Street corner web browser spotted in the Netherlands

4 May 1997

We met the future last week in the Netherlands. At the corner of Spui and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in downtown Amsterdam a street corner web browser is nestled into a bank of pay phones. Inside a slim case of anodized aluminum it has a color screen the size of a sheet of paper, a trackball, and a ruggedized keyboard. You pay for it with a prepaid phone card available at the post office; .25 guilders for two minutes or about 6 cents US per minute. It seems to be running MSIE 3.0 on top of Windows 95. It's a capable web browser; it runs java applets admirably and supports Microsoft's limited version of javascript. We were even able to view Quicktime movies. In a vote of no confidence, Active X is disabled -- presumably it causes problems for administration and security. It has a little printer; we were able to find it's location on Mapquest and make a printout for a charge of .50 guilders. (about .25 cents US) We were also successful in sending an E-mail to a friend; once this kind of device is common, an account with a web E-mail service such as Rocketmail would make it possible to access E-mail anywhere in the world. People are using it; when I tried to use it several times, I had to wait for others to get off. Another time I had to wait for a PTT Telecom employee to finish cleaning the phones.

8 May 1997

I received an E-mail from a Kansas City resident who has seen public internet kiosks in Kansas City. This reminded me that I'd seen one in the airport when I was in Kansas City in March but that it wasn't working at the time. The home page of the Amsterdam web browser is a web page in Dutch called Planet Internet. For internet sleuths in the audience, an E-mail with headers that I sent from it. More images are available: The front and back of the prepaid phone card. A photograph of the browser running an applet. And another photograph of the browser from the side.

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Photography: Olivia DiRenzo Writing: Paul Houle
 

 

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