In the summer of 1986 as an undergraduate student in Geology, I got an internship at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. At the time I was on track to likely continue the track on to graduate school, but had not really zeroed in on an interest, but on that seemed to have my interest was paleontology.

I am fairly sure I had an overly imagined, movie-induced idea (this was post Indiana Jones era, while not a paleontologist was close enough), idea what that would be like. Plus I also was hooked as a teen on the story of Lucy. Ancient human history, older earth history, I liked.

Beyond the internship experience of getting to do work with practicing research scientists (and enjoy exploring Manhattan), they also brought in speakers in the field. One was a specialist from the American Museum of Natural History who had done this amazing research in finding dinosaur eggs in Mongolia.

Dinosaur eggs in Mongolia? Got me interested. Excitement, and hit it…

I arranged with him to get a back stage view of the museum. Behind the (?) 5 floors of brightly light halls of dino skeletons, the halls of dioramas was a different world of the research areas, I think it was seven floors. It was dimly lit, full of boxes and rows of cabinets. I remember watching someone slowly brush soil off a bone with a tiny paint brush.

Yeah, I was immature, but that did take care of my visions of the glamorous adventures of paleontology. I had (and still have) an interest in history and what we can reconstruct from scant clues, but my gut said paleontology was not the field for me.

My that was way too long a preamble.

But I have had some excitement recently with using a keyboard as my tiny brush, tracing fragments of web history. Rather then seeking answers to things millions of years old, just trying to find information about the early web form 20 years ago? It feels similar.

Next month (March 15-17) I have the opportunity to keynote at the 20th Technology, Colleges, Community Conference (TCC).


Yes it’s in Hawaii (ducks).

It’s also the 20th year for this conference, and the first 19 years were completely online. Started at Kapi’olani Community College, the CC in TCC initially was “Community Colleges”. In 2003, I was in Milwaukee for the League For Innovation Conference on Information Technology (their link no longer work, but I have my own shards in my blog), and got to meet Bert Kimura, who was one of the original organizers of TCC. He got me interested to get the Maricopa Community Colleges where I worked active as participating in the annual conference.

I did a presentation for TCC in 2004 on Photoblogging, I had just discovered flickr, but actually talked more about Buzznet and Fotolog.

In 2005 Bert invited me to give a TCC keynote, in which I invoked a metaphor of Star Trek’s Harry Mudd to talk about Small Pieces Loosely Joined

(notice again, the conference site is gone, my Maricopa hosted wiki reference is gone, but my blog post remains in tact).

Here’s the funny memory about that presentation. I was attending an NMC meeting in San Francisco, and had to step out of a hotel meeting room to do my keynote. The platform I think was Elluminate (the parent of Blackboard Collaborate), so I was in a quiet hotel hallway speaking into my laptop (I needed the wifi from the NMC meeting room).

Everything went fine until a meeting in the other room ended, and rush of people went right into the bathroom right across the hall from me, so my conference talk included background sounds of jostling conversation and toilets flushing.

The show must go on.

I also was asked to keynote in 2013, which ended up using a different metaphor for the DS106 Show


I have had this great history with TCC and a long time collaboration / friendship with Bert Kimura. We hiked together when I was in Hawaii for a conference in 2005 and he hosted me for a visit when I was in Japan in 2008.

It’s an honor to be asked to speak at TCC 2015- but also an interesting approach since the conference planners decided to celebrate the 20th year by making it a hybrid conference– some 100 participants will attend in person at the University of Hawaii and hundreds more will participate online.

That was my own web archaeology, assisted by my own web sites and a bit of searching.

For my presentation, I am going to do a bit of retro, talking about the state of the web in 1996. While its twenty years later, we still talk about it like the original conception, as a hyperlinked set of documents. We still talk about “pages” as much as we say “dial” someone on the phone. So I want to bridge forward and talk about some edgier web approaches that bust out of those perceptions.

I do have a clever shtick in mind, but this time it is not based on any TV or movie references. It is based on history.

To ground it I’ve asked Bert and his colleagues about the form and presentations from the first TCC conference in 1996. I remembered him saying it was text based (?) maybe it was via a BBS?

This was just about the time of the inflection point of the web where it became more than one of a handful of ways people used the internet. Two years earlier, the web was sharing the attention space of things like usenet, gopher. But the rise of graphic browsers, the earlier presence building of web sites, definitely took off in 1996.

What’s impressive about TCC is they do have a rather complete archived history of conference presentations from 1996-2007. That already surpasses many organizations (cough, no names named) who cast off their web history.

A few days ago I asked Bert by email for any files he might have had from TCC 1996. I wanted to know if there was any digital bits left online besides the conference papers — how was it run? who were the keynotes?

There was not much in the archive. I found a folder for a web page archive for what looks like a page Bert made as a welcome for conference participants. There was no URL on it, so I could not use the Wayback Machine to find it. To bring it “alive” at least for my presentation use, I put the web pages on my domain at

aloha kakou

I hope Bert appreciates his youthful photo!

It’s the web of 1996, not much formatting, but it moved past the grey Mosaic pages of 1993-1994. But it’s HTML and images — it still works (unlike the Macromedia Breeze archive of my 2004 presentation dead due to flash plugins loaded in javascript).

