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Please Be Patient - This Page is Under Construction
October 9, 2009 6:08 AM   Subscribe


 
Hahaha!
posted by bru at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2009


Questions I never thought I'd ask #3401:

Why is the burly, vaugely anime construction worker getting an erection?
posted by The Whelk at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


UNDER HEAVY CONSTRUSTION

You can say that again
posted by fire&wings at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's going to be a pretty cool site when it's done. Maybe even Cool Site Of The Day.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:18 AM on October 9, 2009 [32 favorites]


Why is the burly, vaugely anime construction worker getting an erection?

Great. This comment sent me right back in there to find the erection.
posted by orme at 6:19 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


That link actually crashed my Blackberry browser. Wow.
posted by zarq at 6:21 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Burly Erect Construction Worker
posted by sciurus at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2009


what's the fun in that? you've got to dig around for the erection!
posted by orme at 6:30 AM on October 9, 2009


I find it very slightly amusing that that's on a domain called textfiles.com.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:37 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not sure if the story is apocyphal, but apparently propaganda rag China Reconstructs was renamed China Today in 1990 when someone pointed out that 40 years was a bloody long time to be reconstructing.
posted by Abiezer at 6:38 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, I'm sure your web page is a key part of God's plan.
posted by Naberius at 6:46 AM on October 9, 2009


Why is Ralph Wiggum eating paste?
posted by SinisterPurpose at 6:47 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please tell me if this is cool or something I should mock!
posted by marxchivist at 6:50 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


FUCK. YES.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:56 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This Page Has Many Redundant Graphics.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:57 AM on October 9, 2009


Amusing enough, but as performance art the piece would be improved if the images were all hotlinked, rather than local to this web page.

That way the piece would evolve slowly, transforming from five hundred Under Constructions to five hundred goatses over a matter of weeks.

(We could probably get a grant.)
posted by rokusan at 7:01 AM on October 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


soundtrack
posted by Rhomboid at 7:17 AM on October 9, 2009


What I really love about this is that some of those copyright-violating graphics are so awful it makes me wonder why they didn't steal something better instead.
posted by ardgedee at 7:22 AM on October 9, 2009


Looking back at relics like this, it's hard to believe anything good ever came of the World Wide Web.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


The whole Under Construction thing just seems like a weird fad now, but it really is representative of what the web was like in the early days. Huge numbers of people were getting online, and since things like blogs, wikis, message boards, and social networking sites either didn't exist or weren't widespread yet, the most common way to put your own content on the web was to write some HTML pages and put up your own site.

The problem with that was that most people didn't have the skill or inclination to make their own website and fill it with interesting content, so most sites were just simple text and random images that were stolen (or hotlinked) from somewhere else on the web. This resulted in most of the web being filled with poorly designed sites with a few random animated gifs, and those sites were usually incomplete and/or abandoned by the author when people found them. If you want a vision of the web in 1996, imagine an animated Under Construction sign blinking at the bottom of a page - forever.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:52 AM on October 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Yeah, what was that about, anyway? "Here's my website but wait! It's not finished yet. Check back later to see when it's done." It's not surprising the "Under Construction" thing went the way of the swaying palmtree gif, or the Dancing Banana.

It's fun to look at these images, because it takes me to a time when I was pretty new to the internet, and thought that if someone gave you an email address, you could just send them stuff - that you needed sign up for an email address of your own to do so was my first "... Oooooh. Right." moment in front of a computer, and hasn't been the last.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:56 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, it's no RAINBOW DIVIDER.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:01 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


So THAT's where all those .gifs went in 1998....
posted by There's No I In Meme at 8:04 AM on October 9, 2009


On one of the boards I browse there was recently a thread about doing site:geocities.com google searches to look back through Geocities before it's deleted. I'm doing my own personal project now that's sort of an homage to the internet in a simpler time. I think that the amateur web is really fascinating.

The amateur web circa 1999 actually took a certain ammount of technical knowledge to participate in. You at the very least had to know how to work a WYSIWYG editor, and more likely, knew HTML - all to put a site up on Geocities talking about how much you hate the Spice Girls, and your movie review for the Matrix. The Amateur web today requires about as much technical knowledge as it takes to operate any other basic computer program, since Web 2.0 has turned web pages into applications. I'm not qualifying one era against the other, and in fact I prefer the more egalitarian Internet, but it's still interesting to look back through. A garish tripod page about cool gifs has a little more of a personal touch than even the best Facebook profile.

I really hope that someone takes the time to back up some of those Geocities sites before the October 26th deletion date.
posted by codacorolla at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


Doubles as a test for photosensitive epilepsy.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:09 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really hope that someone takes the time to back up some of those Geocities sites before the October 26th deletion date.

