blasts from the pasts and looks towards the future

In the course of working on a web page for my summer class, I was reminiscing about some of the very first web sites I remember seeing.  Many have gone the way of the dinosaur (the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids ICON, an alternative weekly that I read online in college and wrote for after I graduated, but a few are still around (I’m so happy to see that Fireland is still alive, even if it is described as rickety). 

Also still around, and now a blog as well as a repository of wonderful things, is Literary Kicks, which points to the coolest use of Google Maps I’ve seen so far: a map of Sal Paradise’s journey in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

The web site I look at most often these days is the fairly new InciWeb, which tracks forest fires around the country (and gives updates on them via RSS!).  The about page notes that InciWeb is currently being tested and will be “used nationally in the 2007 Fire Season.”  Thanks to an IM conversation today with Steve Lawson, it occurred to me that perhaps a few others out there in western states might want to tuck it away for future reference. 

Our fire is still burning, although many of the 332 Forest Service personnel who were here to fight it have now left.  A hundred or so of them were camped up by the school (and thus also by the library) last week.  People frequently came into the library to hang out or check e-mail or look through the books in our booksale or browse our magazines.  I can’t tell you how many of them were amazed that we had internet access.  “Actually,” I said, becoming a walking talking ALA quotable fact sheet, “98% of public libraries in the US offer internet access to the public!  And have I told you about our databases?  And you can download your digital photos using our handy memory card reader on this computer where I’ve got Picasa installed!”  Some days I frighten even myself–but I hope they left with a few more ideas about public libraries than they had when they came in.

2 thoughts on “blasts from the pasts and looks towards the future”

  1. I remember that the first website I saw in a graphical browser (Mosaic) was something that Shanon showed me with embedded video clips of Hitchcock films–pretty advanced for the time!

    My first web experiences were with the text-based browser, Lynx. I vastly preferred Gopher, for its enforced organization/hierarchy (a librarian to the core).

    Before RSS, in the mid-1990s, I remember that the sites I kept reloading were Feed, Word, and Suck. (One-word titles were the rage, I guess).

  2. I hope your library is pushing the use of Open Source software (Blender,, etc.). See the huge list of Open Source software at:

    See also the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society’s list of software on the CD:

    Perhaps your library can offer to download the CD with all Open Source software at the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society’s site and burn copies on CDs for the folks in your town. A very nice service. I only wish our library here (Katrineholm, Sweden) did that for patrons.

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