A Brief History of M-Space #2: The Websites

This is the second part in a series of two (unless I think of any more to add later).  Really, this one should have come before part 1 (about my blogs) since I was running websites almost 10 years before I started blogging.  However, it is a somewhat more problematic history to research and write than that of my blogs since all but one of the latter are still extant while all my websites apart from the current (as in, last updated only about 2 years ago 🙂 ) one seem to have vanished without a trace and I therefore have to rely solely on memory.

I  started my first website, hosted on a free ISP, while I was an undergraduate student of mathematics.  That would put its genesis sometime between the tail end of 1995 and the middle of 1999.  I can’t remember whether I went immediately for the name M-Space or came up with the name sometime later.  In any case, the name was partly inspired by the fact that I was studying quite a lot about various abstract mathematical spaces at the time and partly, I think, as a kind of homage to Doctor Who (as a conscious echoing of E-Space, the parallel universe from whence came his companion Adric, himself a mathematician).  The website was (and has always remained) principally an exercise for me to hone my HTML (and later CSS, Javascript, PHP etc.) skills rather than something intended as a particularly useful resource for anyone else.

I can’t remember much about the contents of that first website, although I do recall putting drafts of the chapters of my MMath dissertation up there as I was writing it in 1999.  The other main thing that was certainly on my website by the end of my undergrad days (and hence probably on the original website, though most likely not from the very beginning) was a database of toasted sandwich filling ideas.  A version of the toasty database remains on my current website, although I’m sure there used to be more fillings in the old one.  One of my student friends (who for some reason asked to remain anonymous) made me a wonderful little gif animation of a sandwich toaster to use on the original website; sadly I no longer have a copy of the file.

At some point, and for reasons I can’t entirely remember though I think it may have been due to dissatisfaction with the web interface I was required to use for editing the original website, I switched to a different host.  As I recall, I used this move as an opportunity to redesign the website using CSS, which would place the transition sometime after my move to North Wales in September 1999, as that was just after I finished a summer job which involved working on a company’s website and gave me my first exposure to CSS (back in the dark days of the Netscape/IE browser wars, when it was a constant struggle to get pages to display sensibly, let alone consistently, in different browsers).

A few years later I got a Plusnet broadband connection, which came with some webspace and an email address, so I moved my website to there and this is where M-Space currently resides. Apart from making greater use of the services I was paying for, this move enabled me to script the site using PHP and do away altogether with the clunky web interfaces I had previously been forced to use.   The earliest copyright date on the current site is 2006, but I think I probably had the site a year or two before that and this date refers to a ground-up reworking of the site.

In more recent years (in fact, from about 2006 or possibly even 2005) I have had other websites to work on professionally, principally the Penrallt Baptist Church website (which I still maintain).  This has given me plenty of scope for keeping up and extending my website crafting skills, so poor old M-Space tends to get rather neglected (evidenced by the fact that the most recent listed change on there was in March 2010).  I may get round to updating it at some point but, as with old blog posts or photographs, it’s actually quite interesting to be able to look back at a snapshot of myself in the past.  As an example, the Art page lists Gimp as my favourite graphics software and refers to the rare occasions that I use Inkscape for vector graphics; these days I would say that I use Inkscape quite a bit more than Gimp  – although the latter remains my tool of choice for photo manipulation.  Incidentally, the candle picture on that page remains my most viewed on Flickr, but has overtaken the tin whistles as the most favourited too.

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