As a man of a certain age, I have been an active Internet user for over twenty years, beginning with email and USENET. I have also been using the graphical web since about late 1995 or early 1996, around the time I figured out how to set up a dialup SLIP connection at home. As someone initially intimidated by computers, getting my Quadra on the Internet via a phone line—without a commercial service like AOL, Prodigy, or Compuserve—was an initial step in becoming the lonely, over-inquisitive technophile that I am today.
Over that time, I have collected (and lost) a bunch of web bookmarks. We all have. In my days of doing desktop support, my users bemoaned getting a new computer because they feared losing their documents, which we diligently transferred, and their bookmarks, which we also migrated to their new browser.1 Each user’s bookmark collection was like a box of digital heirlooms.
Some of my own bookmarks are really, really old. They have migrated from one browser to another—Netscape to Internet Explorer to Safari—and outlasted about a half-dozen Macs, starting with a PowerMac G3. Over the weekend, I was typing some address in the Safari web location bar. After a few keystrokes, the auto-complete feature suggested something long-forgotten, though kinda-familiar: The Standpipe Gallery at http://standpipegallery.com. Don’t bother following that link because it’s dead. In fact, after clicking through my other bookmarks, especially those dating from when I still organized them into folders, very few sites still exist today. That was kinda depressing.
Here’s a sampling:
|Site||What was/is it?||Status|
|NZ English to US English Dictionary||My friend Nina, a Kiwi, talked funny. I used this to understand her.||Alive|
|Voice of American Pronunciation Guide||I once thought I was a cosmopolitan and wanted to learn to pronounce everyone’s name right.||Alive|
|Plan 59||Cool midcentury commercial art. Great for slide decks.||Alive|
|Geneva and Aron’s Wedding Page||A website for my friends’ wedding.||Dead, though they’re still happily married|
|Baseball Strategy||Guide for baseball strategy, I guess.||Dead|
|Dodger Blues||A frustrated Dodger fans making me laugh.||Alive, but dormant since 2012|
|Bike Summer NYC||A group/event I followed back in 2003.||Dead|
|Pike 2 Bike Tunnel Trail||A bike trail in Pennsylvania that Sarah and I were going to ride one day||Dead, and we never rode it|
|Cosmic Baseball Association: Bolex Poetics||An imaginary baseball team comprised of experimental filmmakers||Alive, shockingly|
|DVDxDV||Handbrake before there was Handbrake||Alive|
|Independent Student Media Project||It might have been related to the Iraq War||Dead|
|Commanderson||Communication Studies professor Tim Anderson||Dead, though the professor still lives|
|Count Smokula||Accordion-playing clown for the hipster set||Alive, but dormant since 2005|
|Contaminated Records||A record label, I guess||Dead|
|Dot Dash NYC||Rock ‘n’ roll music promoters||Dead|
|Siberia Bar||Dive bar and music venue near Port Authority Bus Terminal||Dead|
|Quarterslot||Music performer named Jessica-something. Also, I was her TA||Dead|
|Bloody Panda||Dark metal band that had its day for a while.||Dead|
|Nineteenth Century Slang Dictionary||A fun resource, probably where I looked up the term “grass widow”||Dead|
I’d go on, listing more of them, but I already feel old and sad enough without plunging any further. At one time, my bookmark collection, and the sites collected therein, meant something to me. They either provided some utility, some insight, or even a laugh, but now, years later, they’re gone. And had I not impulsively followed one of them, they would all have been forgotten, too.
There’s some truth to the claim that the Internet never forgets, a fact that makes me think twice before I post something here. But there’s something else that’s also true about us and our digital artifacts. Someday, we will all be dead. And once our domain registrations expire and our hosting plans don’t renew, our web sites will be dead, too. Just like us.
As for the Standpipe Gallery that initially piqued my curiosity and triggered this post, I figured out that it was a gallery founded by Alison Pierz, the wife of a grad-school colleague. Much like the website, the gallery no longer exists. However, there’s an “archive” available of the work shown there over the years. It survives as a Facebook page.
- If I remember correctly, for a time, there was even some issue with browser lock-in. Your Netscape bookmarks would not easily transfer to Internet Explorer, or vice-versa, or maybe, I’m just making that up. ↩