Three Decades of HTML

Published 6 months, 1 week past

A few days ago was the 30th anniversary of the first time I wrote an HTML document.  Back in 1993, I took a Usenet posting of the “Incomplete Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode Guide” and marked it up.  You can see the archived copy here on meyerweb.  At some point, the markup got updated for reasons I don’t remember, but I can guarantee you the original had uppercase tag names and I didn’t close any paragraphs.  That’s because I was using <P> as a shorthand for <BR><BR>, which was the style at the time.

Its last-updated date of December 3, 1993, is also the date I created it.  I was on lobby duty with the CWRU Film Society, and had lugged a laptop (I think it was an Apple PowerBook of some variety, something like a 180, borrowed from my workplace) and a printout of the HTML specification (or maybe it was “Tags in HTML”?) along with me.

I spent most of that evening in the lobby of Strosacker Auditorium, typing tags and doing find-and-replace operations in Microsoft Word, and then saving as text to a file that ended in .html, which was the style at the time.  By the end of the night, I had more or less what you see in the archived copy.

The only visual change between then and now is that a year or two later, when I put the file up in my home directory, I added the toolbars at the top and bottom of the page  —  toolbars I’d designed and made a layout standard as CWRU’s webmaster.  Which itself only happened because I learned HTML.

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to relate some of this story to Joel Hodgson himself.  The story delighted him, which delighted me, because delighting someone who has been a longtime hero really is one of life’s great joys.  And the fact that I got to have that conversation, to feel that joy, is inextricably rooted in my sitting in that lobby with that laptop and that printout and that Usenet post, adding tags and saving as text and hitting reload in Mosaic to instantly see the web page take shape, thirty years ago this week.


Comments (4)

  1. Nice work. Learning HTML and lugging that laptop paid off. And congrats on getting old.

  2. We have a similar timeline. HTML changed my life.

  3. Pingback ::

    Weeknotes 23:42 - Jeff Bridgforth :: Front-end developer in Chattanooga, Tennessee | Jeff Bridgforth :: Front-end developer in Chattanooga, Tennessee

    […] Three Decades of HTML (Eric Meyer) – I am five years short of the time Eric has been writing HTML. I enjoyed reading Eric’s story as I was fresh off of telling my own story last week. […]

  4. Nice stroll down memory lane. I was also a very early adopter of the web, having been involved with both BBS’s and IRC for a very long time before discovering HTML.

    Some co-workers and I were involved in writing our own html editor back when PageMill was a horrible thing. Working in a traditional desktop publishing company, we all saw this new “web” thing taking prominence.

    Cheers from Canada,

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