Was there a request for more web nostalgia? Bueller? Bueller? Oh, I mean… Weller!

Martin Weller has his own cottage industry of 25 years of _______ going strong… heck he has books, swag, and now a podcast.

All I got are some blog posts getting tagged thewebandme but I’m going for a 27 here. Because 1993 was the year I discovered the web and launched my first web server, running on a Mac SE/30 on a table outside my office’s lunchroom at the Maricopa Community Colleges.

This is the follow-up to the story of me naming the machines in the office, technically sub-sub domains after minerals and geological formations.

Going back to early 1993 I’d been trying to find ways to provide digital distribution of the Labyrinth-Forum, a print newsletter our office did for the entire system, lots of paper going out in yellow intercampus mail envelopes.

Having set up an AppleShare server all Apple users in the district could connect to and augmenting it with a Gopher Server to provide similar resources for PC users. I had designed a HyperCard version of the news letter for the former, and in maybe September 1993 I was tediously working through a process of software that converted those stacks to Toolbook, for the latter.

It was way too much work, and I was doubtful people wanted to read articles this way.

Then came serendipity. At an October 1993 educational technology event at Phoenix College, a colleague named Jim Walters handed me a floppy disk with a word written on it. Jim, in his humble way, just said, “You like exploring the Internet, Alan. Try this.”

Stop and think about all the ways we try to convince, sell, arm twist, persuade people to use some platform we adore. Jim just slipped me a diskette, and left the discovery to me.

Oh, on that disk, the word?

Slide15
Slide15 flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Mosaic. I shudder that I might have to explain it for folks who missed this era. The first graphical web browser.

I returned to my office, slipped the disk into my Mac Quadra, decompressed it with StuffIt Expander, and clicked the icon.

Everything I have done in this field seems to have sprung from that moment. Where there trumpets heralding? Angels harmonizing? Nahhh.

But what I saw was clear. An application that could display text and images on either platform. But more– it was those blue underlined words you clicked on… hypertext.

I saw right there that I could drop this HyperCard/Toolbook/AppleShare/Gopher thing and just create content in HTML. I gobbled up the NCSA HTML Tutorial. And what’s more, maybe in 2 weeks, I found a free Mac app, MacHTTP, that could run a web server.

Yes, this is real photo of the version I printed out to learn from. And the handwriting in the upper right corner? That is what comes next.

What is this HTML Stuff
What is this HTML Stuff flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

I plugged a spare Mac SE/30 into the network, requested a machine name for it, and launched my first web server in December 1993. The name I chose was Hakatai, named for a geological formation in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I rafted past it in like 1989 as a Geology grad student at ASU.

I made a web page to explain all of this. Because I could write HTML.

The thing is, I have a web page I kept going from 1993-2001, where I had some means of adding up the “hits” from the web server log, but more than that, a complete history of stuff I did in those years.

That web page still works… because I reclaimed it in my own archive at http://mcli.cogdogblog.com/server/

The MCLI web server history, 1993-2001

I kept so much. There is a log file from the very start, the first month of this little Hakatai server, with the first “hit” on December 6, 1993 at 12:42:56pm. That was me, I am sure, it’s from a mac in the office.

The first access outside the office was two days later, I can tell from the address it was from GateWay Community College:

I am guessing this was my colleague Jose Candeno. I can read where it was read in the next weeks, mostly me in the MCLI office, an access from Estrella Mountain Community College. But then, th big one, January 17, 1994:

That’s right, NCSA. Home of Mosaic. I had submitted that Hakatai server to the NCSA What’s new site, that was THE place to go to find out new web servers. I announced the MCLI server that day; you can still find it in an archive.

The Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction, or MCLI, is a central source of resources and innovations for the ten colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, Arizona. Our server offers information about the District, links to our Gopher servers, on-line versions of MCLI’s publications, and will soon have demos of instructional courseware developed at MCLI.

NCSA What’s New, January 17, 1994

Then the server log explodes. Hits from the UK, MIT, Italy, the Netherlands, some .com domains. I can read stories in server logs.

And check out the look of that arhaic first site! I remember rendering that pyramid thing in Strata3D

The MCLI web site, January 1994

And yes, I got that MCLI newsletter done up in HTML, with all issues from 1993-2001 published in web versions (goodbye HyperCard/Toolbook). In June 1994, the first release of the Writing HTML tutorial (that is another blog post), which I had a snapshot version saved.

In December 1994, I moved the web site to run on a PC, an Intel 486 speed machine sitting in our office, running NCSA HTTPd server software. I have no memory of doing this, but I must have figured out some basic unix.

The server grew and grew, and a year later, September 1995 moved out of our office up to the ITS Big Machine Room to sit on a DEC Alpha server running Apache. It moved again in 1998 to something bigger, the IT folks told me not to publish the hardware or software, so we were a long way from the days of me just plugging Mac SE/30s in as servers.

By then I had this server page being automatically updated, some con script that every month counted the lines in the log file and updated a count file somewhere. It stopped for some reason in 2001, maybe it was no longer feasible to do- but there I have the number, by July 2001 we had been hit 76 million times for web requests.

That server page I was proud to discover a few weeks ago, and clean up some of it’s links. There is my Maricopa Web History, at least the first 8 years — http://mcli.cogdogblog.com/server/

Ah, but if you really want to be impressed, see the collection of web badges we accumulated. And hah, I forgot that I had also collected a long list of places our web site got mentioned, the MCLI Sightings.

Note the graphic at the top? Oddly familiar? Weller? Weller?

Yes, those X-Ray glasses was imagery around from the 1990s. It was from a CD of Visual Symbols designed by Clement Mok. Our center owned a copy of that CD. Long before Creative Commons, these were media that could be re-used for free. I used a few of the images from that CD for menu icons on the Learning English Electronically project I worked on

I loved those glasses, I painted the yellow WWW on them used for a presentation I first did with my Maricopa colleague Donna Rebadow called “What A Site! Finding, Evaluating, and Integrating Web Sites” first done in May 1998 at Douglas College in Vancouver.

Just to be clear. I am not saying the X-ray glasses were something I created nor that Martin or the illustrator Bryan Mathers copied it from me. The original image was one I got from elsewhere, and I’d not be surprised if Bryan maybe saw a version of it elsewhere, I just did an image search on x-ray glasses spiral and there are many similar versions. Yup, lots of them. It’s more like great imagers imagining alike. Or maybe Clement Mok borrowed the idea?

What goes around… goes around. That’s a long way, and not even close to the whole web trip, from that floppy disk Jim Walters handed me.


Featured Image: An old photo I took of the first web server I ever set up, the one for the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction, plugged into the network December 6, 1993.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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.

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