Fine Web Developments

My First Blog

One evening in what—I can only guess—was something like 1997, my mom came home from work with a piece of scrap paper, on which someone had written a phone number and a set of credentials. She didn’t know what to do with it, or what it meant, but I did. I meant I didn’t need to collect AOL trial codes any more.

It meant that her university job wasn’t just putting food on our table, it was pumping the future into our basement.

I told a friend at school, who was excited for me; he knew even more than I did. He had the same ISP, he explained, and he knew that if I created a directory with just the right name, ran this “change mode” command on it, and placed in it a file called “index-dot-aitch-tee-em-el”, I would be a webmaster.

He didn’t actually put it that way, I don’t think. It wouldn’t have been correct: what I became was probably something more like a user with publishing privileges, but hey, I’m writing a blog post here.

My first page was not a blog. It would be another year or two before I learned that nauseous truncation. Blog was not something I saw in the nav-bars of the day. This was before we ran out of words and started naming everything like it was a goblin that came out of The Labyrinth.

My first webpage was a string of “paragraphs” inside a big “center tag”; light-gray text on indigo sponge-paint wallpaper; some words you might otherwise scribble on a desk or the inside cover of your notebook; a picture of Android 18 from Dragonball-Z. I didn’t have any web-rings, but there was probably a Netscape badge.

This first version is lost to history. I settled on the preferred format after a while: #C7CEDF text on a #192344 background, with #6EAA91 highlights inside a 70% wide table cell. That one’s in the Wayback Machine. I could share it with you, but I’d prefer for you to respect me.

I’d write the timestamps myself and prepend each set of paragraphs to the document, using—I don’t remember what—Word Perfect, stretching the scroll bar with musings on music and movies and complaints about my parents. I wondered if it would be okay for me to apply for that job at the record store when I had just been hired as a dishwasher. I think I did. Didn’t pan out though.

My girlfriend introduced me to a service I could use, so I wouldn’t have to write the timestamps. I could get a nicer url, a nicer email address, and submit my posts through a form instead of a text editor. I wanted to keep my header and sidebar though, so I got one account for the domain, and another to load through my body frame (I was using frames now, tables were for newbs). I showed the first post by default and the others in a listing section. I added a guestbook, somehow.

The university wrote to let me know I’d need to take a few steps to get my files through a migration. I must have been busy—I think I was actually moving my real stuff out of the house at the time—or maybe it felt just a little complicated, I don’t know. I forgot.

I stood up a webserver in my living room for a bit. I might have even exposed it to the internet briefly through my cable modem just to see if I could, but mostly I just tinkered. A housemate had introduced me to PHP and MySQL, but I hadn’t even wrapped my head around CSS yet. So naturally I tried to implement a design where database-served content would appear on mouseover through irregularly placed squares cut out of a digital photograph, like an advent calendar.

This was a frustrating experience. It kinda worked, though!

That dishwashing job turned into a career—if you can call it that—as a line cook. I kept an eye on the web but stopped trying to build on it, for a while. I’d be back eventually.