I got a delightful call yesterday thanking us for the website Arts Archive which is where all old and dead UK Theatre Web what’s on listings end up. Someone was researching a theatre’s history and we had plugged the gap in what they were able to learn from elsewhere … a great tribute to our listings ‘team’ of one truly dedicated soul. What made me smile most about the call though was that our offering was described as a “web/gopher service” … I haven’t heard that for ages, years in fact.
Gopher (port 70) predated the web and met a lot of pure information needs at the time … it was basically a plain text system that could work on anything (even a mechanical teletype) which consisted of information files. Each file was either a normal file (document, image, whatever) or was an index file … index files simply contained lists of files with plain text descriptions … each file could then be an index of a plain file … you get the picture. Fabulously simple and incredibly effective – fast as hell (important when 100 of us were sharing a 64Kbaud internet connection) and easy to manage.
UK Theatre Web’s information actually first appeared as both Gopher and Web using a combined server provided, as I recall, by the University of Illinois … the service I set up (1994 sometime) actually served information on the NAG library but I threw in a “What’s on in London” section for interest … a simpler world, no search engines, no paid services, free domain names …
It made me look back at some other stuff too … if you’ve never checked out waybackmachine.org then please do … whilst I believe that UKTW (launched as its own separate domain in Feb 95) may even predate their work it is a terrific resource for the curious