I had a fiddle around with the ‘Wayback Machine‘ on Archive.org today – if you’ve never used it, you can type a web address into it, and it will look at archives of how the Internet used to appear over the years. So, armed with the knowledge of addresses I’ve called home on the ‘web over the years, it’s a fun nostalgic vanity-fest to occasionally remind oneself of, well, stuff and nonsense.
My first forays into the Internet came at sixth form – the very idea must seem crazy to today’s youngsters. We had a trip to Nottingham University to experience it because, get this, we didn’t have the Internet at school yet. It arrived shortly after, if memory serves, as our school finally gave up the Acorn Archimedes upon which we were taught purportedly useful things to take into the wider world of computing (not!) and installed PCs.
The first website I ever ‘made’ was courtesy of a service called Angelfire – a template-driven space where you could add some text, links, pictures and suchlike (the ‘home page’ provider of choice back in the day seemed to be Geocities but I never had one of those). They still exist as part of Lycos – and probably offer a more sophisticated service now! Alas the Archive doesn’t seem to have anything of my fledgling attempts on Angelfire with the exception of the splash-screen I left there upon moving away. I’m sure it was fascinating.
Either way, this would be around 1996 or 1997 – mostly static content, largely trite and churlish (much like now), and probably involving animated gifs of Beavis and Butt-head. Come 1998ish and I moved away from templates and was writing html in earnest – indeed, from my investigations I reckon I started ‘blogging’ (not that it was called blogging then – it was having a ‘web journal’ – and posts were much shorter then apparently, and less in-depth.
I had no knowledge of databases or content management systems I could pilfer, so posts were linear and manually added and edited or removed probably using Notepad in Windows 95 and uploaded via FTP when finished locally. My site at this point had ‘Personal’ and ‘Academic’ sections to chronicle a bit about, well, me – and my burgeoning virtual friend base (when you made friends through Telnet talkers not Facebook!) as well as ‘real life’ friends.
Indeed, Pip and I worked quite hard to make a portal for former students of Arnold Hill to leave messages for one another etc. Had we perhaps shown a little more endeavour on this project and considered the wider implications we might well have stumbled upon something that might have evolved into a FriendsReunited or even a Facebook. Unfortunately the Wayback Machine doesn’t have any evidence of our efforts which is a pity!
My first ‘proper job’ post-uni was with a web host. They gave me a domain name and some space to play with as a perk (and an opportunity to learn about the projects I supported). I wrote a website and bastardised a perl guestbook script to create a rudimentary blog where I could actually access an online form to type in my thoughts and randomness and have it published without the need for FTP etc. This was in 2000.
Reading through some of this site, which has been well captured by the archive, is at one both fascinating and deeply dull. Unlike now I was writing on there nearly every day. Right up until mid-2002 when I moved to a different domain name, and started using a proper database-driven content management system called Geeklog. I used to make themes for Geeklog which were reasonably popular – that was my first use of this very domain name, Goddammit.co.uk.
So that became a continuation of my inane rambling about life, or whatever was coursing through my mind at the time, combined with a new hobby of creating and distributing themes people could use for their own sites hosted using Geeklog. I wrote a lot about football too, and experimented a lot with dynamic content like polls and things – and started hosting my photos online in galleries.
This was also the time when webcams were en vogue, although not like now for Skype or similar, just for vanity I guess. They were a common feature of home pages all over the place – I generally used mine at work. I had side-projects featuring web-cams of friends and colleagues too – we really were a strange bunch, thinking back. I used to leave a webcam on the birds at home too (then just Lloyd and Frankie).
I can’t imagine many people derived much pleasure from it, but there you go! I’d also developed an interest in ‘Photoshopping’ – generally making daft pictures of my friends or colleagues by pasting their faces onto other things and trying to make it look seamless. There wasn’t much by the way of patching tools or similar back then!
At some juncture (July 2006 I suspect) I switched to WordPress – meaning Geeklog had a pretty damn good innings in terms of longevity of platform. I can’t remember why, but it was the self-installed variant as I maintained my independent hosting I think by now on a friend’s server as I was by now working at Boots. 2007 heralded the site on this platform – the last thing I wrote on my old blog appears to have been about glass walking! I wanted to switch to avoid the ‘admin’ of having to update software myself etc since I had moved professionally away from internet type stuff.
I also found the blog post that lamented the day I finally deigned to join Facebook – June 11th 2007.
The drawback with the archives of database-driven sites is they’re less complete than my more manual and clunky home-made efforts – but I might just make half an effort to try to retain and store some of that information. I really have absolutely no idea what has prompted me to sit and basically write a potted history about my use of the Internet – but there you have it. It makes a change from my music library related woes I suppose – and does confirm with some evidence (at least evidence I have) that I have been ‘blogging’ since 1998.
Good lord. You’d think I’d have had better things to do wouldn’t you? A little bit of me does wish I’d been better at keeping all my internet stuff ‘together’ rather than flitting to new things and abandoning my old writing – dull though it undoubtedly was.