History of Future Decay

Digging through file archives of my websites of yore tonight. I’ve been keeping websites for most of the duration since 1997. Mixed among the archives are all the journals, side projects, one-off experiments, and futuristic snazzy things that I loved to do. Good times.

It surprises me just how many of these hardcoded pages are still viewable with modern browsers. Those are the ones where I wrote with sane, near-standard HTML; sure, the CSS is wrong (or nonexistent), there are open tags all over the place, and every HTML tag is in upper case (definitely not XHTML4 compliant), the page is designed using nested tables for formatting and spacing, etcetera. But, for the most part, they still look like they did 15 years ago.

More surprising (or less, depending on how much you know) is that some of these pages I wrote between 1999-2002, the ones where I used “advanced” Javascript techniques and libraries to do this new thing called Dynamic HTML — where you can move DIVs around, change images on the fly, modify page text after the page is loaded, stuff we totally take for granted in the post-Facebook reality of today — those pages don’t even render. More often than not, it’s just a blank colored background and nothing else. Nothing appears. The futuristic, cross-browser libraries I copied and used to do these things were built rather myopically, so functional decay was imminent. In order to do their magic, the libraries had to detect if the end user was using Netscape Navigator, Mozilla, or Internet Explorer, what version of each browser, etcetera, in order to select which Javascript commands to execute. This was all primitive before-there-were-standards days. Before DOM days. Wild West days. The later fix for this sort of DHTML arms race was to use libraries that detected not the browser nor the version, but what capabilities the browser actually had. Sanity eventually reigns.

So, I’ve been knocking around the thought that maybe I should make a copy of the archives, update the copy to use modern scripting techniques to work in modern and future browsers, and then post them here. Most of the work I did was a bit amateurish, some of it fun, but it was a moment in my life when this was my A-1 hobby, and that’s important to document and share. I’m also considering taking the text of the journals and duplicating them into this WordPress format, just for historical sake. As far as dynamically-generated content, I’ve been using some sort of journaling engine on my site since 2003, but really, I’ve been writing journal entries since 1997 on the first iterations of my first site, The Farm.

Call it a documentarian’s itch. Call it an old man and his modern memoirs. Call it a trip down memory lane in a wheeled desk chair. Somebody’s got to remember and share these things, and that person is me. Archive.org has only so much of my old stuff archived in the Wayback Machine. My turn to take up the slack.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?