Today, looking at the “oldest” (last updated 1995-09-30) page in our archive, I again found myself in a chain of thoughts that I usually try to avoid, because they are formed by the questions that are time and energy consuming to answer … and these answers are not important for anything. Pure сuriosity and avidity.
So, yesterday I looked at the page, saw the under construction sign,
and asked myself and the Internet: How old is this particular file? Was it the first ever Under Construction sign? What was the first Under Construction sign? On what page did it appear? Who did set the trend to talk about the pages as being “under construction”? What was the first page “under construction”?
Internet Archive doesn’t remember. Google doesn’t know. Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t answer.
Anybody can help? Does anybody here know somebody who knows the guy who made the first Under Construction image?
And what to do with similar questions in the future? To ask them in a blog? On Twitter? Put an ad in the Guardian or the New York Times? How to reach users who were making their pages in 1993-1995?
On the other had, as I mention above, getting answers to these questions doesn’t help to understand the web of the 90’s and didn’t bring me closer to the question that I really want to answer: What did it mean to make a webpage? Maybe even the opposite, such facts are turning history into anecdotes.
As for Under Construction idiom:
I know that it was not used on the very first CERN web page.
This screenshot comes from the book The Whole Internet, 1993. Ed Krol annotates:
It’s important to realize that the home page and everything else that’s available is not “built-in” to your browser. […] Therefore, don’t be surprised if you see text that doesn’t match our sample screen. The Web is constantly changing; that’s part of its beauty.
But already in 1994 — if to believe the screenshots in the book Using World Wide Web, published that year — one could read on the home page of the World Bank at www.worldbank.org “This World wide web Server is under construction and there will be many changes in the immediate future as more data becomes avalable for publication.”
Encyclopedia Britannica (www.eb.com at that time) also warned its visitors: “The World Wide Web database is under construction.”
census.gov used a different phrase: “construction continues”.
Stanford’s WWW Virtual Library referred to their Mechanical Engineering document as being “under continuous construction”.
And this particular line was around already in September 1995.
- Collection of Geocities Under Construction graphics, Jason Scott, 2009
- Under Construction in Vernacular Web, Olia Lialina, 2004
- Under Construction tag on this blog
update 10 May 14:
Jason Scott reminded me about the 5 years old the thread on Metafilter where user twoleftfeet states that in was him who made the first UC icon in 1995. It is great to know the author of glorious and the website he comes from.