Warning: LONG POST!
I actually started writing this a couple days ago, trying to put some thought into how I would approach the reality that I’ve owned this domain for -literally- the last 20 years. Up until this year I’ve always had some minor amount of content on the site, mostly arcade-related stuff, and it’s been through many iterations of design (or lack thereof). I finally realized the design of the site was holding me back; trying to deal with themes, getting the colors right, getting the look down, etc all held me back from simply just USING the site or trying to find a solid direction for it. After some hosting issues that led to it being taken down for a while in 2018, combined with ditching Facebook, I decided to take the opportunity to start from scratch, go with the stock “blogging” theme, and this time, forego the “look” for now, and just start using the site.
That first line…owning something for 20 years…wow. For a kid that grew up in the 80s and 90s, I’m pretty sure neither myself nor anyone else I knew ever thought we wouldn’t be a kid at some point. We grew up in the age of video games and arcades, malls, Nintendo, Kiddie City, Toys R Us, the Simpsons, Saturday morning cartoons, riding our bikes until our parents yelled for us (no cell phones needed!), summers at the Wildwood beaches and winters sledding in the park. While there were definitely things going on, and we didn’t have a lot of money, life was good as a kid then, it seemed to last forever and we didn’t want it to end!
Fast forward to having my first job at a local computer repair shop (which also had a side business as an ISP), I had my first “real” web page, which usually came as a freebie site included with your internet account. If you didn’t have one, you may have also used sites like Geocities to host your own as well. Since there wasn’t a lot of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors yet, or at least any good ones, most people coded their pages manually, which in some cases resulted in some “really interesting” pages (aka really interesting train wrecks lol). Mine was no exception!
Here’s the header from my old web site, as of October 3rd, 1999:
I didn’t have a lot of money then, but figured I would make what was likely my first investment into my career, by buying an internet domain, and learning how the process worked. Learning how to register it, learning how to set up DNS, learning how to code a web site and bring it online. Back then we didn’t have many choices for registrars, and if I’m not mistaken, you had your choice of: Network Solutions. That was it. With a deal in place to host the site through a friend, I plopped down some cash and purchased junknet.net. The name was always a joke…before the internet I wanted to run a BBS (it never came to fruition), and always figured since it was running on “junk” hardware, I would call it JunkNet to reflect it’s…humble stature. Sadly the BBS never officially made it public as I never had the money to get my own phone line, but it was only natural to continue the idea that I’d probably be running my own web site on junk computers anyway, so I just stuck with it.
I tried hard to make my site look professional. I probably used CorelDraw back then to create the graphics, and immediately themed the site to my interests, which still remain valid to this day. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with content. I was too busy doing other things, living life and switching jobs to take the time to sit down and actually code more pages up with some actual content. It wasn’t like today where I can do this from my phone during my lunch break; I generally telnetted directly into the web server and edited the site using Pico (no Vi for me). Graphics were a pain to deal with then!
My one source of content came from a car show I found on happenstance; I’ve always been into Turbo Buicks since I got my Buick Regal, and driving through the Phoenixville, PA area one day, I came across a sign for a Turbo Buick car show. Since work happened to have a digital camera I used a lot on weekends, I was able to attend the show and take what seemed like a bazillion photos. The pics were popular and got mentioned in “The Source – Turbo Buick Newsletter” amongst other sites. I attended the show 2 more years and took even more pictures until it finally died out. From what I understand, the original folks creating the Newsletter had health issues and eventually stopped hosting the show.
The site had minor updates and variations after that; I added a page to host my friend’s artwork in 2003, I put up various posts, then in 2006, I redesigned the site with a new “dark” look many would consider “goth” at the time. I really wasn’t goth, but looking back I think I wanted to be…maybe…ish. Whatever.
Unfortunately, yet again life got in the way and the site sat like this for a while. Around 2008, I started messing with and collecting arcade games, and I wanted to finally use the site to show off what I was doing with the games, so I redid the site again into my first content management system: Joomla. To give it a look, I used the Firenzie Theme from Rockettheme.
Joomla was finally providing me a way to quickly update the site, it looked good (albeit boring) and I finally started using it a lot more often by posting updates about fixing and restoring my various arcade games. It worked, but alas, over time the page wasn’t updated, the Joomla CMS needed constant updates and attention, and I gave up on the idea of updating it, but let it remain online for what little useful content there was. That iteration finally died in 2018 when a billing issue took the site down (it was my fault), and rather than restore the outdated Joomla install, I figured I’d try something different.
I’ll be honest, at one point the name JunkNet didn’t appeal to me anymore. While I have a reputation for always having some “junk” laying around, I wanted to lose that connotation and go with something new. I bought up some different domains, but I never found anything that had the same “fun” factor as JunkNet, so I decided to keep it, only this time having it represent the “junk” in my head, since I have so many hobbies, interests, and useless knowledge, there’s definitely plenty of junk to go around lol.
Outside of the site, its amazing how much change would happen over 20 years. Thankfully I’m still around, while many of my former classmates, teachers, and relatives have unfortunately passed on. I went from a 100 pound scrawny nerd, to a not-so 100 pound not-so-scrawny nerd LOL, but trying to keep things in check. I’m not so clean shaven anymore, and my hair is actually longer than 1/4″ (ok its down to my neck). Computers changed from 486s, to Cyrix 5×86’s, to Pentiums, to Pentium IIs, then Pentium IIIs, and now you can get a laptop only fractions of an inch thick. My electronics know-how went from rudimentary, to being able to troubleshoot digital electronics at the component-level. Relationships, cars, hobbies, friends, social media, and everything else just seems like a blur now. Days, months, and years FLY by faster than ever. Many places I enjoyed visiting over the years are gone or changed, some held on longer than others. Personal web sites are truly a lost art to behemoths like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other social media networks all vying for our livelihood, yet many still remain online even if frozen in time.
Anyway, now that you wish you had that 10 minutes back, I’ll wrap this up by shouting out another “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to my first domain, Junknet.Net, and hope it’s still online for another 20 years, and hoping I keep it going this time, as well as that the internet remains a neutral, open community for the world to enjoy.
PS – Big thanks to archive.org and their “wayback machine” for capturing and keeping snapshots of various web sites, including both of mine over the past 20 years. I also want to give a shout-out to Net-Thing Inc. (now SeoPhilly.com), Paul S., Russell J., and several others over the years that have graciously hosted Junknet.net for me and helped me get started in all of this.