Monthly Archives: January 2017

Easy websites with the w3.css style sheet, part 2

Previously, I began this article by discussing my first experience making a website back in 1995, along with mentioning a custom program I wrote to help speed up the process.

Over the years, the web has grown considerably, and the HTML “language” has evolved and added more features. (Does anyone remember the “blink” HTML tag?) It’s taken two decades, but we are finally getting to the point where web browsers are finally standardized enough that website designers don’t have to rely on all kinds of hacks and tricks just to make their sites appear similar on different systems.

In the early days, a browser called Netscape dominated. Microsoft introduced their first Internet Explorer (bringing the World Wide Web to PC users) and Apple had whatever the heck it had. Other operating systems, like IBM’s OS/2 Warp, had browsers of their own … and all rendered HTML a bit differently.

It was a mess.

Pages wouldn’t look the same when using Netscape on a PC versus  Mac. Internet Explorer was even made for Macs at one point, and initially it added features that the PC version didn’t have.

It was a mess.

I know I just said that, but I feel it is worth repeating.

It was a mess.

Today, it seems pretty rare to find folks editing HTML by hand. There are endless options for HTML editors (like Dreamweaver) that aid in building websites using templates and libraries of HTML code. There are also tons of content management systems like WordPress (which this site currently uses) that let folks easily set up a site based on a pre-existing theme and customize it a bit without ever touching a line of code.

And this is why so much of the internet looks bland, boring, and similar. Folks like me pick out some very common WordPress theme and look like thousands of other sites using the same theme.

Because writing a modern-looking website is hard.

However, last week I stumbled upon something that appears to let my ancient 1995 HTML skills quickly and easily create a modern-looking website with very simple HTML code.

In the next installment, I will introduce you to the w3.css. If you have ever built HTML by hand, and are unaware of w3.css, hopefully you will be as impressed as I am by what it is capable of.

Until then…

Easy websites with the w3.css style sheet, part 1

This article will discuss an amazingly easy way to create modern websites using a cool thing I just found out about.

But, like most of my articles, we begin with a long, rambling story about my history with the web…

I built my first HTML web page in 1995, I think. It was the early and crude days of the World Wide Web. I remember having my first public website (which we all called “home pages” back then) on a free service called GeoPages. This server was later renamed to GeoCities and was eventually acquired by Yahoo!

Here is the Wikipedia entry with some of the history. It’s quite interesting seeing where things began:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_GeoCities

According to a news article referenced by Wikipedia, the name change happened in December 1995. I wish I still had copies of my first home page, but space was limited back then so few of us kept earlier versions of the things we did.

At some point, I moved my home page from GeoCities to Delphi, and it stayed there for awhile before I finally archived it to my own domain. It looks like I last updated it in 2000, so here is an archive of my old site that begin in 1995:

http://alsplace.os9al.com/alsplace.html

My original home page, as it was in 1999-ish.

Those were the days! HTML 1.0!

In those days, HTML was edited by hand in a text editor. I used the umacs editor on a SunOS workstation, and later, umacs for MS-DOS on a Toshiba laptop. I wrote several programs in C to help me built more complex sites by using template files and includes. I basically created a C-style “#ifdef”, “#include” and “#define” preprocessor for HTML, and also added variables.

If I wanted a consistent header and/or footer at the top of every page, I could create a file like “TOP.TEM” (top template) with that code, and then in my page files (INDEX.TEM, ABOUT.TEM, LINKS.TEM) I would do a “#include TOP.TEM”. When I ran my preprocessor, it would parse the files and generate the actual .HTM files. (Ah, those lousy days in the PC world where file names were limited to eight letters and a three letter extension!)

For variables, I could create a “#define EMAIL alsplace@pobox.com” in a template, and then anywhere the text “%EMAIL%” appeared in the file would get replaced with “alsplace@pobox.com”. It let me make global changes to my site and rebuild in seconds.

Years later, I would purchase the expensive Macromedia Dreamweaver, which is today known as Adobe Dreamweaver. (Hmmm, why is everything I use acquired by someone else?) This industrial strength web editor finally allowed me to edit in a more visual mode rather than raw HTML coding.

But, even though it added the concept of Library items and Templates, it was (and still is!) so far slower when generating a site than my ancient 1995 preprocessor.

But it looks much nicer and is easier to use.

Up next: From home page to hosting…

Commodore Amiga documentary

I just found this Commodore Amiga documentary on HULU and watched it last night. You can find more information on the official website:

Home

For those too young to remember, the Amiga was the most advanced home computer ever sold. It was incredibly ahead of its time, especially compared to any of the competing systems that were sold when it was released in 1985.

Us old timers recall the early days of home computer with systems like the Apple 2, Commodore PET, Atari 400/800, and TRS-80. There were many other systems, like the Timex Sinclair ZX81, Texas Instruments TI99, VIC-20 and then the massively popular Commodore 64 (and later less successful 128). Thanks to the internet, I have learned about dozens of other competing systems that I never even heard of back then.

