on GNU/Linux.

It's been dying for the past decade. People still play it.

That got my attention as well. There was another person with the game in their dock, which I noticed first. I may have to install it from Steam and play it again sometime..

I had the same exact response. "RtCW is 13+ years old!?" I spent so much time with that game.

Is it just me or was I the only one who saw how awesome this is: http://unix.se/

Here's the screengrab http://share.veb.nz/1UD8UE6 in case you guys don't see it... I think it's awesome. I want it! Definitely gonna update my 404 pages, heh.

I enjoyed it, too! It reminded me of the Sburb loading screen from Homestuck: http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=002037

And of course - for those who need Homestuck explained - that's a great throwback to the SimCity games, specifically here where the loading screens would often include nonsensical things like the famouse "reticulating splines". (IIRC, a lot of the Maxis games of Yore would play off that joke.)

(And thanks - now the Sburb loading theme is stuck in my head again!)

It would be interesting to see how their desktop is today!

Seeing the interest this generated, I'm working on a follow-up :)

Richard Stallman is a legend. While most of us blindly agree to terms and conditions for crap proprietary software, he doesn't even need a GUI. He's one of my top inspirations.

Edit: grammar

while I applaud him for sticking to his convictions, thats like saying that one should walk everywhere because we didn't used to have cars/don't need them

With time I'm starting to realize he's essentially correct in everything he says. We are really chained to corporations due to non-open hardware and software, and they're almost completely unaccountable to us.

The way I see is, to make a political point, someone has to be extreme in his cause to be not called out for hypocrisy, and I feel like that's where he is...

Reminds me how bad anti-aliasing on the fonts was back then.

Heh, "anti-aliasing". Pretty much without exception (I didn't exhaustively check) these are bitmap fonts. They were hand designed glyph-by-glyph for display on a monochrome monitor.

I spend the bulk of 1993-2003 or so staring at text windows made up almost exclusively of the X11 "9x15" font. It's really not bad at all, and occasionally I still fire up an xterm in that just for kicks.

Note also that a lot of what you're identifying as "antialiasing" is simple pixel size. You could certainly generate a nicely-filtered font with a pixel height on 15 on modern systems, but on most displays it would be unreadably small. Typical programmers are working with fonts with literally twice the resolution these days.

It is impressive how far that's come.

It would be nice to do this again on modern systems.

I guess its possible to ask all of these people, apart from Dennis Ritchie :(

More like non-existent than bad.

Anti-aliasing was first introduce to a personal computer in 1989, on the Acorn Archimedes. [1]

My father only used Archimedes machines, so when we first got a Windows PC in ~1996 we both spent ages trying to make the text look nice — we assumed we had to find a setting somewhere.

I couldn't find a good screenshot of an older system, so I made one [2]. The desktop font isn't anti-aliased, only the fonts in applications. I've used the included (in ROM) !Draw to write text, successive lines are offset by one pixel to the right. Also shown is the configuration dialogue, and the interactive help for it.

[1] http://web.archive.org/web/20131020231733/http://acorn.chris... [2] http://i.imgur.com/bS1u5NF.png

I find it remarkable how little my "desktop" has changed since 2002. Like most of the people sampled I've got a browser up which has HN, mail, newsblur, pinned and then a bunch of tabs that have opened up as a result of those three. And counting I've got 11 Term2 windows up across the two screens and my laptop screen. And one really slow app I have to run talk to some enterprise apps but pretty much a browser and xterms is all I need for the most part to do work.

So both creators of C used Windows...

Was probably the cheapest way to get a terminal to unix running at the time. I've been in lots of shops where the given computer is Windows, because that's what the rest of the company runs, and most of my time is spent in terminal windows to unix (Unix long ago, Linux these days).

I recall trying to get actual unix on a PC, back around '94 or '95. I actually contacted the local Sun rep, and it was cumbersome and expensive. I gave up.

Me: How much is a sparcstation 10[1] without any accessories?

Sun Rep: Well, give me an idea of what kind of work you're doing and we'll make sure we can get you set up with the right workstation.

Me: How much is a sparcstation 10 without any accessories?


[1] I gave configuration details - everything needed to ship me exactly the machine I wanted.

Wouldn't Linux or BSD have been available? These screenshots are from 2002, not 1992.

