LooKiNG BaCk oN tHe TeCHn0L0gy

True confessions time, I designed my first web page using Netscape Composer in 1994 - hello world, this is Andy! That was the first and last time I used any WYSIWYG app, preferring the control of coding manually, with a text editor, just like real men do. The internet was just getting started and Yahoo and Magellan were the search engines of choice, Netscape Navigator and IE3 the web browsers.

A couple of years earlier I had stolen purchased my first PC from Harvey Norman for the mortgageworthy sum of AU$2000; an Olivetti 486SX25 - that's a 25MHz CPU with 4MB RAM and no CD-ROM..or sound. Hardly Normal had this awesome display of a game called Rebel Assault based on Star Wars and this prompted me (and I'm sure many others) to upgrade my system with a Soundblaster 16 soundcard kit. This cost another AU$600 and included a 2-speed CD-ROM drive which, at 650MB per disk was bigger than my standard 120MB hard drive.

Instead of the old bippety-bip of yore, the sounds of Doom were amazing. That shotgun! Later an extra 4MB RAM ($AU400) and a DX66 overdrive CPU ($AU 300) showed I had got the bug. And these were all 'reasonable' prices at the time. But really, what the f**k was I thinking of..!?

The addition of a well second-hand 200MB SCSI hard drive was memorable. At twice the thicknes of a regular 3.5" hard drive, it weighed a ton. When started up, it sounded like a jumbo jet as it whirred up to speed. Designed for internal mounting, I kept the terrible thing sitting next to my PC just to scare away visiting children and inquisitive pets.

So the internet was this strange, new thing which grew out of the military's nuke-resistant ARPANET and was later used by academics to disseminate, well, academic stuff. There wasn't much internet content which was just as well. Trying to download anything using a 28.8k modem caused such intense frustration I could've beaten a rhino to death with my penis. We won't mention Napster..

Unlike the US, Australia was slow on the broadband uptake. Smaller population see. Who remembers the modem wars of K56-Plex vs X2, leading to the unified V90 standard? No-one, 'cos no-one gives a rat's arse about modems, Andy. I mean we enjoyed a staggering 56kbps over 'phone lines, which equals 7 kb / sec, so for many years it was necessary to keep code and file sizes to a minimum. So not too many animated GIFs on that page dammit!

Windows 3.x made way for the Windows 9x series. Novell Netware was still the way to network Windows systems with its native, routable IPX/SPX protocol. I even became a Certified Netware Engineer. Still in Sydney, I helped develop a health database which used Paradox 3.5, running in a DOS emulator window under Windows NT 4.0 Workstation. The Paradox database tables would routinely shit themselves so keeping all this stuff maintained kept me busy.

As the 90s drew to an end we got writable CD-ROM drives which turned out plenty of 'coasters' thanks to somewhat dodgy technologies and screen-savers kicking in at the wrong moment. Towards the end of the millennium the 'Y2K bug' loomed and I had to check every system for compliance. At the time many embedded systems only had a six-digit date format - ddmmyy and there were concerns that once the year clicked over to 00 some might revert to 1900 instead of 2000.

Of course being the local tech guy meant people apparently assumed you can check any and every device for Y2K compliance: PCs, photocopiers, toasters; I did draw the line when asked to check the fire alarm system. What were they thinking!?

With the dawning of a new century (and no major Y2K apocalypse) my shift from basic HTML to CSS and PHP created an interesting ongoing learning curve. The need to allow for ever-changing screen sizes and web browsers with varying compliance, not to mention screen resolutions and operating systems, was interesting. The shift to mobile technology meant a lot of stuff had to be copied over and recoded. My newer pages are 'responsive' and work on mobile gear but I don't have the energy to recode everything I've ever written for this latest fad, which will no doubt change again in time to come.

Case in point - Andy's Tech Page. I put so much work into this page throughout the noughties while teaching IT at TAFE and Uni. At the time frames were quite acceptable, but I even added an FB (Frame Breakout) link to the bottom very page. Seems I was already rattling on about old hardware back in 2005.

Inevitably things change and few things change faster than technology. The older we get the more the tendency to cling to the past, perhaps. For myself I've always been something of an eclecticist, embracing the new whilst also rejoicing in the memories. And keeping a web page or two has turned out to be a fine way of recording some of life's vicissitudes, like a virtual message in a bottle..

Websites, Old & New


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