Archive Team is on the case. Actually, Jscott at archiveteam.org seems to be the same guy running textfiles.com. Which is a fabulous site archiving old BBS info, ASCII/ANSI art scene stuff, etc.
posted by drstupid at 8:22 AM on October 9, 2009


> The whole Under Construction thing just seems like a weird fad now

I still get asked if I can put up some kind of "under construction" thing on various people's incomplete web pages. I explain that they have a content management system (or blog) and can simply keep any page unpublished, in draft state, until they're ready to flip the switch on it; prepopulating a site with a zillion empty pages just to fill out the navigation bar is unnecessary. And, further, that "under construction" has for a long time now meant "this page will never have anything on it ever", and despite client's pure motivations and work ethic the very existence of a placeholder page will permanently taint the site due to its overuse by so many lazy and irresponsible people, and that putting up an "under construction" page amounts to associating with them.

But it's a whole lot more important in a lot of people's minds to make it known to the world that they have something important to say, but they're not fixed on how to say it yet, and want to make it appear as though they're working very hard on it, and that this is the only way to ensure that the world at large will check back on their progress regularly until these new thoughts are ready to be received.

tl;dr version: Regardless of what the average Mefite expects out of web pages and web technology, for millions of people the web is still stuck in 1997.
posted by ardgedee at 8:22 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah...the "Beta" logos of Web 1.0.
posted by reformedjerk at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


1996. Standing around a hibachi drinking beers with a bunch of recent art school grads, I recall one who'd just gotten a job doing web design describe how he'd just built a site with a "cool repeating GIF of stars as the background, so it looks like the words are floating in space".

It's there was this collective suspension of decent design principles, even among those who might know better, as we all marvelled at the geewhiz of getting anything onto the web. Also: Times New Roman on a marble background with the beveled edges, as though it was really like the Trajan Inscription. Cause cause you'd figured out how to do that in Photoshop, before it was a baked-in feature.
posted by bendybendy at 8:24 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You call that a photosensitive epilepsy test? This is a photosensitive epilepsy test.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:27 AM on October 9, 2009


That site made my browser very cranky.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pathetic.

THIS is a photosensitive epilepsy test (Best experienced in fullscreen, with the sound on).
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:31 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


louche mustachio - thanks for the migraine generator.

I really hope that someone takes the time to back up some of those Geocities sites before the October 26th deletion date.

They can skip mine, thanks. I hope that it gets deleted hard enough to cease existing throughout the entire multiverse. Same goes for my old Diaryland, come to think about it *shudder*
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:31 AM on October 9, 2009


Actually, Jscott at archiveteam.org seems to be the same guy running textfiles.com.

Metafilter's own jscott, in fact.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2009


(A better version is on the source site, here, but their server is a little screwy somtimes.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2009


I saw a sailboat.
posted by drezdn at 8:45 AM on October 9, 2009


Why is the burly, vaugely anime construction worker getting an erection?

It's a Bear thing.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:50 AM on October 9, 2009


If you want a vision of the web in 1996, imagine an animated Under Construction sign blinking at the bottom of a page - forever.
Or just visit a UK-based online shop.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:02 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since this is as good a place as any, I will confess my use of multiple "under construction" banners, blinking texts, and marquees during my formative years of WWW exposure. I learned the error of my ways many years ago now. Can't we just

This comment is under construction.
posted by schleppo at 9:03 AM on October 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


louche mustachio - thanks for the migraine generator.

You're welcome. At least it doesn't have the theme music anymore.

When I first saw the burly construction worker .gif, I assumed that he was sporting an accidental chub because the maker overlooked a pants-related inconsistency between two frames.

Then I noticed that there were three frames - there is an intermediate, half mast frame.

This discovery has created more questions than it answered.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:04 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I still see a lot of this in cyberland- maybe not the animated gifs, but apologetic verbiage and promises of more to come. So unecessary, all of it. I tell my disciples that no one but you sees what you haven't done yet.

The great thing about the web is that it can accommodate & dignify a half-formed idea; we can always revisit, add, subtract, or change. Print, on the other hand- you had just better be ready to go to press by the deadline.
posted by squalor at 9:05 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see it in foreign languages...

"Ve are under conschtruktion -- Divert now -- UND YOU VILL ENCHOY IT!" (Deutschen gesellschaft fur autobahn gehrbuilden)
posted by Mike D at 9:07 AM on October 9, 2009


As good a place as any to link to one of my recent favorite comments.
posted by marxchivist at 9:15 AM on October 9, 2009


Designed-by-chance websites are the Christmas lights of the Internet. Folk art, purely for self-expression, beyond any criticism.

Geocities == Kandy Kane Lane.
posted by tspae at 9:18 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ow, my hangover.
posted by steef at 9:18 AM on October 9, 2009


Metafilter: Looking back at relics like this, it's hard to believe anything good ever came of the World Wide Web.
posted by stenseng at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2009


Or just visit a UK-based online shop.

That is horrible, just horrible.
posted by dabug at 9:30 AM on October 9, 2009


Well, now. I put up a twitter mention of this little experiment, and next thing I know... Metafilter!

Of course, anyone stepping into this single-link thing without context probably wonders what in the living hell I'm up to. Glad to see drstupid tried.

