I remember the time before blogs


These sudden waves of nostalgia, these are the worst.

I remember the time before blogs; I do. Dimly, with the view of an adolescent with a slow connection, as all connections were then, I remember the time before blogs.

I remember the time before CSS, too; or I think I do. Maybe CSS was there, but I just failed to notice it.

But the time before blogs; I miss it, sometimes. Blogs are immediate; they tell you the latest the first look you take at them; they keep everything arranged according to time. There are categories and tags; but even these are just lids to segregated wells of time. Blogs are things of content and time; the net of old was made of meaning and code. But blogs are fine; they make life easy; I just grew up in a different age.

I miss the old manner of sites: the main page and the jungle of subpages, the only time a byline of last-updated or not even that. I miss, though I shouldn’t, the blinking gifs and the flashing text — I, a fool of nostalgia — and I miss the hand-coded HTML, the crude beauty of it all, the simplicity, the dominance of text, and the MIDI file on autoplay, and the images in 256 colors or less, swimming with posterizing and other compression artifacts; and I miss the links with a file size attached, warning a file was a few hundred kilobytes in size, so beware.

But above all else I miss the branching organization according to meaning, rather than time. I miss the flashy jpg that said “NEW” or “UPDATED” and had a hand-written date next to it; I miss the time when there were no plug-ins to download, no content management systems to make everything anodyne shiny, nothing but sheer stark strong hand-coded HTML: the glorious age when GeoCities was the most wretched hive of scum and abandoned homesteads there was, a glorious teeming sprawl of neighborhoods hand-coded with bright primary colors; when the backgrounds were sheer white, or sheer black; when there were pages without pictures, or pictures still square and shunted off to one side; when everyone’s home page looked like most academicians’ home pages still look like.

I miss the images used as HR dividers, with an owl perching on the line, or sparkles flashing; I miss the animated gifs of guttering torches, and title images written with spider-clusters of Ogilvie; I miss the bare ordered-list table of contents, and instead of this human chatter of blogs, the monomaniac horror of endless text, organized by meaning, and not hid by an archive according to the date.

I miss the HTML font tag, even; this is a serious indicator of debilitating nostalgia, this.

Ah well; what I miss has not gone away, because even after the Fall of GeoCities, and after the Rise of the Blogosphere, and the Wikifying, and the Flashination, these old things are still here, in the garages and attics of the Internet; but I miss the time they were what the Internet was. I guess I am getting old; and I guess anyone really old will feel the heebie-jeebies reading nostalgia for something like this.

Oh, and you really young ones? One day you will be writing about Myspace and Facebook like this. You have been warned.

(For contrast: the old Wheel of Time FAQ; the new Wheel of Time FAQ. The latter is shiny; the former feels like home.)

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