I love to listen to videos on YouTube about the strange and mysterious, but lately, I have been suggested videos of strange and mysterious websites. Now I am sure there are strange and mysterious websites out there, but being born in the 80s and growing up in the 90s changes my view on these websites. In 1997, I was 11 and that’s when I learned to make a website. It was on a website called expages.com. Eventually, I really learned to code.
Here is why many of these strange and spooky websites from the 90s aren’t that scary when put in perspective.
People were learning to use the internet
It’s nice to look at old websites that are random as “weird.” But back then computer internet usage really wasn’t that common. It wasn’t wide spread. Most people didn’t have programs to make websites for them nor did most people have image editing software. If people did, most people really didn’t know how to use it. Everything was still super new. Let’s be honest: most people had paint. There weren’t websites that made GIFs for you or memes. There were no smart phones to do things for you. If you weren’t artistic, you were just out of luck.
Most people didn’t have a reason to make a website
Since usage wasn’t that common, websites weren’t necessary. It wasn’t really a source, it was to play around with a new technology. Most people weren’t sharing their thoughts. They were chatting away with people on the other side of the planet. There were no lifestyle blogs, no social media websites, and no online shops. There were search engines and mail platforms.
Learning to code
I remember one of the first things I did when I learned to code; I attempted to create my favorite kind of book in website format: a choose your own adventure. I wasn’t super girly back then, but I did like Lisa Frank, so you can assume that my story wasn’t all that weird. But back then, choose your own adventure stories were popular and so were the series of books called Goosebumps, the TV show Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Eerie Indiana.
Now imagine being a guy or someone interested in this genre wanting to create something similar. What color are they most likely to make the website? Black and red. The words are going to be spooky, but vague because you just want to create something.
Poor music creation and sounds
I remember my dad showing me how to use a feature on the computer where it would say whatever you said backwards. I remember learning to say avocado and Apollo backwards, and my dad saying it with me, then flipping it to say the word. So hilarious! Having “weird” voices on a website where something is said backwards was cool and funny, but also extremely “mysterious.”
Good programs to create music on your computer were expensive or didn’t exist at all, so you could record a sound with your crappy microphone and then sort of play with it. Those sounds were perfect for at home movie creation. To create something “spooky.”
Paint and Animation Shop
You can and could use Paint to create great drawings. I am telling you can, but most people just did not have the patience for it, so if you look back on what people created with paint, it usually was as bunch of swirls and some random words or letters. Same thing if you didn’t have much skills or patience using animation shop. Animation shop was the most fun I’ve ever had with an image creating program. I loved to do pixel art and make animated pixels, but it was time consuming. If you wanted to create something quickly or if you were just learning, it would make sense if you once again made a bunch of swirls and did some random text, then threw it on your website to help teach yourself to use the tools or just code tables. Maybe you were proud of your squiggles. Maybe you wanted everyone to see. I’m not kidding.
Showing your friends
You may think this work of art is trash or strange, but showing it to your friends would usually elicit a reaction that you might find surprising now: “Whoa, cool man” or “wow, you made that?” Since websites, as I’ve mentioned, were uncommon at this time, it was impressive that someone put in the time and effort to make something at all.
Throwing it All Together
When you put it all together: the choose your own adventure, the backwards words and random noises, the black and red color scheme, the animated or paint graphics, what do you get? A site that seems creepy in this current time. What do those random letters mean? I’ll tell you: absolutely nothing. They mean the author just wanted to try the coding without having to come up with something to say.
Archaeologists love finding cave paintings. What do they mean? What were they trying to communicate? What if not every communication had a meaning? What if they were playing with a new resource and passing the time in an age where there just wasn’t as much to do?