When I was about 9 years old I became obsessed with the idea of having a website. I can’t remember what drove me to that obsession, but it was very much there. Being 9, I was obsessed with PlayStation 2 games and particularly – cheats for them. I wanted very badly to open up a website called “Cheat Master Cheats”, or some such (side note: cheatmaster.com redirects to a scam site. Missed opportunity on my part).
We’d very recently got “The Internet” at home, and I have a very strong memory of thumbing through a book my mother had bought called either “The Internet” or “The Web”. It was about the size of those English to [language] pocket dictionaries, orange, and had a photograph of an owl on the front. Checking the contents, I found a section discussing website creation. I can’t seem to remember exactly what the book told me, but I remember being disappointed and put off by how much work it seemed to entail.
One of my closest friends at the time was Mark. Mark is brilliant, and I wish I was a bit of a better friend to him both now and in the past (especially in the past). At the time I was just beginning to build myself an identity, and Mark helped me with that. I was desperate to create, Mark was even then a creative, and with the advent of YouTube and websites dedicated to content creation Mark and I founded a site. I bought a domain name, but I couldn’t afford the hosting (they wanted money???) so we hacked it together to forward to some free file hosting from a site called Ripway. They didn’t allow much free upload, but I can’t remember if they limited us on number of files or on megabytes.
We created several ripway accounts to get around this. My first attempt at the site was to use some software I’d previously bought from my ICT teacher called Serif Webplus (side note: I bought a few of these, the most notable thing about Serif was that they weren’t Adobe. Currently looks like it’s come a long way since 2003). This proved infeasible to host using our crude workaround as it relied on large background images being chopped up into tiny pieces and imported into the page. So I started chewing on HTML. I was of course terrible (I was actively afraid of CSS and spaced everything out by the pixel specific to my monitor, everyone else be damned). And then we started producing what we thought was content.
Bless me. I remember countless nights spent in Mark’s room (he had his own computer) cutting together videos shot with an EyeToy used as a webcam. I thought we were going to become internet personalities. Mark and I created a recurring character, a regular ‘challenge’ slot , and a few spoofs of adverts (edited using Windows MovieMaker of course). We also recruited a few of our more creative friends. Kat had a camera and studied media at GCSE, so we re-shot a few videos. Apple iPods had very recently become a thing, along with Podcasts. We discovered Audacity (which remains some of my favourite software today), and with help from it and the Internet Archive (more free file hosting) we recorded our first podcast. We also ventured into parody songs, coming up with the name “WhyTunes”. That still makes me chuckle today. I also seem to remember us playing around with Adobe AfterEffects. I also became obsessed with Open-Source stuff around this time.
Adolescence resulted in us just not bothering with the site after an initial flurry of activity. Among other things, I think me being a prize dickhead during my teenage years helped with that a lot. I remained mostly friends with everyone afterwards though, we just didn’t do much anymore.
Then Facebook happened, obviously. I think my need for broadcasting my brain was satisfied with that for a long while. I got facebook during my A-levels, and after completing them it made sense to go and study Computing Science. I completed my degree(s) and here I am now.
Fifteen years later, I’ve finally got my own website where I publish my own content. I won’t say I’ve come full-circle, but I’ve went from refusing to use paragraph tags because they confuse me to writing my own content-management system for fun. The web, and staking a claim in it, was what drove me to my love of all things digital and Computing Science in the first place – which made me who I am today. I still love the web, I still want to inflict myself upon it, but now I have the tools to do so. I finally did it. It only took me 15 years and two degrees to actually get around to it.
If it wasn’t for Mark, the thirst for producing digital content could have dried out long ago. If that had happened – I wouldn’t have studied Computing Science, I wouldn’t have done a degree at all. I wouldn’t have had all of these wonderful experiences that came from attending Uni, which rebuilt me into a semi-functioning adult.
Thanks Mark, really.
(Oh, and all of our old content is still on archive.org. You know what to search for dude).