It was 1995 before I finally got some internet-accessible server space. I had been long been fascinated with the concept of hypertext, downloading a version of the Windows "Help" compiler and writing files filled with green underlined links leading to trivial information. But though I had used intranet e-mail at work, it wasn't until America Online offered free ftp space, which they saw as a way for customers to get acquainted, that dial-up folks like me had a way, clumsily, to have a presence on the Internet.
It still didn't feel real though. My tech-savy buddy Tom Gwilym got an account at a local provider called Medio-Net, which had a novel idea in those narrow-band days: every month, they mailed you a disc containing some of the graphic content they wanted you to see, and that framed your internet experience. When they went out of business, I followed Tom to Wolfenet.com, Irv Wolfe's local ISP, where I luxuriated in daily transfer stats, a customizable hit counter (which I turned into a graphic Hobbs meter) and excellent customer support.
In those days a home page was usually a list of "hot links," a function now subsumed by built-in bookmarks or "favorites." But it was a way to share your internet "finds" with others. The first hyperlinks on my page were there so that, when I went to friends' houses to help them get connected for the first time, I could find the things I wanted to show them online. This was before Google; in fact the Next Big Thing was thought to be AltaVista.Putting graphics on your page was pretty advanced. Since mine was a "home" page, I started out with pictures of my home. Originally, there was a color picture of the bench that sat out by the corner of our back yard, and under the picture a dozen or so links divided into four categories: Flying, Photography, Seattle, and Miscellaneous. The bench picture was soon replaced with pictures of the inside and outside of the house itself, with the legend, "You Are Here."
At first many of the links were laboriously re-typed from the Seattle Times or the Photo District News; but gradually there got to be real content that wasn't available online anywhere else. Useful numbers from the Seattle Glider Council newsletter became a little chart; and then went away when Vince Miller created a website for that organization. For a while there was a list of FAA-designated flight examiners, before the FAA made it possible to find them. I started to publish things I had written myself and a series of my pictures, notably the Famous Flight Instructors Series.
The Photo page split into nine different parts as information expanded. It was about this time, after our trip to Nepal in 1996, that I succumbed to the lure of graphics. The "splash" page became a little galaxy of blue planets, laboriously created from scratch in PhotoShop, referring to the site's main divisions and held in place with "tables" tags. The only text was the title and a copyright notice.
Things went on like this for a long time, much of the content becoming obsolete but occasionally being updated or replaced, often with accounts of new travels. I was hosting little brochure-like websites for friends who wanted to be on the Net, and in late 1998 had begun running a site for the new Seattle Luthiers Group.
But mom-and-pop internet providers were already on their way out, and wolfenet had been swallowed by icc which was swallowed by rmi which was swallowed by Earthlink, which, after extra money and a huge hassle, allowed me to keep my old address.
One day in 2001 someone called me up to say that she had been looking for some information but couldn't find my website online. I couldn't either. Without warning, or explanation, or, I strongly suspect, without ever understanding what they had done, Earthlink had deleted all my files.
Conservative as I am in such matters, I could see it was time for a change. I didn't need the dial-up access, since I had a cable modem by then; all I was paying Earthlink for was a way for people to find my page, and that clearly wasn't happening. I still had the America Online account (with their now-secret limited-hours $4.95-a-month rate), so I moved the files there that would fit. After some months I learned, from a guy over lunch at a seminar, what a great deal shared hosting is -- especially considering the control over e-mail accounts and, better yet, catchall accounts. The Seattle Luthiers got their own domain name (and no longer had to use the AOL guestbook form as their signup sheet), and I went looking for a new home on the Net.
I quickly learned that all words in Webster's Collegiate and most surnames are already registered as domains; but we're not limited to English here, and, with a thought to our devotion to travel, mwenda.com was born.
Without its fancier graphics, but now with a search function linked to customizable not-found pages, the site lay mostly fallow. I wasn't working as a flight instructor anymore, or actively doing photography. There were more and more vacation pictures, occasionally organized into displays, like the ones for New Zealand and Morocco.
But after a while we started thinking about retirement. We bought into a resort development in Loreto, in Baja California Sur, in Mexico. Information began to accumulate about the design and construction of our new house there, and in January 2006, a reorganized website appeared, meant this time to help us organize pictures and ideas about our new place -- and to share them with others. The layout was meant to suggest a door whose panels werere links to information, opening on an ever-changing view of the site.
One of Loreto's big lures is kayaking. We took a couple of boats with us when we moved, and I started writing notes about our adventures in a WordPress blog. This format allowed keeping track of text and pictures without having to write HTML. Eventually I began treating all our news that way, and now our domain's default page is just a way to find the blogs and some of the old slide shows. We moved back to Seattle, apparently for good, in 2014, and so here's what we look like online now:
Click here or on the picture to go to our Contents page; or here to go to the Site Map Page.
The mail link again: firstname.lastname@example.org