+ Dollz & Geocities: Nostalgia for a '90s Internet

Initially, I wanted to write an article about the pre-2000 internet I only vaguely remember (being around 11 at the time). And then, it quickly became apparent that a spot of Googling was not enough to bring it back to life.  In the process of searching for old websites I used to frequent, basic screenshots of crafty HTML trickery and garish GIFs concocted in Paintshop Pro, what really hit me was that millions of opinions and web-design relics are essentially lost to the current day.

What does this mean for how the internet will be looked at in years to come? For me, having so much of the internet get 'recycled', deactivated and deleted is a devastating loss of culture, history, and prevents mine and so many other people's memories from being shared with future generations.

I tried to view emails from my 12-year-old self to reacquaint myself with my favourite 'web rings', forums and personal blogs, but Yahoo bluntly told me that my old account "has been inactive for an extended period of time and is being recycled". So I tried to search for names of old blogs I knew about, but most links led to "Problem Loading Page", broken images and dodgy hosting websites. Below I'll talk through how I first used the internet, and the scraps of a nostalgic net I've been able to uncover!

1996 B.I. (Before Internet)

Yes, the first form of the internet was alive and kicking in the 1950s, but to all intents and purposes, in 1996 I had no idea what the internet was. I was in year 6 of primary school, aged ten going on eleven and I has decided I wanted to run my own magazine (print, of course). At this point of time, the word 'blog' had only just begin its onslaught into our collective consciousness:

Ngram Viewer to Show Increasing Use of word 'Blog' in BooksI borrowed my dad's Amiga 1200 PC and started compiling a few pages of content for my new project (entitled 'Bazaar'). A few trusty classmates helped me out - one classmate drew a cover image of me (a dopey looking dog), one wrote a poem about snowflakes and another wrote about her favourite music. To top it off I bought a CD for my magazine competition prize. I charged my classmates 20p for the first and only 12-page issue of Bazaar. What led to its failure was (according to one classmate) the fact that 20p was too steep for such a sparse mag!

~1998: When I Discovered the Internet

A year or so later, I discovered 'the internet'. Again, with the help of my dad's PC magazines, and books not unlike this 1997 Web Design and Desktop Publishing for Dummies, I started to connect 'the internet' to self-expression; you could spread actual words and thoughts through this fantastic invention, with some crazy  code called HTML. My dad's computer was painfully slooooww, so when I went over to my nan and granddad's house it was a real treat to use an up-to-date Windows desktop PC with faster internet. The scariest moment for me was realising I didn't know how to copy and paste from a webpage! I clearly had a lot to learn about the online world.


Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to lament the cruel deletion of this web hosting site and the plethora of historical websites along with it. In years to come, I have no doubt future generations will marvel at the tidbits of 20th-century websites somewhat saved from infinite obscurity by the likes of The Deleted City The Archive Team and the Wayback Machine.

Setting up my first website with GeoCities was by no means an easy feat. Thanks to slow internet pre-2000s, it used to take half an hour to pull up my File Manager, and probably another ten minutes to upload an individual image... I used to get a bit cocky and try and upload more than five files at a time, boy was that a mistake!

Browsing other websites (mostly Angelfire, Tripod and Geocities domains) I quickly realised my Geocities handle (babie_bliss!) was random, slightly idiotic and had no meaning so I set out about other names for my blog. And thus was born 'Jenesis', accessible via a mighty cool "" short URL…. I promptly spent my afternoons after school learning some mad skills to blind as many people as possible with bastardized attempts at HTML/CSS/Javascript.

My Fave Early Internet Memories

1) GuestBooks:
This was pre-Facebook/Twitter and other fancy sharing technologies, and so your only real way of self-promoting your website and letting a 'webmaster' know how much you enjoyed their little space in the internet universe was via a guestbook.

2) Experiments in Text Style:
- Using as many font color hex codes as humanly possible:

- Adding a 'glow' filter to text as seen here - at the time most of us were having a love affair with Internet Explorer, but apparently the text doesn't work on Chrome or Firefox :(

3) Marquee Text:

This style is so out of date it barely works in code anymore, but you can view examples here. Not content with just uploading mere text, us pioneering webmasters then took it upon ourselves to thrust lines of text from left to right, top to bottom, or even to 'bounce'.

