Over the years I have made it a tradition at this time of year to look back on the most important news events in the world of Information Technology. This year I am having a bit of difficulty deciding what is really worth reviewing. Microsoft released Windows 10 (yawn), Apple introduced a smaller iPad (ho hum), and there was more of the same news about government snooping and the erosion of personal privacy. As I looked back on the tech-related news of 2015 I found myself looking even further back and discovered something much more interesting.
What I found more interesting is that there are several online projects dedicated to creating an historical record of our times. Realizing that the internet is a constantly-changing ephemeral thing, several huge databases have been created to record and preserve our online experience for posterity.
Since 1996 the “Wayback Machine” or “The Internet Archive” has been recording almost the entire publicly-accessible internet. The San Francisco, California based nonprofit states its mission as “universal access to all knowledge.”
The web site is found at archive.org, and guess what. This is how you can go back to see what the Reporter web site looked like back in the last century. In addition to web sites, there is free access to public-domain collections of digitized materials, including software applications, games, music, movies, images, and nearly three million books. The holdings have topped 15 petabytes of data, so I would not recommend trying to download it all at once.
A newer entry into this online historical preservation field is “Oldweb.Today” created by the Daniel Langlois Foundation. The web site address is “oldweb.today” with no .com or .org (Welcome to the 21st century web). This web site holds a special interest for techies who have been online for the last few decades because in addition to viewing archived copies of old web sites, it is possible at Oldweb. Today to view what a page looked like back then in a specific web browser. For me it was quite a trip down memory lane to see and remember what Netscape Navigator looked like on the screen of an ancient McIntosh computer. I hope the experience does not give me nightmares tonight.
If you just feeling nostalgic and have a desire to revisit the Stone Age of the World Wide Web (the 1990s) when everything was uglier, slower, and generally worse, this is where to find it. Even a short visit should make you more appreciative of the web as it has evolved today.
These web archives sited here, along with others, are proving that nothing ever dies on the internet. Young people today would be wise to take note of the fact that decades from now all this information and more will still be available to their prospective employers.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.