As mentioned, I've been heading up a project to duplicate as much of Geocities as possible before the shutoff date of October 26th (I am assuming it's actually October 20th, maybe October 23rd. Since this sort of thing hasn't been done on this scale in a while, the "rules" are completely fluid as to when shutoff happens.)

Under Construction was/is an art piece/demonstration piece to show off some of what we're losing by Geocities closing. It's a collection of "under construction" GIFs that are on all sorts of pages on Geocities, with obvious duplicates and unrelated images removed. Obviously the project is not done, and I've still been cleaning up. The reason two exact images are next to each other will likely be that one person re-saved the image under a lower bitrate to save space! I'm not deleting originals but I am trying to shoot for one of each specimen for the page. I am prioritized towards other aspects of the Archive Team project, though.

I was going over this page with a reporter who is telling the story of Geocities closing, explaing some background on a lot of the GIFs here, why certain ones look like they do, the way that people would see no problem grabbing from whatever graphical source they could find, including other Geocities users, to let others know the site was being worked on. There's also parodies of each other, slightly-modified versions of each other, and so on. And, naturally, the whole level of thinking behind an "under construction" GIF that has been subsumed by other methods of indicating continual growth (use of dates in blogs, for example) is worth capturing.

But to some people this page is a whole joke and a way to sneer "ah, 1995" and move on, which is not dissimilar to how the whole Geocities Archive Team project is viewed in some quarters. So in that way it's a nice representation.

Thanks for the attention. I'll be doing other projects related to the hundreds of gigabytes we've mirrored as well.
posted by jscott at 9:32 AM on October 9, 2009 [34 favorites]


I thought I was transported back to the 1990s.
posted by caddis at 9:32 AM on October 9, 2009


A Vernacular Web, the Indigenous and the Barbarians. And essay related to early web design. From the "under construction" portion:
The "Under Construction Sign" is a very strong symbol of the early web. It reminds us of the great times shortly after the scientists and engineers finished their work on the Information Highway. Ordinary people came with their tools and used the chance to build their own roads and junctions. Work was everywhere and everywhere there was something that wasn't ready, links were leading to nowhere or to pages that didn't quite exist and there were signs on the pages that warned of broken connections and the lack of navigation.

Step by step people were developing pages into a functioning web and it became less necessary to warn us, especially using road signs, about missing information. But they didn't disappear. Instead, "Under Construction" images changed their meaning from a warning to a promise that this page will grow. The symbol became a hybrid of excuse and invitation. It could appear on an empty or properly functional site as a sign that the project was growing and being updated. Often you could see the newer sign, "Always Under Construction."

"Always Under Construction" didn't mean the site would never work but actually the opposite. It informed users that there was somebody who was always taking care of the site so it would be interesting to return again and again.

This was a very important message because it was crucial to really insist on the idea of constant development and change but the sign was wrong. The association with broken roads and obstacles on the way didn't illustrate the idea of ongoing development. Around 1997 the sign turned into a meaningless footer and became a common joke. Even the mainstream press wrote that the web was always under construction so, after a while, people stopped putting it everywhere.

Neither the "Under Construction" sign nor the idea of permanent construction made it into the professional web. The idea of unfinished business contradicts the traditional concept of professional designer-client relations: fixed terms and finished products.

posted by codacorolla at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


That page left me so dumbfounded that I completely forgot I was using a tabbed browser and closed the browser instead of the tab.
posted by owtytrof at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


We need a greasemonkey script to take a randomly selected one of these and affix it to Google's apps. The Gmail page has been looking awful empty since it lost the BETA subscript.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2009


That page needs an autoplaying midi of "Takin' Care of Business."
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm stoked that this post has gotten so many meaningful comments.
posted by sciurus at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2009


Wow.

I remember having at least one "under construction" image on my own website. The site was indeed originally as described by burnmp3s above. Stolen images, random and not really interesting content. Now it has donated images, and actual, referenced content which generates a respectable number of hits.

Sometimes I pull up my archived copy of my site, circa 1997 or so, and shake my head at how bad it was. Tiled black "wrinkled satin" background image, with lime green text? Really? Damn. It's like seeing that picture of yourself from 7th grade, all awkward and dressed funny, with your hair all screwy, thinking at the time how cool you looked and how proud you were of wearing that specific shirt on picture day. Then years later you realize you looked like a moron, and now you can't get your parents to burn the evidence.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:07 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's hard to believe anything good ever came of the World Wide Web.

Something good came of the World Wide Web?!
posted by cmonkey at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought more than a handful of these images didn't make much sense, but then I saw THIS ONE!????
posted by mrzer0 at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2009


Looking back at relics like this, it's hard to believe anything good ever came of the World Wide Web.[citation needed]
posted by brundlefly at 10:15 AM on October 9, 2009


Alright, I'm going to post one more time in this thread and then leave it be...

www.mikesfreegifs.com/

A website that actively acknowledges web 2.0 stuff (facebook, youtube, and myspace), while still being designed like a 1996 angelfires special.

It's a little dizzying, actually.
posted by codacorolla at 10:25 AM on October 9, 2009


I appreciate the work that Jason is doing to save our e-heritage, but linking to that page without warning was just evil.

