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Nanoman's Blog: Second Decennium of Nanoman's Homepage

Second Decennium of Nanoman's Homepage

2018-07-02 00:00:00 -04:00 by Nanoman

In 1998, I decided to create my own website. I wanted a place to share my musings publicly on the Internet, and I'd never built a website before, so this seemed like a good excuse to learn a new craft.

At the time, I couldn't afford a domain name or to purchase website hosting services, so I was limited to what little I had. I had a computer that was capable of functioning as a web server, but my 33.6kbps dial-up Internet connection was too unreliable for serving websites. Seemingly all the gratis hosting services that were available imposed advertisements onto their users' websites, and I found this unacceptable.

The ISP (Internet Service Provider) that I was using offered their subscribers free website hosting without advertisements. In late June of 1998, I submitted a request to activate this, and on 1998-07-02, my request was granted. I was allocated 5MB of space on their server, and I could upload files to it via inherently insecure FTP. It wasn't ideal, but it seemed acceptable for my hobbyist project.

For the initial setup of my website, I wanted a few lines of text, a form that visitors could use to contact me, and some kind of graphical background. The background was intended merely as an additional challenge for myself, and I didn't know if I'd want to keep it. The graphic I chose was one that I had tiled as my computer's Desktop background, and I thought it might be light enough for my web browser's default black text to appear visibly on top of it.

While I should have learned HTML from W3C's comprehensive specifications, what I did instead was mimic the examples set by websites that I visited frequently. I assumed that these websites were built correctly because their creators were professional webmasters for large organizations, and I didn't realize how much effort web browser developers had put into accommodating badly written HTML. I still have copies of these that I saved to study, and looking at them as I write this blog post, I find it amazing that web browsers in 1998 could render these at all.

Studying HTML from the websites that I was referencing, I wrote HTML for my homepage, and then uploaded it to the ISP's server. I realized immediately that the background didn't work the way I'd expected, but before I uploaded a revised copy that had it removed, I saved the original in case I broke anything with my revision.

Two decades after my website first came online, I've used my current website to share my original homepage from 1998-07-02. I wanted to share it precisely as I'd written it, but I decided to make two sets of changes:

  1. Background URL. Originally, this was the complete URL to the file on the ISP's server, but that account and location are long gone, so I uploaded the file to my current server, and I changed the URL accordingly. Without this change, the awful background almost certainly wouldn't render.
  2. The values for the contact form's "ACTION" and "ENCTYPE" attributes, and the values for its inputs' "NAME" attributes. Like the background URL, the original "ACTION" target is long gone, so I set my current contact form as the new target. I made these changes because I didn't want anybody to lose any effort that they may put into trying to use this form.

Those two sets of changes aside, it's exactly the same. I didn't correct any of the HTML errors, and I didn't fix any of the layout problems, so even if this renders in your web browser, you'll probably be just as aghast as I was.

Behold: Nanoman's Homepage from 1998-07-02.

As bad as my original homepage was in terms of functionality and content, future iterations were much worse. Maybe I'll upload these someday to highlight the evolution of my website, which some people may find useful for learning vicariously from my mistakes.

A website is like a garden in that you never really finish it. You can arrange and populate it in a way that seems good one day, but another day, you might decide to redo the whole thing totally differently. You're free to modify and maintain yours as you please, and maybe you'll be the only person whom it will ever satisfy, but I personally consider it a very interesting form of personal expression.

Since 2007, most of the work I've done on my website has been for testing web-based applications for Nanoman's Company. Nearly all of this testing doesn't appear on the public version of my website, and what visitors see is limited primarily to changes I've made to my CMS (Content Management System). When major revisions are needed for my CMS, I'll sometimes work on my website as an excuse for testing these modifications before deploying the new version onto my customers' servers.

I greatly enjoy working on my website, and I'm glad I created it. If you don't have a website of your own but have thought about making one, you probably should, and I hope you save a copy of your first iteration to amuse yourself twenty years hence.