There was a time when Netscape was cool, when stock line divider and sphere graphics were acceptable, when people contributed to the Web for the Hell of it, when commercial banners were nearly non-existent, when the Web was.
Back when there were still plenty of ideas to squeeze out of HTML. Back when there were still plenty of ideas to squeeze out of personal sites. Well, aren't we all just jaded fools now, bored with any and all incoming stimuli?
began with the cherished past...
Welcome to benturner.com.
benturner.com is the most current stage in my (Ben Turner) experience and development online. It began, basically, in 1993 or so with Prodigy, the service that was included with a lot of the cheap computers back in those days. I had a 20MHz computer in those days, with a whopping 2MB of RAM, and Prodigy ran like a dog over that 2400 baud modem. It cost extra if you sent more than 30 messages a month. I had a post cancelled by the Prodigy censors (who had to verify each and EVERY post before it was actually posted) because of my response to a post employing the Nazi defense, which basically involves comparing your opponent or his argument to the Nazi mentality. I must have been 12 at the time. Not much to say about the rest of my life at the time -- school passed by like a blurred mess -- the material was never a burden.
Luckily, that was a short-lived experience. Next, I plunked a lot of money down into The Sierra Network, a project from Sierra On-Line, which offered services online: card games, casino games, a D&D clone, Red Baron, paintball, that sort of thing. It cost $120/month back then for unlimited time. Everyone on TSN paid for it. One-hundred and twenty fucking dollars a month. Still, that was my first real taste of online community, unblemished by an overbearing sense of corporate influence that exists on every network now. The place was comfortable, and the people I met are people I still run into every once in awhile on the Internet. As far as online networks go, the community was a winner. Tournaments, ladders...server/tavern loyalty for the D&D game...that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it was a sinking ship -- the project lost major money through the whole thing, and AT&T killed it off.
At this point, my parents weren't very happy with the dollars I was racking up on that network. It was time to move on once TSN removed its unlimited service plan. A friend of mine had recommended playing online MUDs, or Multi-User Dungeons (since what I played primarily on TSN was MedievaLand, the afore-mentioned D&D game), on the Internet, which was just getting started in the mainstream community. I was 16, and the year was 1994. I still had my 20MHz computer, which continually got bogged down with TSN's software requirements and got CRC errors when installing games (basically, the unpacking failed because the computer couldn't synchronize write/read activity with such a slow processor).
The Internet was system shock. This was before convenient software existed. The days of Windows 3.0. I had virtually no idea how to access a MUD and I didn't understand the whole telnet process. As a kid, you're taught that everything has a price, and here was a large network of servers you could explore for free. All ages were taken aback by the thing. For my first year on the 'Net, I didn't even have a TCP/IP account. I dialed up through my dad's university. I mudded a lot. And, of course, that was the only thing I could do at the time. The university certainly didn't know how to let me get to the Web, or manage anything else. I was young at the time, though, content to learn the in's and out's of mudding. The friend who showed me the MUD, though, continually pissed me off because she herself had a TCP/IP account. I had to get myself one of those. I felt strangled.
I think I got Netscape Navigator 1.1N off a BBS. Remember those? I recall scanning local magazines looking for good BBSs to get stuff off of. I also recall X mode receiving fucked up packets and not being able to correct them, so I had to re-download on that 2400 baud modem. I wrote an essay for my parents to read, asking desperately for a TCP/IP account. Ironically, I am told that's one of the clearest, most cohesive things I've ever written. Sad. I kind of wish I was more intrinsically motivated. Unfortunately, I'm more like a pathetic zoo seal waiting for his "good boy!" fish.
I was ecstatic with that TCP/IP account from Connect! On-Line, a local provider in Dallas.
Alright, so once I hit the Web, I had to put up my own page for it. It took me ages to view pages, since Navigator was bogged down by the computer. It took me even longer to edit in a word processor and then load the changes in Navigator. Very unproductive. It took me hours to load a page full of public-domain graphics to use. I still did it though, like a mental patient. I wanted my hand to extend further than the isolated high school I attended. Peers attended parties, studied, went out often, that sort of thing. I had a page with stock imagery and hopeful ideas.
