The Ghosts of Internet Past


I log into the Internet every day.  It’s not always improved, but there is always something new.  I check my WordPress site, MySpace and Facebook a dozen times a week or more.  Users post new pictures, write new blogs, there are more stories to read, apps to download.  But lost amid the bright lights and flashy glamour of Web 2.0, there are still shadows of the old Internet around: the basic HTML pages of the 1990’s Internet.  Google is celebrating its ten year anniversary and has a link to an old index going back to 2001.  When I look up my name these days on Google, the first real reference to me isn’t until the bottom of page nine.  Back in 2001, I was the eighth listing, period.  I didn’t remember that (of course back in 2001, AltaVista was still my search engine of choice).

To my surprise, the link still worked.  It took me to a page, courtesy of the Wayback Archive, that listed my first story post on the World Wide Web.  From there was a link to the author’s page.  If you check my story out and want to e-mail me your thoughts, go ahead.  I still have that e-mail address!  Even better, it had a link to a copy of my original Geocities website.  Before I wrote a blog (indeed before they were invented), I sat and handwrote raw HTML in Notepad and created a website with stories, poems and original artwork.  It was a labor of love (heavy on the labor, light on the love).  I lost interest in keeping it up after a year or so.  I lost the password to log into Geocities and then Yahoo took it over in the dot com boom and bust at the beginning of the century.  All I had were memories… until now.

Not all the site was saved by the Internet Archive, but there was enough left to wander through for an hour or so.  I remembered the graphics I labored over in four different programs that made up the buttons and the logo.  Mercifully, I still have copies of all the writing I had on the website.  Nothing was lost. 

I don’t get to the Art Institute of Chicago very often anymore.  When I do, there’s a picture that has always struck a chord with me.  It’s a pastoral scene circa 18th Century continental Europe.  A group of tourists is inspecting a Roman ruin.  While it’s old and crumbling, it dwarfs the visitors and the light raining down from the holes in the roof makes it feel out of step with the normal flow of time.  I always imagine those “modern day” picnickers may not be able to see the ghosts the building contains, but they can hear the echoes of footsteps as if the past is just in the next room.

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