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    Re: Year USNO launched Celestial Navigation Data webpage
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2018 Jul 2, 16:06 -0700

    Yep. That's an old web app, created a generation ago! In two hundred years, a future historian of the early internet will not be surprised by this news. The behind-the-scenes html code of the USNO web app clearly identifies it as a very early translation from desktop software to online web app. If you right-click (option-click) on the display page, you will see that the data is formatted as if it was written on a typewriter: common spaces (spacebar key output!) are the primary whitspace elements on the page. These are wrapped in a (now rarely used) "pre" tag (for "pre-formatted" text) to maintain the spacing, see the image below. It's just as if someone is sitting at a typewriter preparing each line of text by tapping the spacebar repeatedly to get to the correct column. Clearly the output from an old-fashioned bit of text-output desktop software has been fed into a simple "wrapper" to produce the output that we see.

    I like this old web app. The fact that they haven't improved it implies that they are unlikely to break it accidentally. One advantage of this old, simple formatting for developers: the output pages are almost like an API service and can easily be "scraped" for data content. When I created the new editions of Pub.249 vol.1 (under contract to Celestaire) for the years 2015 and 2020 after the government stopped publishing the tables, I used the web app in exactly this way, ensuring that the data could still be identified as "government issue" (with a little proprietary processing, that I can't tell you about, of course).

    Frank Reed


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