A new website for a not-that-new millennium

Submitted by richard on Fri, 11/01/2013 - 10:54
The (nearly) all new Castle Gormenghast

Well, I thought it was time that this website was dragged into the 21st century. I have not redesigned this properly since the turn of the century. This site originally ran on an SGI Indigo graphics workstation hosted in the physics department at the University of York and was created some time I think in 1994. At that point it had the address http://aurora.york.ac.uk/~richard (dead link) -- there were a few primitive games including battleships (which I hacked together in C in an evening -- it seemed a reasonable approach at the time). By 1996 it had moved to http://manor.york.ac.uk/top.html (dead link) which was originally a quite different SGI indigo, then an SGI Indy and eventually a Solaris box. The page http://manor.york.ac.uk (dead link) simply contained "Why are you looking here? My home page is not here. This would be the LOGICAL place to put a home page. I will not be oppressed by LOGIC into putting my home page here." and a link to the real page. An archived version can be seen on the wayback machine. The image on this page shows that captured page from 1996 at which point it had been redesigned a couple of times including the then new idea of having graphical "buttons" on a web page.

Features of the page included:

  1. Battleships -- playable against the computer with a high score table -- which kept getting hacked due to poor bounds checking on the input
  2. Veb Village -- a more anarchic rip off of the then popular Web World, where users could add their own links, content and so on.. and a basic chat feature
  3. Alternative Campus map -- a rip off of the official university of York Campus Map but with "amusing" entries (for low values of amusing).

In fact the Alternative Campus map caused a slight amount of trouble. As my website had been around some time the alternative campus map tended to be higher in search engines (when they were finally invented) than the actual campus map. This came to the attention of senior people who I am reliably informed during the meeting to discuss it described the site as being owned by "some lunatic in Mathematics". I was requested to put a disclaimer on all pages indicating that it was not official information. As the campus map claimed that, amongst other things, the biology department barcoded grannies and the chemsitry department had huge furnaces which were mainly used for incinerating corpses this seemed unnecessary but I did do so.

As time moved on, various features were removed or added according to my taste. In particular, the Veb Village became so popular my machine ground to a halt under the load. As this was somewhat before the days of apache performance tuning I simply switched it off. Similarly the various hacking attempts led me to remove the battleships game. For many years the only content added was links to my academic papers and the increasingly shambolic Formula One season previews which I wrote with the late, lamented Pete Fenelon and lots of beer.

At some point I got my own domain name and moved from site to site, including, for a time, being hosted on the somewhat legendary toybox. Currently the site is located on a virtual machine run by the lovely people at bytemark. Some of the material from the elder days is still here. It's amazing really how much these things have changed. My first website was written by hand crafting HTML in a text editor... any interactivity was usually a mixture of shell-scripts and C. This latest incarnation is in drupal 7, a technology I'm still getting to grips with but it's fun learning.