Back in 1993/94, I was hired as a contractor on the Windows 95 team (though it was still called by its code name Chicago at the time).
My job was to verify that the dial-up networking capabilities of Windows 95 worked. Every day I would update a bunch of desktop-class machines to the latest Chicago build, then disconnect them from the corporate network, and then have them dial up to various servers on various modems at various speeds and make sure that the data copied correctly. When I started we had 1200, 2400, 4800, and 9600 baud modems, and there was some excitement when we got some of the early 28.8k modems to test out ("28.8k! So fast!"). As an aside, I remember that we also got some early Pentiums in the lab at one point, and when they weren’t running tests on them, they’d run DOOM on them and everyone would marvel at the amazing frame rate they could achieve.
Anyway, one day my boss came in to the lab and told me that I should "test those browsers, they could be big" or words to that effect. So I downloaded an early build of Netscape and used Yahoo! to find a few sites (I’m not sure if Google existed back then). This was not scientific testing. I can only remember 3 sites that I would regularly visit back then. I remember visiting CNN.COM (MSNBC didn’t exist yet!), a fan-made David Bowie site (that doesnt’ exist any more), and some web site down in California made by a couple of guys who’d take the picture of the worst driver they saw on the road each day on their way into work, and then post the picture and a little story about why the driver was so bad. I remember that even back then they had the good sense to blur out the license plate & face so they wouldn’t be sued. I can’t remember if their camera was digital or not; digital cameras were expensive and rare back in ’93/94, but then again so were web sites so clearly these guys were involved in tech somehow.
Anyway, by the end of Windows 95 I had a larger set of pages that I’d verify. I also tested with a few more browsers (Mosaic’s early browser, Lynx, and IE1 and IE2, probably). I rarely remember problems with the dial-up system itself; occasionally certain modems would fail, but if they could connect, rarely were there actual networking problems. I also had some 56.6k modems to test by then, and that made browsing the web much more fun (I pity people who actually lived with 1200 baud modes).
After Windows 95 shipped, I went full-time and moved on to a different job, but I ended up back in the browser world when Microsoft developed IE3, but stories from then are for a different blog post…
PS- Merry Christmas!
Anyway, I’m not sure why all this popped in to my head today, but I thought I’d share – a memory from long ago!