The rest of the file in the archive Bert sent were related to the conference evaluation, drafts of the questions, but also a full summary of the results:

tcc online 1996 eval

And in here I found the gold clue.

First of all the questions indicate the technologies used for the conference- a listserv, a gopher server, a MOO,… and a conference web site.

That old URL no longer works.. but I did find it saved in the Internet Archive Wayback machine – the oldest snapshot was from 1996 and is complete.


Later versions in the Wayback Machine seem to be missing links. An important lesson in using the Wayback is to try multiple versions snapshotted at different dates, after 2003 all you get are “not found” messages.

The conference instructions outline the format, look at how you ran an online conference in 1996!

Listed below are the conference presenters. Their presentations will be posted in the TCC-L subdirectory on the Kapiolani CC server for your viewing starting 25 March 1996, Monday, at 08:00 am (GMT Offset -10). Please “attend” the presentations of your choice between March 25 and April 1.

The conference will begin on April 2, Tuesday, at 5:00 AM (HST), with a posting of welcome messages (Provost John Morton and Dr. Bert Kimura) and the keynote addresses to all participants via email. These will also be posted on the web page later in the day.

From April 2 to 4, please send email to the presenters whose sessions you attended, including greetings, questions, and comments. All presenters will be standing by over the three days to respond to your messages.

During the three days, will serve as the general conference for all participants and presenters. Please send email re presentations that you especially enjoyed, the conference as a whole, etc.

On one of the three days (Apr 2, 3, or 4), each presenter will be featured in a live-chat MOO session for about an hour. A tentative schedule is included below. Please see the instructions for MOOing, which have been appended to this message.

Beginning on the 25th, you can view the presentations in two ways, WWW or Gopher:


(at the main menu, go to “Kapi’olani Info”)

At the “TCC-L Online Conference” main menu, you’ll find an updated conference schedule, presentations, bios and photos of presenters, etc.

We’ll be sending you, via email, an updated schedule of events for the April 2-4 conference by the 25th.

You get titles, abstracts, and links to papers for all presentations.

What was interesting was the effort to provide a synchronous component- not of the presentation- but of a gathering place. Presenters would be present at set times in a MOO.

I did not misspell MOOC.

MOO stood for “MUD Object Oriented”. How geeky is that, the acronym includes another acronym. MUD stood for “Multi-User Dungeon, with later variants Multi-User Dimension and Multi-User Domain)” — originally text based interactive game environments later used by educators to provide the kind of experiences we call social media now.

Not only does the TCC archived site include the instructions for the MOO, you get the logs!

This is how we navigated an online conference venue in 1996:

And on and on it goes.

They also ran in the MOO a “Coconut Cafe” as a post conference party event suggesting an awareness of the need to provide informal conversations, the hallways of face to face conferences.

In later years I remember this in TCC online events as the “Luau Lounge” — I tihnk we lifted that idea when I worked for NMC, later even having post conference dance parties in Second Life.

Also in the Conference Logs is the entire archive of the listserv where you can track much of the information and interaction.

In there I find the “keynotes” — which were presented as text! One was from Dr. Bob Holderer, Assistant Professor of Writing, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania on “An Open Invitation to the Banquet”.

The other keynote was by Eric W. Crump, Coordinator of U of Missouri Learning Center Learning Technologies. Crump’s “keynote” was on a web page, linked from the email forum — INTERVERSITY: CONVERGENCE & TRANSFORMATION, or DISCOVERING THE REVOLUTION THAT ALREADY HAPPENED

Thanks to the Internet Archive, I found pretty much the complete history of this 1996 conference — well the gopher server is no more, the MOO long gone — But the web, in its basic elements of HTML and media — can live on a long freaking time.

What technology or media that you used in 1996 can you still run on a modern computer?

The native web.

Do you have any sense how important the Internet Archive is? Without it, we have huge gaping holes in the history of the web, which may not register a huh from the masses who’s view of the web is mostly a scrolling series of “now” status messages.

History… is more than an academic interest. It is where we came from, what formed the present, what informs the future.

And to me, this is way more exciting than fossilized dinosaur eggs!

By Daderot (I took this photograph.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daderot (I took this photograph.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Well… Fossilized dinosaur eggs are still cool.

Top / Featured Image Credit cc licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Çatalhöyük:

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Well, Alan, your story is all about digging up the past so that you can see all the layers below upon which the future was built so that we can understand now and make wiser decisions!

    It is always fun to follow your stories! Plus dinosaur eggs and Hawaii.

    I am thinking about what faces people make when they have been tweep friends on the Twitter for one year or two and then they meet for the first time. When those all MUD MOO friends meet instead after 20 years and from when it was only text-based (no avatar like Twitter) then I think it will be even more special time of it.

    So when you go to Hawaii, there are some long stairs that go way up the hill. Did you do them? I saw them one time in Hawaii Five-O on the television!

    For breakfast, you can say about the eggs, “Cook ’em, Dino.”

    Well bye.

  2. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for your interesting, and as always, hilarious article. Since paleontology often refers to things that were alive at one time, and in this regard, we are onto our #tcc23rd annual event scheduled for April 17-19, 2018 this year. Hope that you’ll join us again, and in another 20 years update this article! 🙂

    Last year’s event is archived (content & recordings) and open for anyone interested:

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