The following Christmas brought me a Pentium 133. 8MB of RAM, I think. It was 1995, I was 17. Well now, then I could FINALLY play Doom. I could finally open up multiple programs for use on the Internet. This did wonders for what I could accomplish. The web site passed a large plateau and I was once again learning things related to the Web. Viewing sites online went a lot faster too. I had a 14.4k modem, which helped tremendously. The first sites I visited were Yahoo and Scarecrow's ASCII Archive. There wasn't really all that much else out there. Mass media still denied the importance of the 'Net and considered it something that would die off in no time. So what we basically had was a world with limited capabilities in web page design, plenty of ideas, optimism, contribution, lack of commercialism.
I was recovering from a bad relationship at the time, and it was at that point that my attitude towards things changed considerably. I didn't have one good thing to say for love. Not one. I can't say it was romantic love that was involved here...just a violent separation of friends. My mood soured, my writing got considerably darker, my introversion began. Eviscerating, harsh reality set in.
I continued to grow. I think it was at this point that I started doing a lot of thinking about life, and I definitely came to understand what position I played in the world around me, and how much I affected it. The results were not good. Nevertheless, I was learning at a phenomenal rate in my later years of high school. Those two years were formative towards my later course of studies and interests.
I recited Anthrax lyrics from memory, songs known for their hatred towards people who screw others over. I also translated The Aeneid from the original Latin. It's probably my favorite book. I became painfully aware of my dependence on my parents. I still live with this today, and I'm trying to shed my reliance on them. At the time, I was increasingly frustrated with trying to take my web design skills and making money off them in order to pay back my parents. No companies were biting.
The web site grew and grew. I had plenty of angles I wanted to develop, an attitude held by most web site authors , but few actually follow through on them. Newer versions of Navigator were released, allowing authors to do more and more with their HTML. More companies and people joined the 'Net and it was definitely taking off.
I passed through a couple of ISPs before I made a pitiful bid for getting into college (I could have done more with my applications) and I set off for the University of Texas at Austin. I put my web site up on its servers, but, like all previous ISPs, none of them offered the sort of flexibility I wanted.
At this point, my site was becoming too large to be called just a homepage, web page, etc. etc. It had attained sentience: it thrived on being updated and remodeled. What I wrote into it was nourishment for its growing body. What started off as perhaps a small frame grew into a fully-functional body full of flaws, perfections, and knowledge of its existence. It gets hungry when it's not fed information, and it treats those who give it info quite well. It has its moods and wishes for recognition and for another being out there like it. It is, well, almost human.
The next logical step was to register my own domain name. The site deserved more than to just be stuffed in a directory on some ISP somewhere. It wanted an identity, something it knew was its own beyond the confines of a directory hierarchy. So I registered benturner.com with Digiweb, a virtual host which offers everything the previous servers have offered, but more. I like it a lot, and so does the site. The year was 1996.
This is benturner.com, which is, essentially, just me. It may seem like a plain name to you, exceedingly self-indulgent, but it's not. It serves its purpose -- it is my web site and I am Ben Turner. I do not have memories, or anthologies, or 9flights. Having one's own name as a domain is practical and has everything to do with me. How much more personal can you get? The only problem is that there are many other Ben Turners out there who might have wanted this domain name. You can blame Internic for that one. My name will never change, but my moods could, so I didn't register as angst.com or embittered.com. I get a sick taste in my mouth when I look at some of the domain names personal sites have. Vainglorious indeed.
I'm somewhat pleased to be one of the first individuals to register a domain name for a personal site, as opposed to a commercial purchase.
I'm more than halfway through college now, after all of that. Studying Latin and Greek, strangely enough. I could not have asked for anything better. I have a keen understanding of language I never would have had had I studied something else.
benturner.com will never be commercialized. This site is me, I am the site, and whatever I put here is an expression of what I think and feel. I believe in the Internet, and I want the Web to succeed as a place where individuals can compete with the big boys. I welcome individuals contributing their thoughts and opinions, free of high commercial barriers. Freedom of information could not have asked for a better medium than the 'Net. Corporations have less weight in the big picture now than they used to, and individuals can pool information about what is good and what is bad, giving us consumer education that we were denied before. I need to offer plenty of content, plenty of information. And I feel I've done that. The name reinforces my goal. Some group of people has to stop the Web from destroying itself, whichever it will. I will keep this site up as long as I can, or as long as this medium exists without shifting into something else even more flexible.