4) Blinkies:

I am forever indebted to the still-live but most likely forgotten Angelfire websites such as this and this which have allowed me to provide some actual examples of these delightful, blinking graphics:

Cupcake blinkie

6) Dollz

You can read the lowdown of this 90s internet craze in Salon's Playing with Dollz article as well as uncovering more examples at The Doll Palace
Dress Up Games, Doll Makers and Cartoon Dolls @ The Doll PalaceDress Up Games, Doll Makers and Cartoon Dolls @ The Doll PalaceDress Up Games, Doll Makers and Cartoon Dolls @ The Doll Palace   Dress Up Games, Doll Makers and Cartoon Dolls @ The Doll Palace   Dress Up Games, Doll Makers and Cartoon Dolls @ The Doll Palace

7) Making your browser scrollbar as garish as possible

Opening My Horizons

The excruciating squeaks of our modem were the gateway to a universe of other peoples opinions and glimpses of tangible but far-off next steps in my life. The sheer possibilities of where my life would go after high school were formulated into searches on Google (and AOL, Ask Jeeves and various defunct operations) including but not limited to:

1) how to start my dream retail business in fashion

2) how much money I would need to rent retail space in Los Angeles and how much it would cost to live in a 'condo'

3) which American universities in glamorous locations would admit a poor foreign student like moi.

4) volunteer organisations in Africa that badly needed an inexperienced and a starry eyed 16-year-old girl to help 'em out.

Certainly a lot has changed!

Some More Retro Internet Reading Material:

Net of the '90s

Important Milestones of Social Networks

404 Page Not Found

17 Ancient Abandoned Websites That Still Work

+ Day One App Review

In my cupboard drawer I have a despicably large hoard of blank, little used journals and notebooks. To think of all the observations, thoughts and doubts I could have articulated, but didn't, fills me with remorse at my lazy former self. Not because I think the daily wanderings of my mind are of much importance, but because to me personally, it's a really precious thing to be able to read back on previous versions of where your mind was at, whether that's later this year or in decades to come!

Every year over 98% of atoms in your body are replaced - from Did You Know? #226

This intriguing fact is just a small reminder that who you are is constantly shifting in so many ways and is never one fixed 'self'. As well this, our opinions shift over the years as we take on different learnings and perspectives from outside of ourselves.

In the spirit of documenting my life, I downloaded the 'Day One' app to keep track of things like my daily habits, quotes I've read, even observations I have when people-watching on the London tube! **Unfortunately it only works on my iOS devices, not my Android.. I hope they fix this asap!**

Here's a round-up of how other people have pushed the boundaries of what a 'journal' can be in 2014 with the Day One app:

1) Ben Whiting's article Remembering and Reflecting with Day One suggests tagging posts with 'funny'. Whenever you're feeling down, you can flip through a list of content that you already know is going to tickle your funny bone! I LOVE this idea.

2) Another simple but effective idea from Ben is to group together entries about larger life occasions e.g. a family trip/wedding, to help organize your thoughts.

3) Nate of Nine uses the app to keep a record of Historical Markers his family spots on their journeys out and about.

4) I also really love Nate of Nine's idea of filling out a Gratitude Log each day. I can imagine this would be so uplifting to read in the future!

5) You can set up a IFTTT recipe to automatically send your daily Fitbit activity to Day One, recording all of your steps and active minutes alongside your other journal entries (courtesy of GadgetComa)

6) It's a tad above my technical comfort zone but I also found this great idea of using Launch Center Pro to log Movies with IMDb.

7) Resilient Delight recommends great self-reflective tags such as Fears & Desires.

8) One of my favourite ideas is by Noah Liebman, which is to place 'Day One' as a kind of 'tweet to myself' tool, when you censor yourself from tweeting a particular thought. He says:

"So many of my “Ooh, I should tweet that!” moments I don’t actually tweet, either because I don’t think my audience would be interested, or because they just plain aren’t appropriate for Twitter (or anyplace else outside my own brain, for that matter). But with an outlet for them, those thoughts are captured".

9) Medical Tracking. The Day One app's Uses page shares examples of users who are tracking recurring headaches, as well as keeping track of your's or a loved one's medical treatment.

10) Dream log.

11) Quotes. You could even take it a step further and group quotes with additional tags such as the person you're quoting or an adjective such as 'uplfting' or 'career' if they give advice on a particular area of your life.

12) Image log. You might think that this is easily done with other photo apps, but the benefit of Day One is that you don't have to share each photo/image you save with anyone at all, and the fact you can view these in a 'calendar' format alongside text entries makes it even more powerful.

13)Simplicity Bliss believes feeling accountable to track your goals:

"Now I can reflect on my progress against my 12 weeks goals every day by recording in Day One what I have done that day that contributes to them.. What strikes me is that it really hurts if you need to write "nothing" under a goal for a few days in a row".

14) Set reminders to write, helping you keep the words flowing - right now you only seem to be able to set time and recurrence, but you could perhaps designate different times of the day for different writing purposes, e.g. 8am = sum up yesterday's events, 12pm = take a photo of wherever you are, and 6pm = write about your feelings and progress against goals.

15) Day One can also have great applications for your working day. For instance, Katie Floyd uses Day One to track billable time in a much immediate fashion. Because you can share files or export to PDF, you can easily get this to the right colleague to ensure all information is tracked easily.

You may not have tried this app out, or you may be wholly committed to your physical paper journal. But either way, using this app makes the future of journaling (particularly the ability to look back through past events and memories) a very exciting prospect.