How can I replicate the experience of the mid-90s web for a curious Generation Z tweenager?
December 13, 2012 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Does such thing as an early web emulator exist? My 12 year-old stepson is learning HTML and CSS, and today I was trying to describe the web of yesteryear (for me, c. 1995-96). I'd love to show some visual aids. I have googled to no avail.

I know early browsers are out there and I have some (Mosaic, early Netscape, early IE, etc.) and I know about the Wayback Machine. I am wondering if there is anything that sort of mashes up those two ideas (old browser/OS + preserved content) into a more self-contained ecosystem. I guess I was hoping to play to his attention span by not sitting there digging for and loading up half-broken archives from Wayback.

Failing that, if anyone has suggestions of any websites that are sort of frozen in time and still appear as they did back then, that would be super!
posted by allisonrae to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Bob Dole’s gif-tacular 1996 campaign website was making the rounds recently.
posted by Ryon at 5:38 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also just remembered, which seems pretty close to what you’re looking for.
posted by Ryon at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you want to go back a bit further, Googling "lynx browser emulator" brings up a number of sites that will display a page in pseudo-Lynx; here is a little screen shot of Lynx in use.

Jorn Barger has some late 90s pages up.
posted by kmennie at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2012

Jamie Zawinski was one of the founders of Netscape and and in 2008 blogged about running old browsers.
posted by Sophont at 5:53 PM on December 13, 2012, as far as I can tell, looks exactly the way it did when it was first put up in 1997, even though there have been content updates since then. Depending on your son's sense of humor, he might enjoy reading it. I happened upon it as a teenager in the 90s and laughed my face right off.

As for Bob Dole's campaign website that Ryon mentioned, is the reason why that's up as well as a few others. It's interesting to see how political websites have evolved over the years.

The I Hate Frames Frames Page complains about a site design issue that was common in the late 90s, while itself looking very much like a late-90s-era website.
posted by wondermouse at 5:54 PM on December 13, 2012

Have you ever been to Random example.
posted by SMPA at 5:58 PM on December 13, 2012 still looks just like it did in 1998. I just wish I could remember my user name and password.
posted by COD at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2012

Space Jam is still jamming.
posted by alms at 6:26 PM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you want to go back a bit further, Googling "lynx browser emulator" brings up a number of sites that will display a page in pseudo-Lynx

Or you can actually just use lynx, which works fine, and which applied to a modern site tends to give you a properly old-timey feel. I don't think that goes back much further, by the way -- lots of people were using lynx in 1995. I used it as long as I still had dial-up, which is to say about 2000.
posted by escabeche at 7:01 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

IE6 is close enough. You can get a free account on to view sites in IE6 vms
posted by deathpanels at 7:08 PM on December 13, 2012

this site's "design" essentially hasn't changed since 1996:
posted by FlyByDay at 7:24 PM on December 13, 2012

Cool Site of the Day archives going back to 1994.
posted by John Cohen at 8:01 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's one site that looks much the same as it did in the 90s.
posted by xedrik at 8:04 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites] archives the installer executables for ancient and exotic web browsers.
posted by XMLicious at 9:51 PM on December 13, 2012

haha space jam will always be jamming.

I hear Lynx is legit. I'd actually download it for the full experience (DOS?)
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2012

Best answer: A synopsis of the book The Internet by Kerry Cochrane showed up the Paleofuture blog today. I don't know if this is exactly what you're interested in, but it seems like it might help to explain how new and strange it all was.
posted by clockwork at 1:02 PM on December 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! As mentioned up top, I already have a bunch of the old browsers and know and love Wayback. I only wish that Wayback archived prior to 96 or so, as web surfing in 1994 and 1995 is such a delightfully quaint memory for me.

Those screenshots from Paleofuture are perfect, especially that screenshot of the Smithsonian site. Ha! That gets to the heart of what I was trying to explain to him - just how crude and clunky (yet thrilling) it all was compared to what we have experienced for the last ten years.

As for the relic known as IE6, as a former user of IE1, my mind would have been BLOWN by IE6 in 1995! :)
posted by allisonrae at 5:43 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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