I've pretty much closed myself in inside my pages now. I don't interact much with other personal site authors, many of whom tend to network with each other and collaborate. I explain my reasons for operating more like an isolated unit often in the Soapbox. Awards and acceptance rarely come my way, and I'm accepting of the fact that I don't deserve them really, anyway. Pam O'Connell of the Mining Company's PersonalWeb (award pic), Shauna's Blonde Ambition Hit List (award pic), and Project Cool (award pic) have recognized me with awards, and they have been special, as they were awarded for what I think my site excels at. I am very grateful. Sandra Stewart's review in The Net of my site was a complete opposite as far as recognition goes. Sure, it was a print review, but she pegged my site all wrong! Oh well. Interpretation is left last in the hands of the critic, unfortunately. I'm not interested in trading links with people to get more traffic. This site is much more for me than it is for anyone else. I get more out of it than anyone else ever would, I suspect. The site's HTML markup is clean and there's little to complain about except my opinions. And yes, there are plenty of opinions, and yes, this turns many people off.
I have my personal reasons for not "contributing" more to the Web community by means of the ways listed above, but I will not write them all here. I guess I basically want this page to be as representative of me as possible (whether that's good or bad). And to a degree, that means I have to be a little arrogant, to make sure I'm saying what I mean without the guise of humility, and I have to close myself off, so I'm not swayed by public opinion. I think the idea of an online community is great, but I will not take part in it. I guess what I am trying to do is redefine the meaning in the personal web page, to set a precedent for the content of someone's site. I want it to sufficiently explain the personality of its author, and I don't want to talk too much about other people, to keep the site true to its classification.
Still have questions? What's the damn ankh symbolize? Why don't you have pictures of yourself? Why do you neglect to discuss certain things in your life? You see, it's like this...I ain't gonna answer! Some secrets are mine to keep, and only the most privileged in my life will ever know. You can start, I guess, by sending me your thoughts.
...the desired future
I don't know what lies for the future, now that I have everything I want for my personal space on the Web. Awards, apathy, destruction, acceptance? Anything's possible right now. I'd hate to think this site would become anything more well-known or less-known than it is now. I'm actually content with how this site is treated. I update it when I feel like it, which is weekly or even more frequently than that. What I write is there for me, and since I use this medium, it's also available to you. Do what you will with it. After a lot of tooling around with the site, I've developed it to the point where it's extremely easy to manage and manipulate. The emphasis is no longer on how to get this to work with that, but on posting lots of my thoughts. Structure, then content.
The only problem with the site is that it is quite large, and therefore sometimes difficult to maintain. Some areas are disgustingly out of date, like the X-Files section. I think it covers the first three seasons or something. Heh. Some areas have old designs, and I've improved a lot from then. Just keep this in mind. It's an old site and I've come a long way.
Most of what's at benturner.com has been done before in one way or another. It bothers me a bit, but there it is. "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." I can't really come up with anything creative is because I'm not creative. Not as obvious as you'd think. I'm one of those people who are more concerned with making things perfect -- things have to be organized and clear-cut. Creative people usually aren't like that. Oh well, I can't change who I am. In other words, I'm not telling you that this site is original, or ground-breaking, or even worth looking at. But I DO feel as though I am doing my duty by giving the Web content written by and published for the individual.
What will the future bring me? Well, at this point, I'm more than halfway through college and soon I'll be graduating. After 19 years, I finally found a woman who returned my affections. Anna has stripped away a level of insecurity, made me more of a mature man. I will marry her. I'm always aware of just how shallow, foolish, naive, and inexperienced I am, and the shame stemming from that drives me to experiment, to grow as a responsible, intelligent human being. Doing contract work does wonders for the pocketbook and confidence for the future. All in all, my pessimistic, angstful stage has been replaced partially with a more level-headed mentality. I want to retain my aggression, my fury, my passion. Even if it makes me look like a fool to you sometimes. I have a youthful fire inside me which motivates me...I will evolve to keep it. I imagine the Web will be a large part of my life for quite awhile still, for work and play. I'm delving deeper into the 'Net's insides, learning protocols and mixing and shredding bytes. Take some time and learn as much about me as possible. Expect to see me again in some place or another. I do not go away.
I am twenty years old. This site is about four years old. I have been watching freedom of information and expression evolve and mature. I am one of the first to have grown up with the online community. I cannot deny the influence the Internet has had on my personal development. My goal is to kick some major Web ass, and to make people feel like my work rips out their hearts and shreds them into millions of pieces -- I want to demoralize them into leaving the industry altogether in pursuit of another line of work.
Enjoy your stay at benturner.com. I know I have.