25 Days That Changed Everything

Page 3 of 7

October 5, 1991, through August 24, 1995

Linus Unleashes Linux

October 5, 1991

Finnish college student Linus Torvalds
posted a brief message to the newsgroup comp.os.minix: "Do you pine for the nice days of minix 1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? I'm working on a free version of a minix-lookalike for AT-386 computers. Why? This is a program for hackers by a hacker." To Torvalds's surprise, hackers who had grown tired of waiting for Richard Stallman's GNU operating system--and who couldn't afford to buy expensive Sun, DEC, or HP hardware--pounced on Linux, which along with its cousin FreeBSD allowed PCs to replace workstations and servers.

Mosaic Hits the Times

December 8, 1993

Artwork: Courtesy of NCSA/University of Illinois
"Click the mouse: there's a NASA weather movie taken from a satellite high over the Pacific Ocean," New York Times
tech reporter John Markoff wrote in a story describing the World Wide Web as experienced through Mosaic, the first browser to embed images in text rather than in separate Windows. "Click again, et voilà: a small digital snapshot reveals whether a certain coffee pot in a computer science laboratory at Cambridge University in England is empty or full." The article helped transform the Web browser from geek tool into mainstream fixture. And the authors of Mosaic went on to write a commercialized version called Netscape Navigator.

Spam Rears Its Ugly Head

April 12, 1994 Husband-and-wife lawyer team Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel's use of a Perl script to post an advertisement for their services titled "Green Card Lottery--Final One?" to more than 6000 Usenet discussion groups prompted outraged programmers to code cancelbots that crawled Usenet looking for the message. But the unrepentant duo claimed 1000 new clients and $100,000 in income from an ad that was--to them--almost free. Usenet wags tapped Monty Python's mysteriously popular ditty "Spam, Spam, Spam" to describe the message glut.

Microsoft Starts Up Win 95

August 24, 1995

Launched just days after Netscape's soaring IPO,
Windows 95 ditched its predecessors' reliance on DOS, added preemptive multitasking and protected-mode 32-bit application support, allowed 255-character file names with both upper- and lowercase letters, and added a Start button from which users could find and launch all applications. The $300 million advertising campaign licensed the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" for TV ads and lit up the Empire State Building in Windows 95 logo colors. But despite the "Where do you want to go today?" slogan, the default Windows 95 installation didn't let you connect to the Internet.

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