The Internet Without the Computer: 1990s Style

The Internet Without the Computer: 1990s Style

We think the internet is spreading to small devices as a modern trend, but it’s actually a good example of how everything circles. 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 prototype device, in our minds, was Microsoft’s ill-fated WebTV, but a recent video of [This Does Not Compute] reminded us of another entry in this race: 3COM’s Audrey. Watch the video, below.

Many devices, like WebTV, want to take over from your TV to save it to a screen. That doesn’t sound bad today, but you have to remember that the typical TV back then wasn’t the high-res digital monster you have today, so the experience of surfing the web isn’t was not optimal. The Audrey actually had a nice little screen and a compact keyboard.

The 7.5-inch color LCD screen was state-of-the-art. There were even USB ports, although the keyboard was IR wireless. Don’t forget that it had to be near a telephone line because Audrey had to use her 56K modem which was on board. A “channel button” allows you to download selected web pages without having to understand the intricacies of the state-of-the-art Internet.

The box could send emails, including handwriting on the stylus-driven touchscreen and voice attachments. Honestly, for its time, the Audrey was quite advanced and ran the sophisticated QNX operating system. The browser is not very useful these days, however, because the built-in browser no longer supports modern web protocols.

Everything turns in circles. One of Audrey’s biggest selling points was her Personal Communication Center. We are seeing attempts to storm this market again. Other devices have slaughtered Audrey in the market. However, the whole category was doomed, of course.

We had forgotten the Audrey, but thanks to [This Does Not Compute] we received a nice reminder. We love old retro computers. As mentioned, we had to think about WebTV (later MSN TV). However, we miss our Chumby.

#Internet #Computer #1990s #Style

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