My First Web Site

Keith Anderson - April 4th, 2018

In 1994 while attending Central Washington University, I worked in the reference department of the campus library as an online tools support tech. Ostensibly I was there to show people how to use the old green screen terminals to dig up information with gopher, FTP and a few law databases that were accessible via telnet. In practice, it resulted in me spending a lot of time digging around the early archives of the internet looking for interesting things to learn. Occasionally, someone would get curious and I'd show them how these unassuming screens could unlock a world of information for them, but for the most part there wasn't a lot to do other than satisfy my own curiosity.

One of the things I read about was a new thing called the World Wide Web. I wasn't initially that excited about it since any access I had to these new 'web sites' was through the terminals or via 2400 baud dialup to the university VAX cluster. There didn't seem to be any real advantage over Gopher. Except for the part about images. That sounded pretty cool.

So I embarked on a mission to figure out how to get my trusty PowerBook Duo hooked into the university IP network and see one of these fancy new web pages for myself. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated since the university wasn't keen on handing out IP addresses to, well, anyone.

Eventually I found an open LocalTalk connection in the library. Using that, I found an open share that had a bunch of networking software, including MacTCP and Mosaic. After some more sniffing around the network, I was able to guess at an unused IP address and the rest of the configuration I needed to get a working TCP/IP stack.

I fired up Mosaic and it loaded a page. A page with images. There was a link on that page claiming to let you see the status of somebody's coffee pot. Clicking it took you to a realtime, live image of a coffee pot. I was watching someone else's coffee pot, a thousand miles away.

It may sound trite considering I had already had plenty of access to information from around the world via Gopher, Telnet and FTP - but this was different. Profoundly different.

Since then, I've always had one foot in the web landscape. I've seen the state of the art move from lovingly hand crafted pages, through the dark ages of the browser wars, and into a world of full stack applications using the web as a UX layer. It's been a fascinating thing to watch.

As a tribute to that very first web page that I saw way back in 1994, I decided to make this site a throwback to the bespoke style of the times. There is no fancy back end driving this site. There is no templating system - each page is an island. Oh, sure, there are some shared resources like images or stylesheets and the site uses modern layout techniques and responsive design, but even those were lovingly hand crafted. There will probably be inconsistencies between pages as this site grows, but I hope that they will only add to the charm.