1. 45
  1. 19

    Gopher Protocol was created at the University of Minnesota for searching and retrieving documents. Its original design featured green text on a black background.

    Isn’t that the colour of a green monochrome monitor? Pretty sure it would have appeared white on white monochrome and amber on amber monochrome. I see the same problem a couple of paragraphs later.

    Linux used white text on a black background.

    A green monochrome monitor would have displayed green text instead.

    1. 26

      Yeah, this article is… not exactly well-researched. For instance, it gets the date of the WWW’s beginning wrong by about three years (1987 vs. 1990, or even 1989 at the earliest, if you take the date when the proposal was submitted).

      It also gets the timeline on the “evolution of the color blue” (!?) backwards, stating (about its use in Windows 3.1, in 1992), that “Microsoft uses the “hyperlink blue” for active states when a user clicks on different drives, folders and icons. This is incredibly important because it shows the slow evolution of this blue from being a layout color to being an interactive color, preceding the time when blue would have been added to Mosaic by almost exactly a year.” But it was already used as the active selection colour in some interface elements (menus, in particular) as early as Windows 1.01 and, of course, in Windows 3.0, almost two years before Windows 3.1. In that sense, its use as an “interactive colour” in Windows 3.0 precedes the entire WWW by a few months (its use in 1.01 should probably be discounted – probably due to palette limitations, there is no single active state colour in Windows 1.01). As with many other things in history, it may well be that this idea of “evolution” from B&W everything to blue as an “interactive” colour to blue as the interactive colour is just our wishful thinking because we want to make history neat and digestible.

      Also in terms of methodology: it misses a bunch of important questions about Viola, which supported stylesheets (albeit not CSS), such as whether Viola’s stylesheets gained sufficient traction or not. It may well be that no particular browser made the hyperlinks blue, it just turned out to be a popular colour in early stylesheets, or a common user customisation in TkWWW or Viola, and it was made into the default by other browsers, not as a conscious decision, but as a de-facto process. In this case, it’s not that anyone made it blue, it’s just that it slowly become to be accepted as being supposed to be blue, and browsers slowly followed suit.

      I’m also not very convinced that the original Mosaic interface was black-and-white. I know the screenshot shows it that way but if it’s from an SGI machine, and the dithering on the titlebar makes me think that it is, then it may not be the original colour, as even the earliest IRIS 4D models had colour output. In that case, the changelog for the default anchor representation is somewhat less definitive (e.g. hyperlinks may have been blue and dark purple, respectively, even before that, just without the underline, or there may have been no differentiation between visited and unvisited links etc.)

      1. 2

        The edit period has passed but in case anyone reaches this via Google way later, there is a point that I want to add, since nobody called me on it, and I don’t want it to unwittingly become e-folklore.

        I was partly misremembering the “interactive” colour in Windows 3.0. In its default theme (see Note 1), Windows 3.0 did use blue as the active window colour, and as the active selection colour in some programs (e.g. Program Manager), but not in others, like the File Manager, where the active selection colour was still black, much like Windows 2.x. It was also not quite the dark shade of blue that we’ve come to associate with hyperlinks nowadays, but closer to the default background colour in Windows 2000. Of course, the hyperlinks in the help system were green.

        The waters of history are muddy and they don’t always align neatly. More often than not, the primary reason why we discern a pattern of evolution is that we simply discard the messy details. This, IMHO, is one of these cases. Do we take blue to have been an “interactive colour” in Windows 1.01, even though it was only used as the active selection colour in some parts of the interface? Does its use as active window indicator count, in which case we also ought to count Amiga Workbench 2.0’s use of blue, in 1990? Do we take colour themes into account – modern systems don’t really support it (or any kind of customisation, for that matter), but this wasn’t always the case. What about systems that used more indicators to signal “interactivity” – Motif, for example, used selections for text boxes, bevels for menus and so on?

        Note 1: It’s worth remembering that Windows 3.x supported a lot of them and that, besides the funny/eye-scorching ones like Hotdog Stand, this may have actually been useful in the era of low colour count and poor-quality monitors.

    2. 10

      I always thought it might have been because the attribute to make text blue on colour PC video made it underlined on monochrome PC video. But that’s a PC-centric view of history and I could be really wrong.

      1. 4

        Personally I always found it strange because Windows 3.0 shipped with a hypertext system called WinHelp that used green, and web browsers using blue just felt conspicuously different. This article gave a great analysis of what happened, but I’d still love to know why.

        1. 1

          Blue always made sense to me. Human eyes are least sensitive to blue, so you can make hyperlinks bright enough to be visually distinct without making them eye-catching the way bold text would be. It helps that even when a lot of computers don’t have a lot of colours available, blue is still a common option.

          1. 1

            Tuning your browser’s default styling (hyperlink colour, default font face and size, etc) is underrated. There are couple of sites I use that insist on being unstyled and it greatly improves my experience of them. I’m often surprised how often I stumble across another.

            1. 1

              I’m curious what modifications you make. Any tips for improvements to the defaults?

              1. 1

                I change hyperlink colour to a green which is just a personal preference but feels “fresh”. I also change the default font to sans serif and bump the size up four points or more. That’s about it.