Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who needs this 'Google' rubbish anyway?

In the year 1997, the internet emerged, blinking, from a cave with the launch of one service that revolutionised its use: Google. There had been other search engines before (RIP Altavista), but Google was different in that it actually found you the stuff you were looking for, instead of driving you down long, dark avenues of indexed content.

But that particular internet revolution was not good enough for some people. That's why, in 2002, this was published:

A book for people who can't be bothered with all that entire-sum-of-human-knowledge-at-my-fingertips mullarkey, all nicely laid out,two-to-a-page in good old-fashioned paper.

Jane (who is an equal partner in this madness and not some kind of comedy stooge) had just spent £1.50 on it from the British Heart Foundation shop, and the lady behind the counter looked at us with a mixture of "Who are these weirds?" and "YES! Somebody's bought it AT LAST!"

So, let's see what the World's Best Websites of 2002 were? (For the record, I won Best British Blogger that year, so that's the very low mark on the wall to which we will be comparing things).

Opening the book at random, the first website we find is How Stuff Works, which is still going strong. Yeah, I'm disappointed as well.

The second attempt brings out first dead end. I dearly wanted to read When Toilets Go Bad, but gone, like a brown trout down the U-bend. All that remains is this tantalising bit of text:

Happily (and thanks to me learned colleague Neil), the Wayback Machine comes to the rescue. No comment on the 9/11 memorial graphic, for those were crazy, crazy dark days.

It's the same sad story on the gone-and-totally-forgotten Slumber Party, but that's what happens when you host on equally gone and equally forgotten Geocities. One day you're one of the top 500 websites in the world (New Revised Content!) and the next you're dust in the wind, dude. And the even greater insult is that your laptop's built-in dictionary draws a red squiggly line under Geocities. When you're gone, you're gone.

Then you get the websites that aren't so much dead, as morphed into something terrible. The book urged me to find out if I was a 'Preppy Dresser or Surfer Dude?'...

But all I got was the sinister front page of what has morphed into... opinion pollsters YouGov.

What I'm really after is a website in the top 500, preserved in aspic in its full 2002 glory. Can I find one?

Oh, Dancing Paul ("Watch 'Cool Paul' dance to a selection of top disco tracks. You can even change the scenery in the background!"). Never change.

Conclusion: Typing out long URLs from a book is damn hard work and I got sick of it for too quickly. Use Google, you arseholes.


TRT said...

Nowadays they'd have QR codes.

Ernest J. Fishwinkle said...

'New revised content'.
You can only imagine what was in the first edition.
I'm not sure an online slumber party is my cup of tea either.

Gonzoland said...

You should have experienced the internet before the web. No mouse. Keyboard entry. Some search facilities like Gopher. BBS - Bulletin Board System of privately owned networks some of which, for those who could afford a colour monitor, ANSI graphics. MOD music files. Being taken to Court for the offense of finding a Bell telephone manual for engineers in a stack of garbage (See United States v. Riggs).

Dave Clegg said...

Internet Archive to the rescue
I'm loving the inappropiate 9/11 tribute!