> I thought more than a handful of these images didn't make much sense, but then I saw THIS ONE!????

That one is just weird. A sorta Pops Racer as a horny Bear construction worker with a Flipper logo on his hard hat? It's like Rule 34 Bingo.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:26 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


sublime.
posted by mistersquid at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2009


It's easy to scoff at this page and shake our heads at how naive and clumsy we were. But how many times have you read a blog post that leads with, "Sorry I haven't blogged in a while, I don't have anything to talk about BUT..."?

I predict that five years from now, "Sorry I haven't blogged in a while" will be just as nostalgia-triggering as the "Under Construction" sign.

(Nostalgia: I spent hours looking for "just the right button" for my B-movie review website. I eventually found something that looked like neon green liquid inside a glass tube with Alien-inspired metalwork on each end.

Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to write "Home" "About" "Links" etc on the buttons. [I didn't have Photoshop in 1998. I'm not sure I had even heard of Photoshop in 1998.] So I had to settle for using them as - I'm laughing so hard I can barely type - as bullet points.)
posted by ErikaB at 10:33 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I worked with a guy who used this ejaculating jackhammer guy as a "beta" label on a development CMS (in 2003!). His aesthetic sense was such that I'm certain the use was non-ironic.
posted by benzenedream at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2009


Oh god, I had a Geocities site ages ago. I forget the URL or my username, but I remember spending HOURS looking for backgrounds, buttons, and under construction gifs. I'm pretty sure I nuked the whole goddamn thing years ago, otherwise I'd love to see it again.
posted by desjardins at 11:14 AM on October 9, 2009


you've got to dig around for the erection!

That's what she said!

Or he said.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:27 AM on October 9, 2009


Websites still have the under constructions use, except now they just say "Coming Soon! But Until then Join our Facebook Fan Page!"

Also from Codacorollas link "To get this. Good under construction gifs are becoming scarce. So I'm making several as a request."
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:43 AM on October 9, 2009


» www.mikesfreegifs.com/

I like the guy's little bits of commentary on each .gif, especially the second one on this page. Animated .gif connoisseurs have become fewer and farther between since the heady days of Web 0.9.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 11:49 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ahem.. I may or may not have used one/several of these back in '95 as I was constructing my first home page using the built-in Netscape Navigator Gold WYSIWYG editor. Along with a space background, plenty of horizontal rules, Times New Roman, all the Star Trek gifs I could find, and a "Best viewed in Netscape Navigator" button. Also, maybe a midi or two.

What can I say, the internet was still in its wild west phase. Stake a claim on a prime piece of Geocities/Angelfire real-estate and build to your heart's content.
posted by pyrex at 11:51 AM on October 9, 2009


I know it's Friday and all, and Imma let you finish, but Jesus Dance was the best animated gif site of all time.
posted by Brak at 12:03 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Gmail page has been looking awful empty since it lost the BETA subscript.

Settings > Labs > Back to Beta: Enable
posted by trunk muffins at 12:06 PM on October 9, 2009


Obviously the project is not done, and I've still been cleaning up.

You should probably indicate this on the page - perhaps with an animated .GIF of some sort.
posted by Sparx at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


First, top marks to @jscott for preserving this important (and overlooked, and maligned) aspect of early web culture.
@codacorrola - absolutely spot on piece of writing.

It's a fascinatingly reminder of people applying an incorrect understanding of a medium. When these signs appeared, the nearest paradigms came from physical electronic media production - CDs, Videos, even books' existence were indicative of their production process completing, marking a creative undertaking which has been through rounds of editing, revision, review and the culmination of completion, and manufacture. CDs were not rewritable; video editing did not happen on VHS tapes.

The web slowly introduced the idea that things could be changed and redelivered; physical products (such as boxed software) could be updated over the wire. Of everything electronic, Vista and OS X should ship with "under construction!" markers. The weblog introduced the idea of emerging and incomplete writing, of an ever-evolving body of work with the appearance of completed versions simply temporal abberations between updates and expansion.

That authors felt the need to excuse their unfulfilled future plans of expansion through these images is now so quaint-looking precisely because we live in a world where everything is understood as incomplete, fluid and changeable, and we are looking back at a worldview where completeness was expected of a published piece of work.

More than anything else, they bridge the time between the web as a new medium, and the web as the dominant cultural form and normative mediator of content in it's myriad forms. Not just these clunky animations, but the whole way of thinking they represent is alien to our culture, to such an extent they have disappeared in only a few years.

And ironically, the only ones not to be cleaned up were the ones where the sites, even if circumstantially, ended up being completed by the addition of an image indicating further expansion without this work being carried through; that 'under construction's presence in the modern web world indicates no further construction has happened for up to a decade.
posted by davemee at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I bet none of you knew Dom Deluise used to be extremely excited about his job in construction.
posted by digsrus at 12:14 PM on October 9, 2009


Best. Web. Design. Evar.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2009


Oh, and as a quick note, since a bunch of you have found the construction guy GIF.