The next generation of computers were things like the 1984 Apple Macintosh and the Atari ST. The Commodore Amiga blew everything out of the water. It had multitasking and amazing color graphics (back when a PC produced only 4 awful colors on a “high resolution” screen). It had 4-channel STEREO digital sound. It was just amazing.

I recall seeing an Atari ST in a shop in Houston, and really wanting one, but it was just too expensive. Sure, my CoCo setup ended up costing way more as I added more and more components, but I could do all of that gradually. The entry level cost of an Atari ST (or Amiga) and the required monitor was simply out of my price range.

But I had Commodore 64 friends that moved on to the Amiga, and I remember getting to see one of the first time (probably in late 1987). The bouncing ball demo brought tears to my eye. I had simply never seen anything like that on a home computer screen.

This documentary gives some of the background of the creation of the Amiga, and how it ended up at Commodore (and almost ended up at Atari).

It’s a fascinating look at what was truly an amazing piece of hardware.

The movie is streaming on HULU if you have a subscription, and can be rented or bought on many other services. I recommend it, though I wish it were about 10-15 minutes longer so it could give a more complete timeline of the various models that came out and why they were created (especially things like the CDTV and CD32).

Enjoy…

Apparently I can’t trust anything I remember.

I have a few dozen different websites, but none for a subject like this, so I’ll just post it here. Maybe you will find it interesting.

Since a big portion of this site is topics from my 8-bit computer days in the 1980s, I now find myself wondering if I remember any of the stories I tell correctly. Most of the things I think I recall, I think I recall correctly … but now I am wondering if anything I say here is accurate. Join me on a quick detour and let’s have some fun with memories…

On December 22, 2015, an e-mail newsletter I receive from DIGG had a subject that caught my attention. It said:

Your Memories Aren’t Real

The newsletter usually contains around a dozen links to articles on other sites, but the first one was titled “The Movie That Doesen’t Exist And The Redditors Who Think It Does“.  The description talked about hundreds of people remembering a cheesy 1990’s movie called “Shazaam” and that no such movie exists. I initially shrugged this off because I was well aware of a movie called “Kazaam” that started the basketball player Shaquille O’Neal.

I was curious about how this could be “a thing” so I read the article. Here it is:

http://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/internet/2016/12/movie-doesn-t-exist-and-redditors-who-think-it-does

This article discusses something called the Mandela Effect, named after groups of people who incorrectly remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. Some news or event must have happened back then that confused many people the same way.

I had previously heard references to Mandela Effect on Free Talk Live, a liberty-minded syndicated talk radio program. They occasionally brought it up, using the example of how the children’s book is Berenstain Bears and not Berenstein Bears like many recall. I always heard it as “stein” so I had repeated it incorrectly my entire life.

This led me to do some quick web searches to see if there was anything more to it than that, and I found all kinds of amusing posts and YouTube videos. Most of them are in the same league as “misheard song lyrics” and made me think of a book a former coworker friend of mine, James, had pointed me to ages ago. A quick search right now shows that there is even a website dedicated to this:

http://kissthisguy.com/

(That’s a reference to the Jimi Hendrix song, which some mishear as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy!”)

I went through various lists of movie quotes everyone seems to get wrong (“NO, I am your father!”, “Life WAS like a box of chocolates”, “MAGIC mirror on the wall”) and even TV items most of us heard hundreds of times if we grew up in the 70s (“It’s a beautiful day in THIS neighborhood”). I was stunned at how many I was wrong about.

The Mandela Effect folks say this could be a sign of parallel worlds/dimensions/etc. and folks slipping between them, noticing something is off in a product logo, or song lyric or something they swear they remember and know.

It’s quite entertaining.

One actually hit me pretty hard. When I was first getting involved with Renaissance Festivals in the late 1990s, I had some smart friends that would often explain some of the historical inaccuracies these events propagate. (No, pirates like you recognize don’t belong at a typical Renaissance festival – they are closer to the Wild West era than medieval times.) One of these items was turkey legs and how turkeys were from the New World and didn’t even exist in Europe until they were brought over at a much later time (1500s?).

So how did turkey legs become so popular? I was pointed to a painting (which I always thought was of one of the King Henrys). It showed him holding up something that looked like a turkey leg. My friend explained it was likely some other type of meat. I remember looking the picture up (a color painting) back in those dial-up internet days.

Over the years, I’ve mentioned this to other festival newbies, and you can certainly find tons of references to such a painting, as well as find the pose parodied all over the place.

But there is no such painting. At least, not of King Henry.

I am confident such a painting exists, tho for all I know it was painted in the 1960s (the first Renaissance festival started around 1963 in California). It may have even been a parody painting, making fun of the King’s gluttony.

One this is for sure … it apparently was not King Henry.

And although there’s alot of science theory lately about parallel dimensions, I somehow think it’s just that my memory is crap.

Here’s a fun graphic showing various product logos and names. How many of them are you wrong about?

Enjoy!