The Crab Nebula Experience
1996 called: It wants to embarrass you by showing everyone your first web page.
In my first post for this blog, in 2006, I mentioned having an archived version of my first web site from 1996, and that someday, maybe I would share it here for laughs. That day has come.
Let’s take a walk through this thing and revisit the way we were in 1996. Or at least, how I was: Hip, savvy, and living on the cutting edge of technology.
Before we look at it, what was the web page for?
It was for nothing, or everything: fun and education. I wanted to have a web page, to learn how it worked and to have a “web presence.” I didn’t have anything in particular to say, but the web had arrived and it was awesome. And my page? Way cool.
I recommend first looking at the actual page in all of its 1996 splendor, and then move on to the annotated screenshots below.
Here it is:
The Crab Nebula
Are you back? That was really something, wasn’t it?
Aside from the boxes on the top and bottom, it’s all original, vintage web page.
You should be impressed at the great design work here, and how it was built to last. It renders fine in modern browsers, or at least in Chrome and Firefox for me. (I removed a couple of embedded sound files. I couldn’t put you through that part of the 1996 experience.)
I seem to remember making the title image myself, maybe with WordPerfect. While visitors admired my graphic arts skills, a midi file of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” quietly downloaded to their machines before surprising and delighting them with groovy reading accompaniment. Furthermore, there was “Ambient Cave 2,” a sound effect of dripping water from the video game, “Abuse.” This was set to play on a loop. I don’t think I meant it ironically at the time. It was unintentional abuse.
Depending on the speed of your dial-up connection, midi Moondance might have kicked in by now, and you would continue your Crab Nebula experience with the information that it was best viewed with Netscape. We all had our little affiliations and preferences back then. We still do, of course. It was just more cute at the time, with spinning little cubes and other flair.
And then a self-deprecating joke about the quality of the site, undoubtedly true, but a wry poke at a popular badge of the time, heralding that a site was in the top 5% of all web sites. It was a clever and fun parody, you can be sure.
Then a funny quote. Three funny quotes. I still like quotes, funny or not. I like including them in my posts and having a dedicated page for random quotes. I’m featuring Jack Handey near the top of my archives page right now. I’m not quite as fond of the “mighty king” Deep Thought anymore, but the little ankle-biting Chihuahua still amuses me.
We move on to a cryptic pointer, “Click here for something to think about.” Hmmm…. what can that be? It linked to an internal page which I haven’t included, but it’s not a secret. It’s something that still means a lot to me in 2012, and I refer to it in my “about” page. It’s something Richard Bach wrote about a river and some creatures living in the river.
Then I finally address the unresolved tension created by the page title, with links to a high-resolution image and in-depth scholarly information about the Crab Nebula. I didn’t have a big thing about the Crab Nebula then or now, although it is indisputably one of the all-time great nebulas. It just popped out of some wormhole in my science fiction reading brain when I was thinking about page names.
Wasn’t it considerate of me to indicate the 50KB file size for the Crab Nebula image, as a courtesy for my dial-up using readers? They could then make an informed decision about whether to click on it or not. This may have slightly made up for the 50KB Moondance midi I dropped on them without warning. But to be fair, I think Van Morrison was downloading in the background while they marveled at my title graphic.
After the astronomy section, another link, offering some hope for a better life: “If You Are Unhappy.” This led to a short story with a moral that made quite an impression on me as a child when it turned up amongst the adults in my life. I still like it — it’s probably played a bigger role in shaping my life than the “something to think about” passage, unfortunately — but it’s lost some luster over the years. Searching for “If You Are Unhappy” or “non-conforming sparrow” will lead you to the parable, if you’re curious.
Then a link to Dilbert, which isn’t as funny anymore now that I’m living it.
And, more links! A random hodgepodge, for sure.
I still love Schoolhouse Rock, both for the nostalgia from my own childhood and sharing it with my daughter now. And I have fond memories of Eliza. You can find plenty of Elizas online still today. My comment about the lyrics archive seems a bit overwrought.
I had been a big fan of id Software’s “Doom” games, playing them enough to have a pixelated dream or two, and around this time, Quake was on the rise. I enjoyed creating a few Doom levels, but never managed to get far with Quake level editing. You can see here the relative importance of these pursuits. (And near the bottom of the page, my Doom levels! I was so proud of them.)
And then, more links and a footer that I won’t show here and have no commentary about, except, “Boy, what a cool animated bomb separator!” On the actual page, you might have noticed my judicious use of the <blink> tag. The blink tag! On my machine, Chrome snootily refuses to blink, but Firefox is up for it.
I wish I would’ve had an “under construction” graphic. That would have been a nice touch. But this was a polished version from November of 1996. Not one of my crude, early efforts.
Well. How about it? Unassailably cool? Is what you’re thinking? I guess there was nothing to be embarrassed about, after all.