And we're still issued Windows computers, locked down by IT, in 2015. Ritchie's desktop was from home, but it still could have been the path of least resistance in his family. Or maybe liked Windows, or gaming, or Quicken, ...

At the time? 2002? No. Actually, 2002 is when I switched from Linux desktops to OS X. Never really used Windows that much because of how poor the experience was interacting with Unix machines. Still is, really.

I'm quite surprised to see it.

ugh. hummingbird. don't remind me.

Yeah, I worked at a largish government agency that ran Hummingbird. We had a mix of AIX servers and Windows clients and Hummingbird was critical for a handful of things. Can't say I have many fond memories about that whole architecture, but it was part of a complex web of software that let us anachronistically hold out against adopting Active Directory.

Oh god now that was a memory I had long repressed. Just wanted to thank you in advance for my nightmares tonight ;)

Only insofar as they used them as gateways to other machines. Ritchie was on a Plan 9 box, and Kernighan was in other various machines via X

That's not completely true.

Some anti-Microsoft types (about 15 or 20 years ago) were outraged after it was pointed out that (according to the headers of the posts) Ritchie's posts to the 9fans mailing list were being sent from Microsoft Outlook.

Maybe the lesson here is that people who accomplish a lot tend to be pragmatic?

Not on those screenshots, but C++ creator Stroustrup is also a Windows user.

For some reason every picture I've seen of his office, he's parked in front of a Sun of some sort.

I believe at that time, for the office, he didn't have much choice :)

K&R wrote the book. R(&T) created the language.

Stallman may be the only serious computer user who hasn't paid for a Windows license

And Windows is written in C

Your point is?

What an excellent post.

This inspired me to dig up an old screenshot from the same time:


Most likely this was on a Red Hat desktop I was running (before the enterprise switch). Man, I really miss running WindowMaker…

I ran a pet project website back in 2010, userdesktops.org, with the sole aim of collecting all desk shots from the top forums back in the day, posted in the infamous and usually pinned threads, titled "Post your desktop" or "Show off".

I compiled a pile of scripts on top of wget, curl, httrack, ImageMagick and customized a Firefox build to allow for easy scraping from the most common bulletin scripts in use at the time. As the project's sole aim was pure nostalgia and server hosting and bandwidth were quite expensive back then I quickly put it to rest after no more than an year I think. Now I'm kinda sorry for not leaving at least the scraping to go on for longer, I'm pretty sure the forums queue was cut short of at least a couple hundred potential targets and god knows how many desktops.

Anyways, I've scoured for my old server backups and lo and behold, here are 2362 pure shots of geeky nostalgia:


One thing to note: the aspect ratio of the screens. No 16:9 or 16:10 back in that day.

(Do some of them almost look square, or maybe rotated 4:3?)

The way I remember it is 4:3 was by far the most common aspect ratio of the day (it's 640:480 and 1024:768).

Moolenar's screenshot is 1280x1024, or 5:4.

Really enjoyed this. I hate to say it but I get more sentimental looking at these than I do most family pictures. The old Netscape logo really hit me hard.

One reason I am now going to start screenshting things from now on and archiving them :)

I had the same sentimental pang. I've just spent the last hour going through old files trying to find an old screen grab. Found this [1], but it was probably more about me trying to show how shiny and clean my desktop was at the time so I didn't have any windows open.

But, it shows the Mozilla logo before I finally moved to Firefox. I think this would have been around 2001 or 2002. I don't know how I was so happy with a 640x480 screen.

1. http://i.imgur.com/zK73D36.jpg

That was before we had Firefox, when the only graphical web browser available in most Linux distros was Netscape, which was barely usable. Also most fonts were bitmap fonts, not the nice scalable fonts of today.

The Mozilla Suite existed and wasn't that bad, even in 99/00 when I started using Linux. Konqueror was also pretty decent. The web also wasn't as central to the Internet experience then (irc, pop3 clients, and so on were pretty prevalent.) Most of my time in a web browser was spent checking slashdot, googling for things, and so on.

That smoking spy icon in Ritchie's screenshot gives me flashbacks to mid-90s childhood. I remember seeing it around quite a bit for a while, but can't remember where. Anyone know where it's from?

