Understanding what technology was like back in the day just got a whole lot easier, thanks to a totally cool new Web art project from Austrian Web developer mass:werk that rolls out high-tech computing in 1960s Mad Men-style.

The site, designed by Norbert Landsteiner, visually simulates a fully funcitonal IBM 362 punch-card style computer interface for the Google search engine (known as the Gabby Onthology Operated Grader and Linguistical Extrapolator), complete with representations of a dot-matrix printer and tape drive. The best part – it actually works!

An IBM 362 is a little bit before my time, but the look and feel of the on-screen interface is reminiscent of the type-and-punch machines and system monitors I remember. Landsteiner’s design may take some liberties with the punch-carding operation, and the amount of time it would actually take a ‘362 to search the entire Google database.

Still, playing around with the buttons and dials affords a glimpse back into the distant past when things like cathode-ray monitors were just a glint in a young engineer’s eye.

If you’re not interested in seeing how your grandparents would have surfed the Web if such a construct had been around, you can journey 20 years further into the future and take a gander at the Google BBS Terminal, a text-only screen interface that reminds me of the heady days when tools like Gopher and Archie were as prominent as this new thing called the World Wide Web.

The BBS interface looks and feels like the early CompuServe interfaces I used  when I was telecommuting from Indiana to the New Jersey-based IEEE and had to get files to and from my smoking hot IBM PS/2 computer. More than the old mainframe interface from the 1960s, the 1980s BBS Google interface felt like old times, right down to that damn modem-handshaking electronic squeal.

Do these interfaces have any practical use? Not really. But even tongue-in-cheek peek into the past can make you appreciate just how far technology has come.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.