The Underpinnings of the Web (Whatever that means!)
I don’t know about any of you, but reading the Digital History excerpts is like reading stereo directions…in Chinese…as a dyslexic suffering from narcolepsy…during a coffee drought. Luckily for all of us, I am a fighter. Therefore, here are my observations on this week’s readings:
- As I said above, for me this was an extremely slow read. Through the drudges in my brain, I gather that what Cohen and Rosenweig are trying to convince me of is essentially what we discussed in class. Knowing HTML will help me when building a website as a historian. Why? It will give me a sense of control that I wouldn’t get were I to utilize web design software such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage.
- What if the only job I can possibly get with my history degree is as a teacher or professor? Ok, programs such as Blackboard or WebCT will basically spoon feed me the creation syllabus. One caveat-I’ll be at the mercy of some nameless web designer’s creativity, and not be able to think outside the box while designing my course. They also say that my students may have difficulty accessing the information. Unheard of! Blackboard is a saint!! (Tongue-in-cheek)
- Don’t get me started on graphic design. Seriously, don’t get me started. Literally the only thing I understood in that section was “Adobe Photoshop” and “educational discount”.
- Adding multimedia to my page-it can get bogged down by the file size. The next question is streaming music/videos or downloading? I find that in my own personal experience, if my internet takes more that 2 seconds to show me what I want to see, I’m impatiently clicking buttons and refreshing pages. (Oh the days of logging onto Prodigy or AOL with my phone modem. It would take at least 15 minutes for me to grow frustrated back then). The question is, do I want people to stick around to see what my website has to offer, or do I want them to grow impatient and click over to Facebook instead? The answer to that question will then solve my multimedia conundrum.
- Databases…the bane of my existence in my current HR position. Excel documents that can narrow down any type of information imaginable. Why would I care about this for a historical website? For starters, when I’m presenting information, it must be accessible in several different methods-by date, by name, by type. These keywords are helpful to me in collecting and displaying information, as well as my audience while accessing information.
- I’m not going to touch on which server to use, since reclaim was the server presented to us at the start of this class.
- My sister is a scholar. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and a Juris Doctor Degree. I joined the Army straight out of high school and have been getting my education in here and there over the course of the last 17 or so years. So, my sister is a lot more knowledgeable about education and the professional world. Right as I was finishing up the payment for my domain name, my sister called on the phone. “Guess what,” I said, “melissaisthecoolest.com wasn’t taken!!!” And all I heard on the other end was silence. Then I received a nice scholarly ‘talking to’. More thought needs to go into choosing a domain name than what is or isn’t funny or taken. Especially if one wants to have a respectable website where folks can go to get good information valid to a certain topic. We discussed it a little bit in class. Are people going to take Times New Roman more seriously than Comic Sans? Along the same lines, I’m sure people will take http://siarchives.si.edu/history more seriously than melissaisthecoolest.com. (May I just say that I spent about 40 minutes trying to figure out how to change the font of “Times New Roman” and “Comic Sans” before giving up?)
- Funding-I used my credit card. In the future? I hope to use my wit to secure funds. (Perhaps not for melissaisthecoolest.com).
Ted Nelson and Computer Code
- I’m intrigued by the “philosophical implications” that Ted Nelson talks about in 1965 about zip drives, databases and accessibility to information. Must explore further…
- Computer Code-Binary Code was written by a mathematician. (Have you ever met a mathematician? They’re crazy. And you’d have to be crazy to come up with binary code.)
- Jacquard’s Loom-My mother brought me something similar to this, it was a quick knitter that came with different ‘cards’ to tell the hooks when and how to move. It’s fascinating to watch.
- Ada Lovelace-a B.A woman. (Too bad she was a mathematician-they’re crazy you know.) Ms. Lovelace, along with Charles Babbage, took this loom idea from Jacquard and turned it into an Analytical Engine-calculating machine. Or, at least, they designed it. While the machine was never built, the idea was sound, and Ada Lovelace is credited as the first computer programmer and nerd extraordinaire.
- The census guy came to our house last year because we forgot to send in our information. What happened to our information after that? I can tell you what didn’t happen, and that is 8 years of manual recording! Thanks to Herman Hollerith and Jacquard’s Loom, electricity was utilized to rapidly log collected data. This was essentially the birth of what was later to become IBM.
- Encoding machines on tape-resulting in a machine that could perform multiple tasks (rather than only looming, computing, or data-collecting for the census).
- The first computer was programmed in binary code and contained 128 MB of memory. Try to sell someone a 128 MB cell phone nowadays and see if you don’t get laughed at (or stabbed if you’re in Detroit).
- 1951-digital music on a computer. I bet it sounded like bunk, but to those crazy kids in the 50’s I’m sure it was music to their ears.
- 10 years later, and finally something that is useful to me. Video games. Thanks to a couple of guys at MIT, we now have something to do while we’re avoiding homework.
- NASA (allegedly) used 74KB of memory to send man to the moon in 1969. Don’t tell my mother, but I don’t believe it really happened.
- 1975-The year my sister was born. Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and other computer nerds in the Silicon Valley get together to share ideas. Wozniak later builds the first Apple computer using a code called “BASIC”.
- 1981 Britain jumps on the computer bandwagon.
- 1984 architects start using computers to aid their workload (read: trial and error) in saving time, money and accuracy.
- Did you know that the Stock Exchange isn’t a bunch of yelling screamers anymore? For me, it will always be just like the scenes in the old Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd movie “Trading Places”. Apparently now, thanks to computers and electronic trading, things can be done in “virtual market places”. No more seeing first hand the looks on the faces of the people you ruin at the stock exchange.
- DNA-what a breakthrough. Suddenly 3 billion letters in the human genetic code can be deciphered, much to the chagrin of several ‘fathers’ on the Maury Povich show.
- Did you see that commercial during the SuperBowl where Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel talk about this ‘fad’ called the internet in the early 90’s? Hilarious. 1991-World Wide Web created. 1996-100K websites world wide. Today-estimations of a half a billion websites, among which is melissaisthecoolest.com, a scholarly site devoted to the knowledge and education of today’s historians.
- Google and Facebook. Created as school projects at Stanford and Harvard, respectively. Now billion dollar enterprises.
- 2008, the app store. Thanks to those guys at MIT who invented video games and the app store, you now have something to do while waiting for your oil to be changed.
And Now for Something Completely Different
One of the topics that I mentioned that I was interested in researching is the pirates of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. To pose a good research question:
Why was there an abundance of pirates in the Outer Banks? What were they doing there? Who was funding them? Where were they taking/selling the spoils of their travels?
Thank you for sticking with me through this post. It is long, but I hope that you found as much enjoyment reading it as I did in writing it. And now for a completely unrelated picture of my cats, because this is the internet:
1. Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, “Digital History, A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web,” Center for History and New Media, Accessed 4 February 2015, http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/starting/.
2. Craig Bellamy, “Ted Nelson (1965): Complex information processing: a file structure for the complex, the changing and the indeterminate,” http://www.craigbellamy.net, Accessed 4 February 2015, http://www.craigbellamy.net/2007/03/16/ted-nelson-1965-complex-information-processing-a-file-structure-for-the-complex-the-changing-and-the-indeterminate/.
3. Piers Linney, “how the world came to be run by computer code,” BBC, Accessed 4 February 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zxsrcdm.