In the midst of everything going on in 2016, I lost track of a birthday or two In addition to last year being my great-grandparents’ 100th anniversary in June, 2016 also marked two milestones-of-sorts for me: the 20th anniversary of my entry into web publishing (aka the 20th birthday of my website, al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā, “Cairo in America”) and the 10th anniversary of my attempt at blogging, (aka the beginning of this blog a decade later).
Inspired by the webpages of several of my former high school classmates, mostly then at Georgia Tech (which offered students free web space),1 on February 13, 1996, I staked a claim to a homestead in the Athens neighborhood of GeoCities, a then-relatively-new but increasingly-popular site offering free homepages for everyone. By the end of the year, GeoCities had expanded the number of neighborhoods from 8 (due to its increasing popularity, the limited number of “addresses” in the neighborhoods were filling up quickly) and my site was now deemed off-topic for Athens, necessitating a move to 3191 in TheTropics, the first of many moves al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā would eventually undertake. In those days, web-counters and guestbooks were popular (usually CGI scripts available on UNIX servers, but not often freely-available for those not on a university or commercial UNIX server), and before the end of 1996, al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā had both, thanks to new free (advertising-supported) services starting up. digits.net (formerly digits.com), which provides my web-counter, is still running 20+ years later, but Lpage.com had a tortured history, becoming GuestWorld, then being taken over by HTML Gear, which in turn was bought by Tripod/Lycos before finally being discontinued in 2012, so my guestbook is extinct.
Flash forward a decade, and in the mid-to-late 2000s, weblogs (blogs) and blogging were the rage, fueled by software that made publishing an ongoing log (or diary, or series of thoughts, or the like) on the web simple, hiding the complexity and eliminating the need to know and write HTML in order to publish on the web. The promise of easier, more-frequent updates appealed to me, as al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā had grown moribund. With that desire and inspired by my fellow Camino developers, and finally with real (paid) web hosting of my own, I installed WordPress and launched افكار و احلام (Afkār wa Aḥlām—“Thoughts and Dreams”—this blog) on November 1, 2006.
So I’ve now been “on the web” for two straight decades (at this writing, al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā has already had another birthday and is officially old enough to drink alcohol in the United States!) and blogging continuously (however sporadically) for a decade as well. Still, the title of my first blog post, “Detritus of the digital age,” seems apt. al-Qāhira fī Amrīkā proper hasn’t seen anything more than the most cursory update since the early 2000s, and its HTML code is hopelessly out-of-date. I’ve had grand plans for years (currently, for HTML5 and CSS, new photo galleries, and renovated poetry collections) that never seem to even get underway due to life, so I’m glad to have افكار و احلام for an “active” component of the site. While I doubt I’ll ever manage a return to the Camino-fueled blogging of my early days, I do continue to strive for more frequent posts—maybe I’ll manage a monthly post this year?
But I’m still here, still on the web and writing, so here’s a great big, albeit belated, “Happy Birthday” to the two bits and bobs of ether that put me on the web and have achieved those publishing milestones.
1 As I recall, it was Matt Billings who first taught me how to “look under the hood” with View Source to figure out how people had done things on their pages that I found interesting and wanted to recreate. ↩︎