Have you ever had a day where you found yourself looking through old photos or browsing through the rarely touched bowels of your hard drive reminiscing about things, people, and times that have come and gone? As a chess fanatic and lover of all things baseball, I am a deeply sentimental and reflective man. The other day I reached a rare moment where I was not faced with accomplishing a task or other responsibility, which gave me an opportunity to mindfully browse the web in search of fond memories.
I entered the online world in 1994 after I convinced my parents to purchase dial-up internet service through Netaccess of Virginia, a now-defunct local service provider that delivered blazing 28.8 kbps to our rural home through our telephone line. Prior to that, my network experience was confined to BBS and local area networks on Apple IIgs and a Tandy Sensation PC at my school. Needless to say that I caused quite a few arguments for tying up the phone line so much, but my recent foray across the web reminded me that although the internet was painfully slow in those days, there was a special flare to it. Among the most influential components on the web was Yahoo, which has unfortunately faded into increasing obscurity. From that portal, the web seemed to literally spider out to places like Tripod, Xoom, and an old favorite of mine, Geocities.
My first website was hosted on my ISP’s web server and was mainly a list of my favorite movies, music, and exploration of HTML. It was cool seeing my stuff published online, but the process of submitting files via e-mail and waiting on an update (which was often done incorrectly) was too cumbersome to sustain. Thank God for Tripod and Xoom, a combination of which became my web home for the next 10 or so years. From 1996 until I graduated high school in 2000, I ran Fire Walk With Me: The Unofficial Twin Peaks Home Page that amassed hundreds of thousands of visitors and was consistently ranked among the top Twin Peaks (not the restaurant) websites on the net. In those days, IRC, AIM, and ICQ were the ways to stay in contact with friends and family; social media did not exist…it was a simpler time. It is this time that I found myself missing most of all as I browsed through the countless articles, blog posts, and reflective pages seeking to preserve the history of the world’s first global network. It can be hard for many to understand, but it was a thrill to pick out a home and a street on Geocities just as it is today to post a meme or update a Facebook status.
My web presence went dark from 2000 to roughly 2006 as I kept a small personal page on Tripod and my DeviantArt page masked with a free novelty URL before opening my first real web host at nightShifted.com when I started my nonprofit education and astronomy outreach program, nightShifted Astronomy. Fortunately, this was around the time that Internet hosting became cheap or at least, affordable for most people. nightShifted Astronomy continued from 2006 to 2014 when I finally decided to close up shop altogether. Shortly thereafter, Campfire Chess made its debut as Off My Chess, a tiny blog where I could share my games and interests related to the world of chess.
So, what is the point of a post like this? The truth is that there may not be a point to it, but it was really nice to take a moment and travel down memory lane to look at websites and talk about Internet places that have come and gone. I believe that sometimes we tend to think of the Internet as growing stagnant in its development and growth, but the reality is that the Internet has always been an evolving and growing organism. It has changed forms countless times since its early development and there is no indication that it will cease those transformations anytime soon. My early exploration and exposure to the Internet was about the free exchange of information and ideas in a way that had never been done before. Data that I never imagined possible was suddenly available at my fingertips, but these days we tend to take it for granted. Curiously, I think that the next evolution of the Internet will not come with the same whisper that many of its previous incantations have come. Instead, I think that we will see a growing fight against censorship and the startling social trend to silence those whom we disagree with.
In the meantime, I will continue to carry on as the web evolves. It is my hope that Campfire Chess will remain for as long as it can, but I’m well aware that all things come to an end at some point. Until then, as I said, I will continue to carry on.