October 22, 2014

Alpha Test This: Overbite for Android

When I was in college back in the last century, one of my roommates, a computer science major, had classes with this guy named Marc who was working on a project called Mosaic that would let you view web pages with images displayed inline. I wasn’t that excited about it, because there just weren’t very many web pages around, and even fewer that used the markup required to take full advantage of his new browser. All the action was on Usenet newsgroups and Gopher servers.

(For the uninitiated, Gopher is a menu-driven internet protocol that pre-dates the World Wide Web.) (That’s right, I just typed out “World Wide Web.” Deal with it.)

Flash forward, yesterday I was feeling nostalgic for the old days when the Internet was a sea of competing protocols, all of them text-only. With emulators for old game systems all over the place, I wondered if anybody had written a Gopher client for Android. “That’s silly,” I thought, “there probably aren’t even any Gopher servers left to browse with it.”

I was wrong. There are Gopher servers, maintained by weird Luddite enthusiasts. And there is an Android client, called Overbite. It’s currently in alpha, so not available in the Market, but a working .apk can be downloaded directly from the developers. Despite the alpha label, it works quite well. I ran into no crashes or bugs in testing it out.

Likely only of interest to old folks like me. Or maybe you whippersnappers who’d like a little history lesson. Don’t get me started on Diversi-Dial, you’ll never get me to shut up!