apacheIn 1995, the Apache Group releases Apache 1.0-the first official version of the Apache Web server. Significantly, Apache is open source which allows the user to access the source code. Adapted for the first Web server, Apache quickly becomes the most popular web server software on the net.

Apache development began the year before in 1994 when Brian Behlendorf was working on establishing a web site for Wired magazine that included name and password functions. Adapting the first web server written by Rob McCool, he writes a “patch” of code that gets the server to do what he wants it to. Programmers from all over began sharing these patches and advice, and by 1995 the server had been completely rewritten. The group that created it called themselves the Apache Group and released the software. Within a year it’s the most popular server software online with it’s free price and open, customizable code.

Netscape Navigator

netscapenavReleased in 1994 by Netscape Communications Inc as Mosaic and Mosaic Netscape, it was created by former members of the team that created the original Mosaic web browser. Version 1.0 appeared at the height of the internet craze, becoming the dominant browser and forcing Mosaic into obscurity. It soon became the primary browser on Windows platforms, readily made available across the web and in trade magazines.

Navigator held 90% of the browser market throughout the decade until Microsoft saw the potential of having the de-facto internet browser. They licensed parts of Mosaic and incorporated that into what became known as Internet Explorer, sparking what is popularly referred to as the “browser wars” today.

By 1998, IE had stolen Navigator’s thunder, causing it’s market share to plummet. Later, the 4.x versions of the browser became buggy, crash prone, and suffered compatibility problems. Microsoft’s heavy marketing and branding strategy paid off, putting Internet Explorer into the hands of more users with their influence and reach. In 1998 Netscape was acquired by AOL. Development continued until it was officially retired in 2008.


mosaicThe Mosaic web browser was the first graphical web browser. Development was begun in 1992 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications when the internet was still very new to most of the world. At the time it was mostly navigated via FTP, Usenet, and Gopher, and Mosaic became one of the killer apps of the early 90s. Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina created the browser for the X Windows system and Version 1.0 was released in April 1993, followed by 2.0 in December with versions for both the Apple and Windows platforms as well. Both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator still used technology that originated with Mosaic for a time, and in each program’s Help>About menu credit is given.

Mosaic was the dominant web browser until it was eclipsed by Netscape Navigator, which became the new leader after Andreessen and others left the University of Illinois and formed Mosaic Communications Corporation, which later became Netscape Communications Corporation.

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)

PGP was developed by Phillip Zimmermann in 1991 to provide cryptographic privacy and authentication. After it’s initial release, it was enormously pouplar, spawning a government investigation when it spread beyond U.S. borders on the internet. Since it’s inception there have been several versions and it is by far one of the most popular cryptography tools.

The name “Pretty Good Privacy” was inspired by the name of the grocery store featured in radio host Garrison Keillor’s fictional town, Lake Wobegon. The grocery was “Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery”.

Zimmerman wanted people to be able to securely store files and communicate over BBS systems. The program originally wound up on UseNet before spreading to the internet, prompting a federal investigation of him in 1993 due to laws against exporting anything that used more than 40bit cryptography. He even wound up testifying before Congress. Eventually the case was closed and no charges were ever filed. PGP’s life has been one of controversy, having gone through a string of patent and liscencing issues as well as several acquisitions of the company Zimmerman started in 1996. Today the program is still in use, especially in the areas of email and file encryption.

CB Simulator

cbsimadThe very first online chat service was offered by CompuServe and was called the CB Simulator. Released in 1980, the feature used familiar citizen’s band radio concepts to describe it’s functions such as using “bands” or “channels” to describe the different categories. This quickly became a popular product with virtually no marketing and eventually many more channels were added. CompuServe continued to enhance and add more features to CB Simulator over the years, including multiplayer games, pictures, and more. It was used for one of the first online conferences in 1995 and hosted one of the first real-time online weddings in 1991.

