history

You aren't just what you think you are

@History in Pictures is a great twitter feed that mines photo archives for stunning moments from the past - some grandiose, some intimate, some curious, some utterly bizarre. Just one example:

There are many different ways to unpack and interpret this image, some of them outside my experience and understanding. Certainly, there are some who would pose the question - why protect an avowed racist from the impact of his beliefs? Why should he receive governmental protection that is less commonly afforded to those he vilifies and would gladly oppress? On the other hand, if we aren't willing protect the rights of all citizens, who decides whose freedoms will be protected, and whose will be ignored?

Looking at this image, though, I mostly feel sympathy for the police officer. Although my job is wildly different from law enforcement, I also wear a uniform, and I'm often perceived foremost as my role, not as a man who will go home at the end of my shift.

That's not such a bad thing. People who call me should be able to count on me to fulfill the duties of my role. They shouldn't have to negotiate with a fallible man, and potentially face criticism if I disapprove of their decisions or lifestyle. The uniform should represent something reliable, fixed, steadfast. 

My uniform provides a benefit to me as well. Although I'm not a wild fan of the superhero genre, I understand on a visceral level why we envision them wearing costumes. My uniform is protective - it shields my psyche from what I see on the job, In theory, it's something I can remove when I return to my everyday life. 

I've been in situations, like this officer, in which I do what I'm there to do, regardless of my opinions. I treat all patients, regardless of who they are or what they've done. I do my job, because in certain moments, my job is actually more important than I am. It outranks me, my personal preferences, and my opinions, because someone has to do it, and on that particular day, I happen to be the one. 

Maybe your job isn't your job, but I'd be willing to bet you've got work to do out there, things that are bigger than you and me. 

More Internet time capsules

I found some more examples of little electronic tidal pools, where small websites existed in isolation while their contemporaries evolved into vastly more sophisticated variations. Previous examples.

WestNet was a ISP (that's Internet Service Provider for some of you) in New York in the 1990's. Their website was supposedly updated until 2013, but it still reflects a distinctly late-90s design. They still had a page of their users' locally-stored websites. It's really kind of charming. 

Welcome to Pinball Expo 1994 is intriguing because its simplicity suggests a site formatted for modern mobile users, who are in some ways the 56k modem dial-ups of the moment (although both enlarging screens and increasing speeds make this less true with each year). It suggests that new innovations will somehow evoke older ones, as early-adopters are forced to adapt to common constraints. 

Internet time capsules

A piece on NPR about Bob Dole's campaign website, which has been running into the wind like a ghost ship since 1996, made me curious about other instances of untouched web time capsules from the past. 

The iconic example is Space Jam, created to promote the 1996 Loony Tunes/Michael Jordan crossover film, but there's also the promo site for You've Got Mail (1998). 

CNN's site for coverage of the OJ Simpson trial gives a freeze-frame of a cultural moment from 1996.

Cherished Zombo.com (1999), a site that exists for no other purpose than to promote itself, is probably the high water mark of Flash on the web.  

But if you want to know what the web was like in the mid-90's, kids, go no further than Strawberry Pop-Tart Blow-Torches ("Last Updated: 2G August 1994") which captures a sense of the exuberance we all felt when, for the first time, we could instantly share our experiences starting kitchen fires for science with the whole wired world. [EDIT: It has been suggested that this site is not orphaned, but merely maintained in its original format.]