Jacob Charles Wilson


From Telex to hypertext

Stuck inside the house, I decided to redesign my website. The old monochrome design was inspired by cheap, utilitarian textual media—broadsheets, fliers, typewritten memos, cheap paperbacks, while the new design reflects my recent research on early information networks—on the movement from Telex to hypertext. It's perhaps easy to imagine the Internet arrived one day fully-formed, but what we really see is merely the crust of an accreted mass of defunct and forgotten networks, whose conventions and aesthetics sometimes surface.

I wanted to express some sense of layered and entangled technologies in this new design, whose blue-black-&-white colour scheme approximates a generic 'browser default'. I wanted it to suggest a directness between the screen and the underlying technology, while remaining self-evidently designed. On the one hand it's as though we're back in 1991, having stumbled across a directory index or a mailing list archive. On the other, it's like seeing a Doric column in the middle of a shopping centre. A technology not entirely out of place, yet not entirely appropriate. Really, it's a great act of nostalgia for an imagined, unbranded World Wide Web that perhaps never existed, but which in my mind ought to.

This design draws on my continued reading of Low Tech Magazine, and from there finding HTML.Energy and a group of associated artists, writers, and coders including Becca Abbe and Tom Bubul. It reflects my increasing ease of working with minimal configuration—of leaving the heavy lifting to other parts of the system, of focussing on just the accent of individuality. Its simplicity ensures its resilience and accessibility—this will load on any device that can render HTML. I suppose I'm optimistic about the future of the web, and enthusiastic about what can be achieved with a few lines of HTML and CSS.

Technically, how did I do it? I removed the Meyer Reset CSS, allowing the browser defaults to surface. In turn, this made much of the CSS I had written defunct. I removed this, and managed to half the size of the file, which is now a refreshingly light 1.7KB. Practically, what does this mean? Very little. Perhaps the colour scheme makes it easier to see the hyperlinks, perhaps it will load a fraction of a second quicker, or save a few kilobytes on a monthly data cap. The redesign was simply a practical indulgence, a necessary distraction.