In 1983, CBSIM CB Simulator code was made publicly available, allowing BBS operators and private hobbyists to install and run their own chat system. It was  the first to allow user to create their own channels, and could support up to 32 users. Software vendors used the open source code to create other popular BBS-based chat systems, paving the way for the stylized chat rooms that came later with AOL and other ISPs.


wordperfect1WordPerfect was developed by Brian Bastion and Dr.Allen Ashton in 1981 at Satellite Software International. Later renamed WordPerfect Corp., the application was ported to the IBM PC in 1982 and was an immediate success, becoming one of the most popular and dominant word processors on the market. The height of it’s appeal was in 1986 with the release of version 4.2, which pushed number one contender Wordstar out of the top spot on the Windows platform. The most successful version however was 5.1 for DOS released in 1989, which included Mac style drop down menus, support for tables, as well as the program’s first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) GUI editor.

WordPerfect for Windows did not appear until 1991, and by then it was too late as Microsoft Word was beginning it’s takeover of the market. Several technological incompatibilities with Windows including the inability to support some languages caused WordPerfect sales to suffer. The product line was sold to Novell in 1994, who incorporated the technology into their GroupWise suite. It was later sold to Corel in 1996, but by then sales had suffered a decline it never recovered from. Corel sells the product today to niche markets. In 2006, Corel announced a new Wordperfect office suite, Wordperfect X3

Lotus 123

lotus123aLotus 123 was a spreadsheet program created by Lotus Software, which later became part of IBM. It was THE killer app of the mid 1980s, outselling it’s competitor VisiCalc. It helped plant the IBM PC firmly in the business world. Originally written by a Harvard student, it was supposedly sold for less than $200,000. It was released on January 26th 1983, and was the leading spreadsheet for DOS-based systems for many years.
The app came with a separate program for printing, but it couldn’t be run at the same time as the spreadsheet. Lotus also had what is considered the first context sensitive help.

It was also often used as a single operating environment over DOS with the use of third party macros and add-ins. The program has also been involved in a number of interface copyright court cases in it’s illustrious history. Slow to embrace Windows since it was loyal to OS/2, Lotus was eventually knocked from the top spot by Microsoft’s own spreadsheet app Excel. Today it lives on in the Lotus SmartSuite software system.


First proposed to the Audio Engineering Society by Dave Smith in 1981, with the first specification produced in 1983. Pronounced middy, an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard adopted by the electronic music industry for controlling devices, such as synthesizers and sound cards, that emit music. At minimum, a MIDI representation of a sound includes values for the note’s pitch, length, and volume. It can also include additional characteristics, such as attack and delay time.

The MIDI standard is supported by most synthesizers, so sounds created on one synthesizer can be played and manipulated on another synthesizer. Computers that have a MIDI interface can record sounds created by a synthesizer and then manipulate the data to produce new sounds. For example, you can change the key of a composition with a single keystroke.

A number of software programs are available for composing and editing music that conforms to the MIDI standard. They offer a variety of functions: for instance, when you play a tune on a keyboard connected to a computer, a music program can translate what you play into a written score.

Microsoft Word

wordforwinOriginally written in 1983 for the IBM PC running DOS by Richard Brodie, Word has gone on to become the most dominant word processing software on the planet both in the home and in the office. Versions for the Mac, UNIX, OS/2 , and Windows arrived in the mid 80s. It would later be integrated into Microsoft Office. The first version had a sticker price of $500 US.

Wordperfect was then the dominant word processing program at the time, and  Microsoft at first struggled to break into the market with their new offering. Although it was the first word processor that showed typeface like bold and italics on screen on the IBM PC, it was not a true WYISWYG (what you see is what you get) system and didn’t become one until Word for Mac was released in 1985. Ironically it was this version that gave the program wider appeal and popularity grew. By 1989 with the debut of Word 4.0, it was incredibly successful, edging out Wordperfect, who didn’t produce a version for Windows. Today the program still exists as a part of Office and is recognized as the leading word processor on the market.


In 1980, software company Sorcim introduced SuperCalc, a spreadsheet program with major improvements over VisiCalc. It was able to run on any system that supported the popular CP/M operating system. The Osborne-1 included a free copy of the financial software along with it’s bundle of programs, a big boost to the popularity of the machine. Later versions of the software for DOS and Apple were introduced.

SuperCalc was one of the first spreadsheets capable of iteratively solving circular references. The company was later purchased by Computer Associates in the mid 80s where it was marketed as CA’s line of SuperCalc products. It would eventually be eclipsed by more powerful programs such as Excel and Lotus 1-2-3.