Some of the readers of this site will know that this story is the original piece of material behind Candlelight Stories. Back in 1994, I sat at a very flimsy folding table in a Los Angeles apartment with a box of pastels, crayons and ballpoint pens to scratch out a pile of illustrations that vaguely added up to some kind of Christmas tale. I still have all those original drawings in a big department store box.
The interesting thing about the illustrations for me is the series of actions that they caused which led me directly into the various skills and technologies that I have used and made a living from ever since. After finishing the illustrations and creating a large bound book to give as a Christmas gift, I scanned the pictures and decided to try to put them into a slide show. I had an early version of the Mosaic web browser and soon realized that I could use my AOL account to post things in a folder that could be accessed by the web browser. Having done that and been very impressed with myself I showed it to my non-technical friends and received some half-hearted congratulations and was asked how I could ever hope to make any money that way. Within a few months I received a letter in the actual mail from the USA Today newspaper requesting permission to put an illustration and a web link in a listing of good things on the web. So I said they could and they printed their thing. So I began to add new things to the web site as I could.
It’s pretty much the same today. You just make a little thing and stick it on the web to see who likes it. But back then it was a little like magic. My web experiment grew quickly and when the higher-speed DSL technology first came into Los Angeles I jumped on it and got myself a Digital Alpha server and put it at the end of a DSL line in my own home to serve the web site. According to the company which was the first one up and running in L.A., I was the first person to attempt running a web server over the DSL technology in Southern California! They gave me totally free ISP service for several years in exchange for a little advertising. I’d actually have late night conversations with their engineers – sometimes from their cars as they made their way to hubs and switches in the dead of night to fix something. Imagine that kind of technical support today with your blog host! Won’t happen! This all worked well for a time. But then the DSL technology began to fail and I quickly realized it was a dead-end technology with too many players involved on the back end who could not adequately maintain the service without blaming each other for failures. But my point is that during that time, with that kind of approach, one could really get a sense of being visited by the world. I could watch the lights blink as people came onto the server to visit. There were times, during serious outages of some sort or other, when I’d throw the big Alpha server into my car and drive it to some other location for a temporary connection. Amazing. Fun.
It’s still fun today. That’s why I still post this odd little story every Christmas. It’s the original first thing of this site.