2009-05-15

Memories... Spyglass and BLINK

One of those odd memories came up as I was cleaning out some old boxes. I found my Carolina Hurricanes puck that Red Hat people got me in 2001. I found some paperwork for company ideas that other people did a lot better than me. And I found a printout for the most horrible thing mankind could invoke on others. So here is the story of how one could cause mass dangers to the world... embellished and added upon like any good fish story.

Circa 1996. Its near the end of the first browser wars. The company I worked for was Spyglass, makers of Internet Explorer and Red Hat RedBaron! We had an IPO in 1995 that went to $100+ a share.. and then went down into the single digits after Netscape came out and wowed the world. Netscape had a browser that had lots of bling attributes while the Spyglass Enhanced Mosaic was standards bound. We didn't have blink, we didn't have frames, we didn't have javascript because none of those had been through a standards process etc etc. [Plus our core market was going to be Corporate Companies that wanted their own browser to view super-standard HTML/SGML.]

Our big win had been to sell Microsoft Internet Explorer, SpryNet (an ISP that used modems for you kids) a browser, IBM another one, and Oracle another one.. we were going to be big.. well that didn't happen because our license to Microsoft hadn't taken into account that Windows 95 would BE HUGE, and Microsoft had hired 400 engineers to basically make the source code we sent them whatever they wanted. A company of 30 engineers didn't have much to compete with when it doesn't get a percentage of sales :).

Times got tough and the engineers found that instead of making things complaint to the W3C standards.. it was make things compliant to Netscape or whatever Microsoft had added to IE. And beyond that.. if we added stuff make sure we made it bigger and better. So the engineers got Java into the browser and added stuff, they got Microsofts version of Javascript into the browser and made it cross-platform.. they got FRAMES and added stuff and then came the dreaded BLINK tag.

Adding blink was a pretty hard challenge to a static display.. there are various ways of doing it.. but how does one do it and better? I decided that we needed to add a FREQUENCY tag and a ALTCOLOR tag. Yes a frequency tag... why just have BLINK go at all the same time at the same speed? Make it blink at different times on the page! Make it blink two different colors (versus background, foreground.).. have the frequency be in deciseconds so that you could blink from 10 times a second to 1 per second. Some of the developers thought it was great.. I think one of them actually figured out they could do it..

and then it died...

why? well a qa engineer pointed out a very simple issue.. he was an epileptic. "Ok so?" Well blinking lights of certain colors triggers seizures or blankouts in many people even if they are not diagnosed epileptic.

"oooooooooooh"

and so Blue/Red blinking tags at different speeds had to wait until people figured out how to do it in Javascript..
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