Yeah, so that seems fucking weird, doesn't it? Especially sticking around the collection of yellow signs, barriers, and flipping 3d borders, decontextualized from his original home.

If you browse said original home (and enjoying the background music of Stay (Just a Little Bit Longer)), you'll see that "Bear Rex" is a nice, Christian, gay man who prefers the "bear" type, the larger hairy man, and that his art and decoration on his page reflects this. Including the under construction sign, which is perhaps a tad randy, but is it any more randy than half the naked chicks people drape all over buttons on a lot of web sites (or even in the collection)?

Not that I expect people to generally afford the guy any respect, but I will say that I was personally touched, looking through his site, that in August of 2002, he found his perfect guy, and came back to his website to announce it:

MET THE GUY FOR ME! No one else need apply Everything makes sense now!

How many people can expect that sort of happy ending? Good for Rex.

But yeah, that GIF is pretty fuckin' weird. I expect it to be all over 4chan by nightfall.
posted by jscott at 12:24 PM on October 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


Whoops, one last answer in case someone way down the line wonders:

for each in *.GIF *.gif
do
FORP=`identify -ping $each | head -1 | cut -f3 -d" " | cut -f2 -d"x"`
echo "$FORP $each" >> /tmp/suckers
done

cat /tmp/suckers | sort -n | cut -f2 -d" " | sed 's/^/<img src=\"/g' | sed 's/$/\">/g'

...and that's how the page is a slowly growing set of GIFs instead of a mish-mash of various height GIFs making the page mostly empty and much longer.
posted by jscott at 12:31 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]




for each in *.GIF *.gif
do
FORP=`identify -ping $each | head -1 | cut -f3 -d" " | cut -f2 -d"x"`
echo "$FORP $each" >> /tmp/suckers
done
cat /tmp/suckers | sort -n | cut -f2 -d" " | sed 's/^/<>/g'



I'm pretty sure this is the information equivalent of what the birth of a black hole looks like.

"See Johnny, all the old, burnt-out memes collapse under their own weight, dragging in surrounding memes until they form one super-dense mass from which no browser can escape."

We are truly one step closer to the singularity.
posted by Avelwood at 1:09 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fontophilic, that's the Java programming language mascot, Duke.

I dunno why he's building a web page, though. Seems to me he'd be lethargically haranguing computer science students about ending everything with a semicolon. He is open source, though, so you can use him in any graphics, and maybe the site was one on programming in Java.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2009


"Welcome to the metaconsciousness. We look forward to you becoming one with our fiber-optically linked hive mind. However, we must warn you, this state of being is a work in progress and we are UNDER CONSTRUCTION!"

Hmm... That feels a bit like watching an old episode of Star Trek and hearing Scotty mention that the computer's data tapes are missing.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:26 PM on October 9, 2009


Is this a star treck combadge with a clown nose and a jackhammer?

I can't remember which webhosting company had that little thing as it's logo, but it wasn't just for pages "under construction."

Also: some of these things are not like the others. Did they just search for *construction*.gif and paste in the results?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:32 PM on October 9, 2009


Also: some of these things are not like the others. Did they just search for *construction*.gif and paste in the results?

He. And yes. And actually *construct*. And I was cleaning it out after carefully making sure not to misinterpret various ones as being not right, when it got put on Metafilter.

Truly, it is Under Construction.
posted by jscott at 1:56 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Archive Team is on the case. Actually, Jscott at archiveteam.org seems to be the same guy running textfiles.com. Which is a fabulous site archiving old BBS info, ASCII/ANSI art scene stuff, etc.

My devil of a cat climbed onto my shoulder and stood perfectly still while I had The real BBS page open.
posted by ersatz at 2:13 PM on October 9, 2009


No Construction signs as far as I could see, yet I find Asia Carreras (NSFW) and hand made web presence to be an epitome of the early internet days: sparkly neon dividers, tiled black pink background, animated hearts and so much more.

"Buttkicking online since 7/19/96!" indeed.
posted by Glow Bucket at 2:18 PM on October 9, 2009


Wow, under construction signs + rainbow dividers = nostaligia! I think the first web site I ever made had both of these classics. But no dancing baby! I HATE the dancing baby!
posted by Eclipsante at 5:12 PM on October 9, 2009


Oh God!
posted by limeonaire at 6:56 PM on October 9, 2009


<font color="sublime">
posted by tepidmonkey at 7:01 PM on October 9, 2009


In 1995, my IRC channel had a geocities site, complete with photoshopped icons for each user's name. Then I discovered Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, and realized how useless that site was.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:19 PM on October 9, 2009


Awww, jscott, now the burly bonerman makes sense. I'm happy it worked out for him, too, that's sweet.

I still find that gif hilarious.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:39 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I made the first animated "under construction" icon! Here it is!

In 1995 I had a site called the "Micro Movie Mini Multiplex" (MMMM). It originated as a collection of push animations. Push animation isn't used anymore, but it involved feeding individual animation frames through "server push", which means that a connection between the server and the client was kept alive while individual frames were fed through the connection. It was resource intensive, but when the site began it was the only way to do animation on the web. I collected every example I could find on the web and built a site that aggregated these animations. I tied the individual animations together through (what I thought was) clever commentary. The site was relatively popular (it was Spider's Pick of the Day, who remembers that?)

