By now, you know the story: in late 1995/early 1996, a handful of us from the shop were sent to perfunctory HTML classes, under the assumption that immersion in a sea of H2s and font families would somehow yield individuals who were capable of maintaining the corporate Web site, which didn't yet exist but was going to, or else. I understood maybe a quarter of what I heard, but I knew what I had to do: I had to put up a site of my own, where at least I could get some practice in this arcane art without worrying about potential effects on my daily bread.

VistaWeb 3000My ISP of the moment offered me space: one full megabyte. I was delighted to see that my first seven pages, complete with hideous vintage-1996 graphics, took up only about 20 kilobytes; heck, at that rate, I might get up to a couple of hundred pages without running out of room.

Visitors, of course, were few and far between: the little counter gizmo near the bottom of the page hardly ever moved. However, the mighty AltaVista search engine, less than six months old itself but already a household word in that one percent of houses occupied by actual Web surfers, somehow located me in the digital darkness and added me to its index. Others would follow. I decided I would continue The Vent as a regular feature; by the end of the summer I'd written nineteen of them.

Bottom 95% of the WebThings went on at decidedly subsonic speeds. I'd redesigned the front page three times in the first seven months; the fourth version featured The Bird in a skeletal clip-art style that would remain for several years. The domain name, never satisfactorily explained to most people, came along in 1999, though I'd been using it as shorthand for the location pretty much since Day One.

The rest, as they say, is history, or at least hysterical. And while I'd never intended for this little experimental site to last for eighteen years — hell, the World Wide Web itself is only twenty-two — I don't think there was any time when I seriously considered giving it up: it was just Something I Did, perhaps not as vital as breathing, but certainly more frequent than [insert reference to love life, and make it sound pitiful].

Alice Cooper, quoted in the title here, proved to be prescient: the sheer amount of reading that of necessity preceded this prodigious amount of typing has, I believe, contributed to keeping the flakes and debris out of the ol' brain pan, even as the rest of me undergoes the sort of routine deterioration one can usually expect at this age. (Cooper himself is sixty-six; he probably has better health insurance than I do, though I didn't spend anywhere near as much time in detox.) And "the middle of doubt" is a location with which I am intimately familiar. The one statistic that startles me, however, is this: eighteen years is thirty percent of my lifetime, and so long as I'm still here, that percentage will continue to rise.

The Vent

#864
  9 April 2014

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