It is a face, aka picon. It reminds me of the GameSpy logo. It appears to be the default face for unknown.

Info about faces in Plan 9: http://plan9.bell-labs.com/wiki/plan9/Adding_your_face/index... doesn't seem to load but is cached is http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:CkBURro...

Database of faces/picons: http://www.cs.indiana.edu/pub/faces/picons/

the original paper describing "faces" is here:


Did people primarily not use terminal multiplexers like GNU Screen back then (or like tmux today)? It seems to be a lot of windows all over the place.

Other than that, jumping a little ahead --I remember getting Windows XP in late 2001, early 2002. Everything looked so nice and shiny - it may have been the last time I was so unbelievably impressed with Windows. I'm not sure why I liked it so much - either because the UI (at the time) looked gorgeous, or because I was in second grade.

Realistically, it was the latter.

I know I, for one, stopped using screen as soon as I started using X Windows. I'm okay with overlapping windows, that's what my window manager handles really well.

I've started using screen again for long-running processes so i can detach and reattach later.

Windows XP looked like Fischer-Price toys, so maybe it was a combination of the graphics and your age!

I can understand how Stallman felt... To an extent. Through the early 90s (92 and 93)... I avoided X. Didn't see a reason for it... As I had everything I needed on the console. Then again... I had to downgrade my ram from 8 megs to 4 when switched to my 486. Booting up X and its associated apps kinda stressed my memory.

By 2002 I was certainly running a graphical desktop. Can't say I remember which. Never really got into Windows outside of gaming. I was most likely using Windowmaker.

Does anyone know why Dennis Ritchie's screenshot has all that noise? It's almost like it was printed and then scanned back.

That particular image is a GIF with a reduced palette of 8 bits per pixel, whereas the rest seem to be full-colour PNGs.


Yup. It's the untouched gif he sent me.

My desktop looks much more boring than these. But then again, I'm using multiple "workspaces" :)

Stallman wins again :)

also... woah, old iTunes

Terminal changes very little.

Kids these days use all kinds of fancy throbbing, pulsating and gyrating add-ons using for example oh-my-zsh [0] and the like.

0. https://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh

Strange I submitted the same link earlier.. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10467460

xwinman still has some 2000s screenshots from many desktop and window managers: http://xwinman.org/

notable how many (all but one?) use a text-only email client

Black on bright white, non-smoothed, bitmapped fonts. My eyes!

Do people these days even have a "my desktop"? My work is a whole bunch of VM screens, accessible from anywhere. Also they are all a mix of OSes...

I have a command launch that pops up when I hit the windows key and a gnome-terminal, chrome, and slack open that I can alt-tab through. These are always full screen. I think my background is purplish.

Wow. I feel like I am touching a part of history!

I miss my fluxbox wm and my Linux dev box. I stick to OS X now for my Desktop, though I do think back wistfully sometimes.

No green-on-black terminals? So disappointed.

Apparently I have something in common with RMS. Although it took me many years with all the other graphical options to get to that point. Memory access problems while using Xorg was the last straw. I will never go back to any graphics layer, except perhaps I might use a framebuffer. No modern graphical operating system is worth my time. Text mode is fast and highly portable.

Ha, an exmh sighting! I used MH for years before I finally crumpled.

The itunes interface hasn't changed much in the last 13 years. Not many software products go that long without a major reskin, especially seeing as it came from a company that prides itself on it's progressive design.

I quite miss the brushed metal look. It is interesting that you could take OSX from back then and put it in front of someone today and it'll behave mostly the same.

Sadly the same could not be sad about mainstream Linux environments (GNOME3, Unity etc.) or Windows 8/10. Windows 10 you can to some extent.

Thought provoking.

> Windows 10 you can to some extent.

Only compared to Windows 7 or Vista maybe. Definitely no compared to, NT4/Me/2000/XP from back then.

> Sadly the same could not be sad about mainstream Linux environments

I'm still wondering what the Unity/Gnome/KDE devs smoke. From what I've gathered from Gnome users, the only way to make it bearable is by ripping out half its functionality and replacing it with (Gnome-specific) extensions. That can't be the way forward, can it?