In December of 1995 I was searching the web for more push animations when I came across an unusual reference to a new form of animation. Netscape 2.0 was in beta, and it could handle a new form of animation. Someone had hacked the GIF image format, tweaking the interlacing so that individual frames were displayed at regular temporal intervals. There were only a handful of examples, but it was obvious to me that these "animated GIFs" were a major improvement over server push animations; you didn't need to keep a connection alive and, more interestingly, the animations could be treated like any other image... you could save the image and reuse it. I realized that these animated gifs would replace server push animations.

I rebuilt MMMM. I'm not an artist, but I spent several feverish weeks animating. I took icons that were already standard on the web, imported them into Photoshop, then modified them pixel by pixel, frame by frame, until I had a bunch of animated icons. My total output from that time is here. (The rebuilt MMMM used a couple other Netscape 2.0 innovations; frames, image maps, and Javascript.)

And people loved it. They saved the animated icons and put them on their own pages. For a very short time my site was the major supplier of animation for other people's webpages. I had given the GIFs somewhat distinctive names, so I was able to track their dispersal through Altavista searches (Altavista returned pages that contained images with specific filenames) and at one point, estimating the traffic on these pages, it occurred to me that my animations were seen by more people daily than any other animation in history.

I did all this anonymously and without monetary reward (which made sense, somehow, in the early days of the web). Eventually animated GIFs became commonplace, annoying even, and my anonymous 15 minutes of fame faded. But someday I'd like to record the moment for posterity, even if I have to do so in some forgotten thread on some community weblog.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [365 favorites]


I found my old Geocities site. On the plus side - no sparkles, no rainbows, no under construction gifs. On the down side - I thought I had nuked it long ago.
posted by deborah at 11:29 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, this brings me back. I hadn't seen the Under Construction guy since Stinkoman 20x6ed him good.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I made the first animated "under construction" icon!

I don't know if I should shake your hand or punch you in the throat.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 4:27 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously, though, thank you. Your hard work moved the web a small way forward. I should only be so lucky to have a tiny fraction of an impact on something that is now massive beyond comprehension.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet: it was Spider's Pick of the Day, who remembers that?

I do! Thank you, twoleftfeet. Yours was the crucial first step down the road that eventually led to Hamster Dance. [pop-ups]

I'm not being sarcastic, I freakin' loved those hamsters.
posted by joedan at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2009


Oh my god, "Welcome to the Internet! Enjoy the ride!" I remember that! Wow. The internet is awesome in lots of weird ways.
posted by m0nm0n at 4:55 PM on October 10, 2009


> In 1995 I had a site called the "Micro Movie Mini Multiplex" (MMMM).

You ran that site? Awesome... One detail to correct, though:

> Netscape 2.0 was in beta, and it could handle a new form of animation. Someone had hacked the GIF image format, tweaking the interlacing so that individual frames were displayed at regular temporal intervals.

Actually, I recall it like this: by early 1995 the only reliably usable image format for your web page was GIF87a: 256 colors, no animation. The JPEG format was a known entity at the time but the dominant web browser (Mosiac) wouldn't display it as an inline component of web pages, so if you had a photo you wanted people to see you had to put a link in your web page to the JPEG version, which the browser could display as a standalone file. Thus the convention of putting thumbnails in your web pages to link to the enlarged versions, which is not a bad convention, all in all, but as bandwidth improves we'll probably see less of that and more websites with screen-wide images a'la boston.com's Big Picture site. Anyway.

This was the era when the background color you could choose for your website was the same as everybody else's: Medium grey. And your font color choice was limited to black. And so on. Netscape, those upstarts, supported inline JPEGs first. And eventually, when server-push animation was threatening to become ubiquitous (as well as threaten dial-up ISP bandwidth), animated GIFs: The GIF89a format. GIF89a wasn't a new or hacked technology: CompuServe had first developed it in 1989. It was a modification of their original GIF87a file format, from 1987.

So animated GIFs weren't new and weren't a hack: People trapped within CompuServe's sandbox were using this technology seven years before denizens of the World Wide Web could enjoy it.
posted by ardgedee at 8:33 PM on October 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


By the way, people have wanted to contact me about suggestions, improvements and comments.

Feel free to click here to e-mail me.
posted by jscott at 9:00 PM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


twoleftfeet is proof against time travel, since if time travel ever becomes possible, someone will go back in time and do away with him before the invention/infection of the animated gif. Of course, this might not actually be proof against time travel at all, the more I think about it, since maybe this is an inevitable invention. Maybe he's actually the 31st person to have created the animated "under construction" gif, and the more these future protectorates try to stifle this...the more apparent it becomes that this is impossible!
posted by cjorgensen at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the animated gif craze would have happened anyway. And it would have become just as annoying anyway. So I'm not comfortable accepting much credit there (and even less comfortable accepting the blame!)

