Bobbie Smulders Freelance Software Developer

Random Piece of History

For the New Media New Technology course at the Media Technology MSc Programme I had to come up with a project that payed tribute to an old new media. I had the freedom to do whatever I want, and I came up with the Random Piece of History project.

My project payed tribute to GeoCities. The inspiration for the project comes from the GeoCities archive from the Archiveteam. Whilst browsing the nostalgic pages, I couldn’t help but notice how these pages were mainly random pieces of text and images cobbled together. Which is why I asked myself:

Is it possible to randomly generate a GeoCities page?

The project uses the GeoCities archive by scanning the entire archive looking for HTML pages. It then cuts up the HTML pages in small bite-sized pieces, which are stored in a database. When the users tries to access the project website, this database is queried and a completely random page is put together. The end result was a website that from the first look really seemed like a random GeoCities page, but actually wasn’t.

To make everthing feel genuine, the project was presented on a low-color and low-resolution CRT monitor with a virtual machine running Windows 98 Second Edition and Netscape Communicator 4.60 to make everything periodically correct. There also was an algorithm that tried to guess the age of the HTML page in the archive in order to eliminate newer pages from the building process.

Unfortunally, because of the size of the project, and because the hardware / software setup added a lot to the experience of browsing the pages, it is not available online. Screenshots are posted below to get a feel for the project. The full description and the software sourcecode can be found on the project page.

Screenshot of randomly generated page

Screenshot of randomly generated page Screenshot of randomly generated page Screenshot of randomly generated page Screenshot of randomly generated page Screenshot of randomly generated page