(Although non-mainstream Linux desktops are an exception, too: Openbox e.g. didn't change too much over the last five or so years I've been using it, but it's so vastly configurable that my configuration has massively evolved over the years, and I figure it's similar for most of its users.)

The more worrying thing about Gnome is that by being in large part done by RH employees, their antics are not confined to the DE. Over time it has dug itself deeper and deeper into Linux user space, and will probably dig itself into the kernel once Torvalds steps down as maintainer.

As best i can tell, they want to create something like a hybrid of OSX and Windows. OSX up front, and Windows in the back (to be comfortable to all those MSCEs around the corporate and government offices).

That's the thing with Linux - if you don't like the default DE/WM because it changes too much, then use one which doesn't. User friendly distros pack things like Openbox or i3 with some sensible defaults.

I am always "sudo apt-get install i3" and "git clone dotfiles" away from a configured tiling window manager if that's what I'm after.

lxde ftw

I don't miss brushed metal in general because they started putting it in too many places. The early concept was that it fit programs that mimicked hardware devices, and iTunes was saying "Look at me, I'm your stereo system."

Then Panther (10.3) came along, and Finder went "Look at me, I'm your filing cabinet!" Eeeeeh, ok I guess? That's when it started to feel tacky and overused for me. Maybe because I only ever had one iTunes window, but the message of "You have 4 filing cabinets open on your desk" is a little bit weird.

As far as iTunes in general goes, I wish it'd go back to being a simpler MP3 player. They've got so much stuff in it (iOS device sync, music store, internet radio, Apple Music, podcasts, iTunes U, whatever else I've forgotten).

All the different layouts, the way the playlist sidebar appears and disappears, the multiple navigation schemes sharing one bar (pick source on the left, sometimes an icon and sometimes hidden in a dropdown, change view layout in the center) doesn't work well. Just the other day I switched modes and then was thinking "Wait, where did the list of recently added items go?" I found it in the albums layout by clicking through random stuff until I got the one I wanted, but I feel like if an MP3 player makes me hunt for something then the interface has failed me. The iTunes version screenshotted here never had hunting.

Family members have asked me "Where did X go?" on more than one occasion after the redesign, and I can't answer is quickly as I'd like anymore...

Ah yes brushed metal everywhere was bad. As you say, it made sense in iTunes as it looked like a hifi.

It really does do too much these days. It handles backups for your phone, your iPad, plays videos, plays music, handles playlists, acts as a shop etc. etc. etc.

Combined with the fact that buttons on iOS no longer look like buttons and text and hints are being replaced by cryptic symbols, and everything is flat so you don't know what is text and what responds to behaviour, I think user interaction has suffered and things aren't as discoverable as they once were, in general. Not just iTunes.

As soon as I saw that, my first thought was that the interface has gotten worse. I realize they've crammed a lot more stuff into it, so maybe I'm being too critical. I'm pretty sure Apple can do better though.

I have an iPod Touch and I wanted to listen to Beats One in iTunes. I had to go to Google to figure out where it is. Hint: it isn't part of internet radio.

I'm looking at my itunes 12 window right now and it looks quite a bit different to my eye (most music players have basically the same form of 'controls on top and a big list of songs').

Really diggin' Rob Malda's Ryoko background.

cmdrtaco's screenshot is a great example of how, back in 2002, we hadn't yet learned "just because you can, doesn't mean you should".

I dunno, the idea that we could have fun with, or at least be enjoying, the thing we spend all day dealing with doesn't seem like something we shouldn't be doing.

Plus he's got what, a slightly dodgey font going on? That's hardly ostentatious.

A bit dated wouldn't you say?


I believe you have replied to the wrong news post. Were you referring to the one about uBlock Origin being denied on the Chrome Web Store by chance?

oops, yeah. something weird happened with the tabs I guess. thanks for pointing that out!



What a great idea! Every monday I take a picture of myself. I think I'll add a photo of my computer desktop and a picture of my physical office space, too. Those will be fascinating 10, 20, 30 years from now. (I'm 53 so I don't know how much further I'd go!)

This is right around the time I used a Mac for the first time in years and was blown away. Everything else looked and worked like this stuff, clunky. Or perhaps I just prefer a different sort of clunkiness.

BTW: The Jerkcity web comic shown in one of those screenshots is still going strong as a daily web comic:


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