But I enjoy thinking about the old days. The web has evolved so fast, and those days seem soooo long ago. Yet memories still seem vivid; it was, after all, really only fourteen years ago.

Anyone who was participating on the web in 1995 probably has similar recollections as mine. I remember being completely blown away by it, surfing hours every day, just exploring. I remember walking around in a daze, looking at ordinary things, and thinking "this too will be changed by the web". In 1995 most people hadn't heard of the web (this was before TV commercials started mentioning dot com addresses) and I'd tell them things like "that book you're reading, it will be on the web" or "the web is going to change the way you travel" or "politics won't be the same once everyone is on the web". And they'd look at me like I was insane. But if you spent a lot of time on the web in those days it was just obvious that this will change EVERYTHING.

There was such an incredible gap between what could be imagined and what had actually happened. It was exhilarating. The web is just that; imagination, collective imagination set free from our heads and plopped out into a shared public mind, so many sites had to use "under construction" messages because they could imagine what was about to happen much faster than they could make it happen. The whole web was really under construction. Maybe it still is.

Previous generations may have told their grandchildren about the Great Depression or about World War II. I'd like to think that years from now, when I'm bouncing little Billy on my knee and I search my memories for stories from the olden days, I'll completely forget about September 11 and Hurricane Katrina and a zillion other stories and just say "your Grandpa was there when the web started. I saw it happen. And it was good."
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:08 PM on October 11, 2009 [23 favorites]


Wow, twoleftfeet... I picked up your animated atwork.gif on my own page of icons with snarky comments and I never knew who made it.
posted by shii at 11:46 AM on October 12, 2009


twoleftfeet, I remember those days. Aaaah.
posted by JHarris at 12:39 PM on October 12, 2009


the dominant web browser (Mosiac)

Pshaw. That's ivory-tower-talk. Let's rewind the clock a bit.

In 1994, most people didn't have computers at home. Most people had a computer at work, or at school, or if they did own a computer, it was probably either an Apple ][, a Macintosh, or a PC (XT running @ 4.77 Mhz., or an AT running @ 12). The uber PCs of the time were 386s. Running MSDOS/Windows 3.1. At this point, though, just about everything was 16-bit. Now, if you were extra crazy, you could install Windows for Workgroups to get some extraordinarily limited access to the brand-new, extra-buggy 32-bit API called Win32s.

Only after jumping through these hoops would the lay-person have any chance of actual internet access (via WinSock), versus a direct dial-up to a BBS. But all of this was over modems. 9600 baud modems. 2400 if you were a l4m3r.

Mosaic wasn't designed for the everyman. Mosaic was designed for rich ivory-tower folks getting stipends from universities, who could afford the ludicrously expensive bandwidth and UNIX clusters. Mosaic might have been announced in '93, but the only people that could use it were professors and engineering students. PC geeks were left out in the cold.

The real browser for the everyman was SlipKnot, written by Peter Brooks (wiki). SlipKnot didn't assume you had a fat pipe to download content. It also didn't require a true TCP/IP layer, which was good because internet service providers at the time were only just starting to offer SLIP access (back then"ISP" meant AOL, Prodigy or Compuserve).

My apologies for the rant, but I hate all the historical revisionism that gets trotted out when people start waxing poetic about back in the day. The only reason the internet took off was because Microsoft released Windows 95 which could support TCP/IP natively... and because it came bundled with Internet Explorer, so you didn't have to fire up the DOS FTP client or the abysmal terminal program and download Mosaic for ten hours on your suck-ass serial connection.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, twoleftfeet!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:30 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Micro Movie Mini Multiplex, Wayback edition.

GIF89a wasn't a new or hacked technology

This is true, but the innovation was the Netscape Application [Extension] Block, basically a little timer script embedded in the GIF format. It was this that told the browser to animate the GIF.

People trapped within CompuServe's sandbox were using this technology seven years before denizens of the World Wide Web could enjoy it.

I'm skeptical of this claim, as it was Netscape's innovation that allowed the use of the GIF format to be animated. GIF was certainly CompuServe's, but it's just an interchange format -- a container. The term "animated GIF" doesn't appear on USENET until 1995, and first in the context of (multi-GIF) push.
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on October 12, 2009


Civil_Disobedient, maybe it was because I was a nerd bored out of my fucking mind and living in small a college town, but by 1994 I was using a Pentium (they came out in 1993, I actually had a 90Mhz one from the second P54C release in 1994). As I recall it was $3000, and I worked all summer at Taco Bell to get it. Washing dishes at the Elks Club my senior year earned me another $800 so that I could double the RAM to 8MB before heading off to college. Typing those numbers now is painful, but I digress...

I was still in high school, but getting online wasn't as difficult for me as you're making it out to be. Windows for Workgroups (version 3.11) worked well, relatively speaking, when paired with Trumpet winsock. Being a raging nerd I also managed to get online with early versions of Slackware, OS/2, and a pirated version of some unix-like DOS Shell whose name escapes me at the moment. I remember the very earliest versions of Mosiac, gopher+veronica, the myriad of arcane mail clients (I was a fan of Elm until I found Pine), and Usenet before AOL joined.

