Home Archaeology: Star Trek and Beyond

So we're unpacking, and I run across an old book - Net Trek - Your Guide to Trek Life in Cyberspace. This was a 400-page paper book published in 1995 with details on Star Trek Web sites. I knew that I'd had my site and pages listed, but I'd forgotten that the reason I had the book is that they'd profiled me and sent me free copies. Here's what I had to say to the world circa 1995:

Joshua Sean Bell

Age 21; Calgary, Alberta

Maintains mini-FAQs on Trek tech and a Website (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~jsbell/star_trek.html)

Time [online]: 70 hrs/week

Other Interests: NarniaMUSH, ASCII art newsgroups, and emailing "my girlfriend who’s in Texas"

Favorite Episode: "Yesterday’s Enterprise" [TNG] and "Best of Both Worlds, Part I" [TNG]

Mission Statement: "I’d avoided Star Trek on the Net for ages but eventually got sucked into rec.arts.startrek.tech when I got a copy of the TNG Technical Manual. Started writing and eventually cam up with my Mini-FAQs. I avoid the other groups and all mailing lists because of their sheer volume. And I check out all the Websites. There’s a subset of us [on rec.arts.startrek.tech] who have overlapping interpretations of the show, and feed on each other’s ideas. Rather nice. Since it is (very!) borderline science, it’s actually got an edge to it and can be discussed somewhat rationally.”

"The Web will be the next major outgrowth, if I can use ‘next’ to describe what has already started, of electronic fandom. Interactive sites like Paramount’s will become more common; I’m working on my own, and will encourage others to do so as well. I’m very, very pleased that Paramount has done things like the Voyager and Generations sites; I like ‘official’ information, and we’re getting it from our medium for a change. I don’t think we’ll have much influence on Star Trek directly, but it’s nice to know that Paramount cares."

Probably the most profound thing is about reading this is: how the #($*&#@ did we do anything online before search engines?

Anyway, to translate all of that into modern terms (circa 2005 - yikes, only a decade on...):

  • The FAQs are still online: http://www.calormen.com/Star_Trek/FAQs/, but I no longer post them to the newsgroup or actively maintain them.
  • "girlfriend" --> "wife"
  • Businesses were NOT on the Web in 1995. Paramount was way ahead of its time - I think the fact that the 'net was full of Star Trek geeks probably pulled them in, and helped get corporate America engaged.

Perhaps most importantly, I'm where I am today due to the interactive site I mentioned.

In the summer of 1995 I was finishing up my undergrad CS degree at the University of Calgary and working part time for the campus computing services department. The Web was just catching on, and I’d started putting together a multimedia Deep Space Nine site – it used the latest and greatest features of this “Netscape” browser – colored backgrounds on pages, links to sound files, and so on. Radical stuff at the time! You could use a DS9-style UI to navigate the station, control Ops, and even board the U.S.S. Defiant. I was also doing work for Sun Microsystems on campus and had been exposed to Java early on, but hadn’t really done anything with it.

Meanwhile, Susan was attending Rice University in Houston, TX. She was slated to finish her degree 6-9 months after I did, so our plan was that I’d try to find work in Houston. But doing what? Multimedia web stuff looked like fun. I’d heard of this company doing things like this with Java, a startup in San Francisco called Dimension X. They had some fun applets on their site. I e-mailed them and said, “I’m looking for a job with a company doing stuff like you’re doing, but in Houston. Any leads? Just so you know I’m not a flake, here’s my resume and Web site.”

They responded with a job offer. Susan thought San Francisco sounded like fun. And so I started my professional career as a Web dev in January 1996 at Dimension X.


  1. I know what you mean about search engines... My husband and I moved to Tampa Bay last month. Long story short, we had no Internet and had to relearn how to use the phone book for local stuff. We had a family member on the phone several times so that *they* could use search engines for us.


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