Ahead of their time: Nine technologies that came early

Sometimes you build it, and they end up not coming.

By , ITworld |  Offbeat, computing history, Danger

Picture courtesy of the Online Library Learning Center

1991: Gopher

When I was a newly minted college freshman in the fall of 1992, I discovered this wonderful new technology that would allow you to find information on the Internet. Easily browsing from site to site, I was able to do everything from look up information about my class schedule to find answers to my reference questions, all from my own dorm room! The system was called "Gopher," and it was clearly going to change the way the world worked.

Released more or less at the same time as HTTP, the Gopher protocol was another method for organizing and finding documents on the Internet, and for a while it was more popular than the Web as we know it. But the Gopher browser, which offered lists of folders and files that look sort of like an FTP browser window, lacked the visual flair of the Web, and when the University of Minnesota, which had invented the protocol, threatened to start charging for implementations of it, people fled to the Web in droves. As for me, in the spring semester of that freshman year, a friend of mine who lived across the hall in my dorm showed off this program called "Mosaic" he had just downloaded, and I never looked back.

Next page: Apple Newton

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