I Used to Write

The internet, during the last few years of the 90s, was this exiting big mess of small websites. There was yet no TheFacebook, no YouTube and certainly no Twttr (there was of course Lunarstorm, launched in 1996, but I never really used that).

Most people who wanted to be on the web had to have personal webpages. Some called them blogs, short for "weblog", I called them personal webpages. They were in many instances online diaries, with people writing about their lives in general, or in some cases, just simple "about me and my family" pages that never updated.

Any ISP (Internet Supplier, a company that you would pay to be able to dial up with your modem (the box that goes beep-boop-boop-bopp-beep … beeaappp beeeaappp … prreeeeeakwwwiiitt preeaakwiiittt … preeeeeEEEEEE-wwwwWWWWWwksch-woOOOsshhhhhhhhhhhh *click* and allows your computer to connect to other computers)) worth their salt would give their customers not only an e-mail address or two, but also some space on a webserver on some cryptic address like home3.swipnet.se/~w-30822/. There were of course other alternatives available, such as the venerable Geocities. If you were really fancy you could pay for a domain and set up hosting with an actual hosting company.

Now, I had one of those websites, that very address in fact, in 95 or 96 or so, and like most people who were into computers back then, I learned HTML. I tiled some picture of some clouds for a background and added some logo I drew in Paint Shop Pro and added stolen animated GIFs with spinning @-s telling people to email me and other stolen GIFs with little "under construction" images to point out that this was all work in progress and would never be finished. I even had it play MIDI-music automatically (MP3 was still a few years away, waiting for both internet speeds and computers to get faster to handle them).

I never wrote much of any content though. You know, the text. The "log" part of "weblog". The diary entries of the online diary. Others did, but back then I was not big on writing.

Over the years that followed, I got proper hosts, got custom domains and made more better websites, but there was never really any content on them.

However, in the early naughties, a new personal webpage appeared. It was 2001 and my friend Martin made a really nice homepage. It had a soothing blue theme and, as was the style at the time, very small text set in Verdana. It also featured a small herring under the menu on the left side. The herring was however replaced with a sinking ship in a redesign a year or so later.

Martin actually managed to write a fair bit of entries on this site over the years, as I recall, something I could never seem to do on any of my own pages. However, the page did not just feature Martins own writings.

No, it had a great feature called "Klotterplank" (more or less "graffiti board").

On the Klotterplank anyone could write anything. This was of course a common feature on many personal websites back then. On other sites it was often called a "guest book", and the idea was that visitors could leave a line for others to see.

Klotterplank was different though. It quickly turned into a very handy communication tool for Martin, me, and our other friends. During the heydays 2002 to 2005 we would write things more or less daily. Writing about things that happened, things we wanted to do, or generally just anything we felt like. In some ways it even worked like a chat. It was very quick to load, and I used to reload the page constantly, checking for new messages, while I was online.

And after moving to my own flat in the spring of 2002 and getting a permanent connection to the internet, as opposed to the dial up modem I was using while living with my parents, "being online" was suddenly "any time I was at the computer".

I even wrote a small program ("program" is what we used to call "apps" back then) in Visual Basic that would fetch and display the latest entry every minute or so to enable me to reply to messages very quickly.

This was basically Twitter before there was Twitter.

A few differences though. Firstly there were no user accounts. Anyone could write anything under any name. All posts would be displayed in chronological order, and put on a new page for each month. Getting the "first post" of a new month was very prestigious, I assure you. :)

The biggest difference was of course that there was no limit to how many characters you could type. As it turned out, that fit me rather well.

So, where am I going with this, other than down a deep hole of nostalgia and lament of times long gone?

Well, thing is, I was actually writing quite a bit during this period, just never on my own websites.

At least that's how I remember it. I used to write on the Klotterplank all the time. And often quite long things. Long winding texts that seemingly led to nowhere, for the enjoyment of mostly just myself.

It was just so easy and effortless to do, and I knew my friends would be there to read it and be annoyed by it.

But nothing lasts forever. I don't remember when I stopped writing long posts, but it was likely ending with a whimper more than with a bang.

The Klotterplank died away. I can't tell what year it was. It was just one of those things where you look back and you can clearly see there was a transition, but have no idea how that happened.

We all got on with our lives in different places. I launched a new webpage sometime 2007, but the entries on it could probably be counted on my 10 fingers. It would never be like the old days on Klotterplanket.

That page even had Twitter-integration through Twitters API. Twitter was a new and exiting thing, and no one knew at that time what to actually use it for. My webpage displayed my latest Tweets, so people would not need to go through the hassle of actually visiting twitter to see them. And I could easily write the tweets by sending an SMS text message from my phone. The iPhone with apps was still a year away. I did have fairly advanced phones with GPRS connection and Symbian OS that could run Applications and browse some dumbed down web fairly early on, but never did much with that. It was slow and cumbersome.

I did write Tweets fairly regularly from 2007 to 2009. No massive volume, but still. Especially after getting my first iPhone in 2008. But tweets where small. I could not fit much of my thoughts into 140 characters.

By the end of 2009 though, Facebook had taken over for me and I wrote there instead. Twitter had a slight resurgence in 2014 to 2015, sparked by digging out my C64 and some other old things. But it was still just some photos and short texts (because again, 140 characters).

My old long winding writings where mostly no more.

Eventually even Facebook died down for me and I finally deactivated it sometime 2019, after not having used it much for a long time.

I always wanted to get back to how things used to be. Those were simpler times. I also always wanted to write more.

Maybe I can actually do at least one of those things?

If I really try?