pc: Hi Dann! How are you?
d: Good, thanks for reaching out to me.
pc: I've got questions to ask. I studied your site for a while, haha! So. First one. You've been on the internet for a while, I see. How does it feel to see the rise of it's popularity?
d: Yes. I believe I had AOL in 1994, or early 1995 at the latest. However, we ended up getting a proper ISP in June 1995 and were finally able to use the Mosaic browser to access the web. Everything was painfully slow, and it would often time out. I spent a week or two just trying to download some X-Men scans off a few fan sites. It was a new concept, since before this time, you would have to scan things on your own. With the web, there was now a limitless repository for things that you wouldn't otherwise have access to.
Websites were very basic in the beginning, often without even a background color defined (which at the time would display as grey rather than white). Most were hosted on university or ISP servers until the free hosts showed up. Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod, Xoom... I ended up on all of them and found ways to make each one different.
pc: I know you had a Half-Life fanpage, right? Did you have some other ones?
d: Half-Life was the main focus. It actually grew from a few Quake and general gaming pages. One was called AnarQuake, which was then borrowed for the naming of Dannarchy. Being an anti-social teen, the concept seemed alluring at the time. Eventually as the FPS genre started to explode, I joined an existing Half-Life site, which I eventually ended up running on my own after the creator gave up. I spent a few years on IRC chat with other webmasters, all of whom had their own fansites. Typically these were hosted by the gaming networks like PlanetQuake or Frag.com. After Half-life was finally released, there wasn't much more to talk about. The speculation was far more exciting. I sort of moved on in life too, so the sites sort of died out.
pc: So what did you do after the your time on Geocities and other free hosts? What led you to Neocities?
d: So my first personal site was on my ISP's server. It was just a page of links. Then there were the gaming ones for a few years, but I eventually circled back and created a new personal site once buying a domain name became easier (and less expensive). I paid for a host at this point, which gave me more space and features. One of the key benefits was the ability to include header and footer files dynamically, so you could share layouts across all pages. This saved an enormous amount of effort, especially if you had to go back and change something. Around this time, I started experimenting with server side scripting too. By installing Windows NT Option Pack 3, you could play around with ASP and Access databases. I first started by cataloging my CD library, but then moved onto 'news scripting' which I guess we would call blogs now.
As part of a college project, I created a large system that combined forums, image posting, news, catalogs, and user profiles. I essentially had a social media platform going back to 2002, which allowed my real-life friends to keep in touch. The group of us used to make movies, so I also created a few sites for those. Video on the web would still be years away though, so they didn't serve as much of a purpose for quite some time.
There were plenty of other sites that I made after that, but the nostalgia for the early web hit that magic 20-year rule. I was informed about Neocities by Batty of Battyville, and I loved what I saw. I couldn't believe that there were so many 90's styled sites that were actually contemporary. At first, my goal was to create the most garish and annoying site possible - one that would be edgy in the way only an angsty teen could be. But my time creating all of the sites over the years pushed me to actually put some time into it. Hopefully it comes off as rough around the edges, despite the coding that went on behind the scenes.
pc: Interesting. Let it be known, I really like your site. Specifically how it goes far back in time, to what must be the farthest back archives of your time creating things. Images and sites you made while growing up. How did you keep track of it all? Were you planning on making Dannarchy in the 90's, haha?
d: I'm seriously OCD when it comes to archiving. I've probably spent more time digging up old things, than I spent creating them in the first place. I'm happy than many things survived over the years. There was a time when I only had a 200Mb harddrive, and there were limited options for off-loading the content. Over time, I've saved things on 5.25" floppies, 2.5" diskettes, Zip Drives, and finally CD/DVD+R's. Eventually I invested in a Drobo which allowed me to simple add a few harddrives and have all my files in one place. I dug through all of the old media and started organizing them by year. I'm sure some things have gotten lost, but from what remains, I have e-coloring book files from 1988, those X-Men downloads from 1995, MS Paint images from the early 90's, digital photos from 2000, and even all the webcam snapshots that were uploaded to my school server for a cam portal (those were a thing before girls started using them to get Amazon wishlist items).
Once I started Dannarchy, I found that it would be a good place to finally display everything that I've archived. So I've slowly been adding pages dedicated to distinct groups of media, with each trying to showcase how I would have experienced them. For my early digital photos, I have them displayed on the Kodak camera that I used to own. For the X-Men images, I have them in s scattered pile of the binder of cards that I used to collect. For the Disney animation studio, I simulated the DOS batch file I created to loop through them all. I had a lot more to go, I just need to find more time!
Recently, I also started a project where I would rehost every site that I've had my hands on since the beginning. It was a minor miracle that I still had most of them. I even found the first .html file that I played around with, making sense of the hypertext tags. I tracked down the images that were used, and got everything linked up again so they would appear as they once would. I even found a few that I had no memory of, which was unsettling - AnarQuake was one. Ironcially the only one I was missing outright - and had to rely on the WayBack Machine - was my Geocities page. Luckily I found theURL handwritten in a binder, and was able to rescue 90% of it.
pc: Now that is a show of dedication if I have ever seen one. I think this about wraps it up. I've only got one more thing to say...
I absolutely destroyed Text Adventure and found your Oakley's. :)
d: Don't scratch them!
pc: Ha. End scene.
d: Thanks, so much, this has been fun.