Where has the time gone?

6 minute read

March 23, 2016, 10:00 AM

So today, March 23, 2016, marks Schumin Web’s twentieth anniversary.  Twenty years ago, the Internet first got to know Ben Schumin.  I was 14 years old, and a freshman in high school.  This was the photo that I used to introduce myself to the world:

The photo that I used to introduce myself to the Internet.

This photo was taken of 13-year-old me at my old middle school in 1995, about a year prior to my starting the website.  We took it with a Connectix QuickCam.  Back then, after all, getting photos on the computer was a little harder to do.  Digital cameras were expensive, so were webcams, and so were scanners.  And the resolution was kind of low on all of them.  After all, it was the nineties.

The website, then named “Ben Schumin’s Home on the Internet!” (note the exclamation mark) originally contained a few pages: a home page, a “News of the Week” page, an “About Me” page, and a page of links.  The links page actually predated the website by a little bit.  I created a list of websites on paper (how nineties!) for the librarian at my old middle school, and then when I started the website, I put it online.  I maintained it in various forms for a few years, and finally did away with it around 2003.  Then the “News of the Week” page is evidence that I’ve been blogging for a lot longer than you might otherwise think.  The current Journal may only date back to 2003, but before that, I had the Quote Article on the main page from 1998 to 2005, which served the same function, and before that, News of the Week was that place.  Therefore, I’ve been blogging for twenty years, most likely before it was cool (does that make me a hipster?).

I was certainly surprised about how controversial the “News of the Week” page turned out to be.  I used it to talk about anything and everything, i.e. whatever interests me, which is what I do with the Journal today.  The only difference is that back then, I talked about things that 14-year-old me would be interested in, and the writing style was far less refined than it is today.  I talked about school, the weather, and, you know, stuff.  I did it more or less undisturbed until September 1996.  The website was more or less established at that point, but I had to publicize a new address, since my family had changed ISPs.  Since I was hosted through my ISP, that meant that the site had to move.  Around that same time, a new school year had begun, and with that, I had a new group of teachers.  Teachers that decidedly did not like my News of the Week page.  I did talk about school on there (I was in school, after all), and they didn’t like people talking about them in a way that they couldn’t control.  Just like today, I never made things up out of whole cloth.  I always told the truth, and I usually peppered it with opinions, just as I do now.  But apparently, speaking truthfully about how they behaved towards me was something wrong with me.  One of my teachers referred to the page as being akin to “writing on the bathroom wall”.  Apparently, telling the truth in a public forum is “inappropriate”.  Perhaps they weren’t proud of their actions, but in any case, that really wasn’t my problem.  If it gives you a better idea about the attitude that I was dealing with here, one day, the same teacher that compared the website to bathroom graffiti, after apparently having had quite enough of me, physically hustled me out of the room, shoved a desk out in the hallway shortly thereafter, and then threw (yes, literally threw) my stuff out into the hallway, where it hit a locker before landing on the floor.  A few weeks later, when my parents gave her enough rope to hang herself over it during a parent-teacher conference, she apologized – not to me, but to them.  Then there was another occasion where this same teacher embarrassed me in front of the entire class while I was giving a presentation, and I wrote about it on the site.  I got hauled into the principal’s office for that post, and got chewed out for it in an extremely disrespectful manner.  I often wonder, though, how school officials would handle a site like mine in today’s educational environment, rather than the educational environment of the late 1990s.  After all, what I described happened before there was social media like Facebook, the Twitter, and the like.

In any case, I kept the News of the Week page until around my senior year of high school, by which time the quote article had taken its place.  Then the Journal eventually replaced the quote article, with a little overlap between them.

It’s also interesting to think about all of the various different things that Schumin Web has been host to over the years.  I used to have an “Awards” page, which was essentially a trophy case for those silly little website awards that everyone used to give out to sites in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  I was eventually turned off to those sorts of things when I received a “Golden Web Award” in 2001, and was subsequently spammed with emails encouraging me to buy a trophy for my “achievement” for several months afterward.  That’s when I recognized that those so-called “awards” were really a way for people to advertise their own websites on your site, for free.  Or in Golden Web Awards’ case, to sell trophies.  The awards page was eventually discontinued, and nothing of value was lost.

Likewise, some people may remember that Schumin Web had a “Web Cam” feature for a few years in the early 2000s, mostly while I was in college.  This was basically a Schumin Web version of JenniCam, but entirely safe for work.  I had a Logitech camera on the computer, and used a webcam application to upload an image to the website every two minutes.  I would generally turn it off when I wasn’t in the room, and would occasionally interact with people through it, plus others in the dorm would join in on the antics from time to time.  It was a fun time.  I expanded it to a 24-hour operation when I got a second camera, showing a view out of the window of my dorm room when I wasn’t around.  However, when I moved out of Potomac Hall for the final time in 2003, the webcam feature kind of fizzled out.  I was on dial-up again, which limited the amount of access that I had to the Internet, and with such little uptime for the feature, I got used to not having it, and more or less moved on.

I got a webcam again in 2010, but I mainly used it for those Video Journal posts that I did from 2010 to 2012.  I suppose that the Video Journal posts were good enough as far as content went, but real time is not the thing that I do best.  I just think back to the helicopter incident, and that more or less sums up why I stopped making those.  I still have the webcam, but I mostly just use it for selfies these days.

Then there are photo sets.  Believe it or not, the Wal-Mart set in Life and Times was the beginning of the Photography, College Life, and Life and Times sections.  And that set came about innocently enough.  I had just gotten my first digital camera, a Sony Mavica FD73, the day before, and I took it out for a spin.  I remember that I got made fun of quite a bit for that photo set in the early days, but that sort of mean-spirited commentary died off with the advent of cell phone cameras and Facebook, as many, many, many people started posting silly shopping photos on the Internet.  But remember, Schumin Web was doing it very early on, before it was cool (again, does that make me a hipster?).  Early on, the scope of the Photography section, then called “Photo Essays”, was a bit less defined than it is now.  It was a bit of everything.  It had some stuff like more recent sets, but it also had stuff that would now fall under Life and Times, and also some College Life.  I also did some stuff early on that you will never see again, like a survey of ads on the Metro, or museum visits.  The former was essentially a big ball of copyright infringement, and the latter just wasn’t that interesting.  Then as things grew, things got better organized.  There were a number of occasions where photo sets were moved between sections as I determined each section’s style.  You probably would have never guessed that the D-Hall photo sets from College Life started out in Photography.  Then Life and Times, which was introduced in 2003 as a real-world replacement for College Life, was a bit confused as to its purpose at first.  The lead page for the section was also the main page of the Journal.  But anything past the ten or so most recent Journal entries were displayed in Archives, not Life and Times.  The Life and Times menu contained photo sets.  In 2004, Life and Times got reorganized, separating the Journal from Life and Times, and defining Life and Times as a photo set section, essentially “extended Journal entries”.

I’ve also been quite fortunate to have formed so many great friendships through Schumin Web.  Some people whom I am very close with today, I got to know through Schumin Web.  If not for Schumin Web, my life wouldn’t be nearly as rich as it is.  Yes, the website has always documented life, but the website has also, in return, had a significant effect on my life, having been around for more than half of it.

In any case, I can’t believe that two decades have passed since I started this site.  Even though a look through Internet Archive, as well as a compilation of photos from the last twenty years will verify that it has, in fact, been that long, it still feels like yesterday when I first picked up NaviPress and built a small website as proof that I could do it, introducing myself to the world in the process.