My Mom thought I was oogling porn all night long, but in reality I was having the same experiences that twoleftfeet was: the Internet was going to change everything, and I couldn't believe that I was one of the only people who was using it. It was such a leap beyond BBSes, which were still the rage at the time, that everyone who I showed it to who had a computer immediately plunked down the $14/month for 14.4kbps access.

Stuff like this makes me nostalgic, and then I realize I've been online for the last 15 years of my life gawking at what everyone else was doing.
posted by togdon at 8:37 PM on October 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I didn't know my comment would get sidebarred. I'm surprised and humbled. Thanks to everyone who has been so kind!

The most popular animation I made was the Smiley Man. Time has not been good to Smiley Man. (Some issue with GIF cropping there.) But after noticing how popular this one animation was I made a bunch of others and tied them together with (what I thought was) clever commentary. These additional animations were hidden away on the old site. In the spirit of the original MMMM, and in thanks to all of you for this chance at a blast from the past, I'll dust off and present again: Animated Smileys. Have a nice day!
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:53 PM on October 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


When I worked on MSN 1.x I designed and built a website (content written by others) called "matter." It wasn't a bad effort for the "early" web, though I had already been working on other sites outside of MS. You need to recall that MSN was a proprietary service and the web was considered not important at all. I think "matter" was their first publication for the open web, or at least their first "editorial" publication.

Anyway, Microsoft being Microsoft, we'd get some sort of not-very-well-thought-out directive each week. "You must use Word to create web pages." (Later this was changed to "You must use FrontPage." Both output horrible code that no dev on any team I worked with ever, ever used.) "You must use Secret Internal Program..." (christ, I've forgotten the codename...dali, maybe?) "to create all art." That sort of thing. No one ever followed these directives, and they were usually forgotten by the following week.

Well, we had stupid little animated gifs for a couple of our icons on matter. And then we got the directive that we had to use--ta da!--small AVI clips for in-page animation instead of gifs. IE 1.3 or whatever release was out at the time had the native ability to embed these...MS was hoping, as usual, that if their proprietary cruft got picked up by the real world it would become the standard. I'm sure in the meeting where that decision was made, it was seen as a brilliant way to stamp out the inferior gif in favor of the superior avi format.

This was at a time when 35K total was considered a really heavy web page. I would spend hours poking pixels in an effort to get an animated gif from 6K to 5K. Their AVI animation creation tool would take that 5K animated gif and turn it into a 50K (or larger!) avi, one that usually looked worse, to boot.

I still don't understand how that company has eleventy bajillion dollars in the bank.
posted by maxwelton at 1:20 AM on October 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


It was worth it, twoleftfeet.
posted by flatluigi at 1:22 AM on October 14, 2009


Awesome. History revealed, with a gray bgcolor. Thanks twoleftfeet!
posted by bkeaggy at 4:07 PM on October 14, 2009


Now I want to know what happened to Joan Stark (jgs), the queen of ASCII art. She just up and disappeared in 2001. :(
posted by cj_ at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2009


twoleftfeet's comment just hit the front page at Hacker News.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2009


@Civil_disobedient

We had a P90 in 1994, and that replaced our 486 Turbo. We even had a 14.4 modem.

And we were by no means wealthy or even close to it.
posted by subaruwrx at 12:03 PM on October 15, 2009


Now I want to know what happened to Joan Stark (jgs), the queen of ASCII art. She just up and disappeared in 2001. :(

I had the pleasure of Joan Stark attending the demoparty I co-organize in Cleveland, at RaD Man (of ACiD)'s request. Here's a photo of them together, in 2005.

I also got to meet and interview Ebony Eyes in 2004, so life's been pretty good in meeting text-based art celebrities for me.
posted by jscott at 5:18 PM on October 15, 2009


Here's a photo of them together...

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posted by Pronoiac at 6:22 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I had the pleasure of Joan Stark attending the demoparty I co-organize in Cleveland, at RaD Man (of ACiD)'s request. Here's a photo of them together, in 2005.

Awesome! She's a bit of a celebrity around my corner of IRC.
posted by cj_ at 7:10 PM on October 16, 2009


Aw. I just set up a server push animation, & neither Firefox nor Mobile Safari actually parses it.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2009


Oh wait! I forgot to change the settings in the script! It works in both Firefox & Mobile Safari!
posted by Pronoiac at 12:34 PM on October 23, 2009


Oh my! Thank you, twoleftfeet for your GIF artistry. Not sure that I ever used your artistry but I know friends and family have! I am not a geek....I am not smart enough to be... but I remember being suspicious of early "push graphics" (because of a game I played) back when almost everyone was on slow dialup and I made images for that game.

I am so glad to be able to say thanks to you here and now.
posted by maggieb at 5:50 PM on October 26, 2009


As of today, 230,000 people have looked at that page and downloaded 10 gigabytes of animated GIFs.
posted by jscott at 5:04 AM on October 29, 2009


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