Category Archives: Technology

Webiversary

I came across a post the other day talking about the early web and it got me thinking a bit about my time on the internet and specifically the web. My very first experiences, pre-web, were with email via service called EcoNet back in 1993ish. As I recall the service was a sort of basic internet that offered a text-based access and email. The service was provided by the Institute for Global Communications:

In the early ’80s people from four San Francisco Bay Area non-profits (ARC Foundation, Center for Innovative Diplomacy, Community Data Processing, and Foundation for the Arts of Peace) came together around a vision of a computer network to support the work of individuals and organizations working to reduce the risks of war and to promote peace. As a result of that collaboration, PeaceNet was launched. Another early online network, EcoNet, joined with PeaceNet and the project became the Institute for Global Communications (IGC).

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Murray, my old friend!

I used My first Mac, a Color Classic with that service for a couple years then dropped off for a couple years. In 1997 I was working with various community groups in Memphis and we wanted to set-up a website. I guess that at the time I was the nerdiest of the bunch and volunteered. I quickly discovered that my beloved Color Classic was not up to the task of running the early version of, Netscape Navigator. I went shopping and purchased my second Mac, a Performa 6400.

It was with this Mac that I wrote and coded my first website, Liberated Existence.. A static website that I updated almost daily. It quickly grew from a single home page to a series of pages for the various projects our group was creating. The first crawl by the Internet Wayback Machine was August 2000 but the site had been in existence since 1998. Of the various things I’ve done in my adult life publishing a website on the web is probably the one which I have engaged in most consistently.

I coded the site by hand initially, using a text editor, BBEdit and uploaded via an ftp app, Fetch. That was it for the first couple years. At some point I started dabbling in a variety of web creation tools ranging from Claris Homepage to Adobe GoLive and Macromedia Dreamweaver. This was the beginning of my continuing life-on-the-web.

My first “blog” was built on Blosxom which is still a thing apparently. At some point I bounced over to Typepad.com and then to Blogger at some point. During that time I changed the name of the blog several times. I believe the first iteration was the transition of the static Liberated Existence site to a Blosxom blog and at some point I used the name Where We’re Bound. At some point around 2008 I renamed the blog “Our Tomorrow” which I kept until 2015. Both of those titles were meant to evoke thoughts of the future. In the case of the first title, I thought Where We’re Bound had a nice double meaning. Where are we headed but also, in what ways are we bound or tied up from free activity. In what ways are we humans incapable of dealing with our present and our future. I think the follow-up title was a good choice as humans in the first two decades of this century are making crucial choices which seem to be limiting our future survival on the planet.

I expect the current title, Beardy Star Stuff will stick around until I’m done on the internet. The archive contains all previous versions of the above mentioned blog titles and goes back to April 6, 2003, a post titled God Talk.. I’m fairly certain there were some posts previous to that but they seem to have been lost at some point during one of the above mentioned transitions. Oh well.

So, yeah, it’s been 21 years now that I’ve been building my tiny little corner of the web. None of my sites have ever been heavily trafficked and I’m okay with that. I did them as much for myself as anyone else. I suspect I’ll continue in my haphazard web-building practices for a good while. At this point it’s a practice that probably leans more towards habit than the passion it was 20 years ago. But I still enjoy it so I’ll keep at it.

Note, I’ve only spoken here of my personal creations. I’ve also been busy building websites for clients since about 2005 but really, that’s another story for another time. Perhaps it’s something I’ll reflect on at my other tech-oriented blog at Beardy Guy Creative.

It Could Happen

Colin Dickey writing for Aeon on why it’s dangerous for modern civilization to be so dependent on technology:

On 1 September 1859, the British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a burst of solar winds and magnetic energy that had escaped the corona of the Sun. The Carrington Event, as it came to be known, was not only the first recorded CME, it was also one of the largest ever on record, and it unleashed a foreboding and wondrous display of light and magnetic effects. Auroras were seen as far south in the northern hemisphere as San Salvador and Honolulu. As the Baltimore Sun reported at the time: ‘From twilight until 10 o’clock last night the whole heavens were lighted by the aurora borealis, more brilliant and beautiful than had been witnessed for years before.’

At the time, the event caused some minor magnetic disruption to telegraph wires, but for the most part there was little damage caused by such a spectacular event, its main legacy being the fantastic displays of light across the sky in early September. But should a solar flare happen on the scale of the Carrington Event now (and there’s a 12 per cent chance of one hitting the Earth before 2022), the effects might have a radically different impact on our advanced civilisation. If a CME with the same intensity were to hit the Earth head-on, it could cause catastrophic damage.

A National Research Council report in 2008 estimated that another Carrington Event could lead to a disruption of US infrastructure that could take between four and 10 years – and trillions of dollars – to recover from. Particularly vulnerable are the massive transformers on which our entire power system relies. Massive fluxes in magnetic energy can easily overload a transformer’s magnetic core, leading to overheating and melting of their copper cores. In the worst-case scenario, a repeat of the Carrington Event would cripple our infrastructure so severely it could lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of society, a threat utterly unknown to our ‘less civilised’ ancestors.