Cue up the NCSA Silver Browser Band…

Just take those old web sites off the shelf
I’ll click and watch ’em by myself
Today’s sites ain’t got the same soul
I like that old-time HTM&L

Don’t tell me about web standards
What fun is there without a tag for a blink
Or a marquee to scroll like a kitchen sink
I like that old-time HTM&L

Still like that old-time HTM&L
Coding by hand just soothes my soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old-time HTM&L

— as never sung by Bob Seger

I first plunked some HyperText Markup Language into a text editor coming up this October … doing the math… OMG… 27 years ago.

Unlike 99.99999% of the people on the web, I still love me some view source raw HTML. A tweet recently from Viv Rolfe got me looking back. She was trying to do hand made web stuff.

Now I know the OSX TextEditor app is going to be tricky since it likely is rendering RTF rather than good old plain text.

And hence some fun tweets

This calls for the standard line making fun of decrepit… er deprecated… er crappy old obsolete HTML tags.

It’s no surprise when her hubby and my good friend David Kernohan piped in

Beyond the dreaded <strong>blink</strong> tag I can recall a few more we don’t use, some I had in my first HTML tutorial (launched in 1994). I see I “taught” there (see all the groovy lessons):

  • background colors, text, link colors in the &lt;body> tag
  • frames and framesets
  • address for footer addresses (like physical locations)
  • font size and colors
  • center to do… well you guess
  • dl definition lists (these may still work and at least it had some semantic meaning
  • embed / object for embedded multimedia not to mention APPLET for Java (grandfather to JavaScript)

And who in the audience remembers marquee meant to create something that scrolled horizontally?

These are easy to make fun of.

But there was one thing I remember that I have been struggling to find any reference to besides my fuzzy memory. I think it was something that worked only in the Mosaic browser for a short time period.

In those days, at least on a Mac, the title of a web page (what is inside the title tag inside the head of your HTML, showed up at the top of the window, in that good old Chicago font:

NCSA Mosaic for Mac circa 1993, note that the file has an Annotate menu, that’s right, in the pre-Cambrian era of the wb, you could annotate right in the browser.

It must have been some accident that a person found this out, and I cannot remember where I heard it, but I sure know I tried it. If you put a long series of <title>…</title> tags in your HTML, when the page loaded, they would display sequentially, and create a kind of animation.

So if I put this semantically sinful HTML in my web page:

The series of text would do an animation across the top window. Here I tried my best to recreate what it looked like (except that unlike this GIF it only did it once).

This of course has no absolute purpose of any kind. I cannot find any old HTML files where I did this. I may have done it was a welcome thing on our center’s old home page.

I had tried a few times to find any reference to this, and until a few days ago, came up empty.

Then I landed on this copy of one of the early HTML guides that was once at Case Western University (this one is sitting on a web site of the CCT Research Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology)

The author of this is one Eric A Meyers who went on to much bigger things in the web world especially CSS.

In Chapter 2, Document Tags there is at least a reference to what I remember:

You should only have one TITLE container per document. At one point, it was possible to create “dancing titles” by including multiple TITLE tags. Not only is this a savage abuse of HTML, but the effect can only be seen in certain versions of certain browsers. Therefore, it should be avoided at all costs.

A savage abuse of HTML to be avoided at all costs.

I do agree, but I am still curious if anyone else even recalls seeing or trying this? My guess is that I spotted it from the old NCSA Mosaic What’s New Page.

Yeah, like tired old rock songs, maybe this one should be tossed.

Still like that old-time HTM&L
Coding by hand just soothes my soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old-time HTM&L

Featured Image: A questionable mashup of the cover of Bob Seger’s Album and a Time magazine cover featuring Marc Andreessen, both of them tiny but no so well licensed, but ll done in the name of parody. Send in the lawyers, I am just having a bit of fun here.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Good stuff man! I still remember you helping me fix a broken img tag, and other HTML stuff back when I was the SCC “Webmaster” (does that even exist anymore?).

  2. I remember that title tag trick. I tried it once and then unlearned it, along with immediately ditching FrontPage and rolling my own HTML.

    The HTML4 dl (definition list) is now the HTML5 dl (description list) and I still adore it as one of the great underused list types. I am happy that Canvas LMS supports it even though their rich content editor has no button for it. It’s a nice way to provide a term/definition list of new vocabulary. I’ve also seen it in the wild for podcast transcripts (where dt identifies the speaker and dd contains what they said):

    You spoke to my little nerdy heart today 😉

  3. Hi Alan,
    I like html too. I’ve not got as long a history but remember most of those tags.
    I think I started using a HyperCard stack, the SHE html editor in the late 90s. Combined 2 of my computer loves.

  4. Sends me back to the old days, for sure. My beat up HTML for Dummies is still on the shelf and handy! These days it’s the only way to fix the stuff that LMSs f*** up.

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