Old vs New

2010-05-16 22:38:08.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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To start, let me just say that the thumbnail to this comment is suppose to look like that. No matter how long you sit there waiting for an image to appear, nothing is going to pop up because the picture of “Loading Comment…” is the picture for this comment. Why? Well, just over a decade ago, loading images, icons or comments used to be the standard when surfing the web. Most websites were raw, stripped down sites made up mostly of text to accommodate the slow speeds of dial-up modems. I can still remember listening to the familiar startup tune of the modem and then going to yahoo.com to check my email and maybe read some short text news stories. But as urbanized areas started to get faster internet connections, websites like Yahoo! started to add pictures. Since I lived in a rural area on dial-up, any link that had a picture meant that either the loading hour glass would pop up as I waited for the site to load or only the text would load and then the loading image for the pictures would pop up.

Over the years, the internet continued to evolve as the connection to it evolved as well. The faster the connections and computers became, the more things a site could add. Today, pictures, videos, flash based objects, etc have all become the norm on most websites. And with connection speeds getting faster and faster, loading bars for most people is becoming something of the past. I say for “most people” because I know some people still operate on dial-up. But for those of us that don’t have to wait or don’t have to wait long to surf the web, the internet has become a richer experience. To show you what I mean, I will use our very own website, www.mountwashington.org, to illustrate this point via the use of the website web.archive.org (also known as the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine). (Note: this is just the “quick history” of the website as I see it and not an official year by year/day by day account of our websites history.)

The earliest archive that the Wayback Machine has of our website is November 11, 1996. The home page for 1996 had our old logo, some simple text, and some links to go to for more information. Exploring this archived site (note, not all of the links work) you can see our old forecast, some of the early photo journal pictures, and some other interesting but sometimes dated facts about the summit. What you won’t find though are Obscasts, forums, or observer comments among other things. Clicking through the next year of stored data, we see a change in our site by October 17, 1997. It starts to become a richer experience as more links are added along with a bit more color (1990s pastels anyone?) and more images. There still wasn’t a section devoted to observer comments but while exploring the forecast for the day, it seemed this is where early forms of the observer comments started to take shape as the forecast section had a weather summary/comment melded into one.

The experience becomes a bit richer in 1999 and again in 2000 when observer comments begin to show up on the front page. A lot of days, the site would read “[NONE]” or over time, “Observer’s Comments: [NONE]”. On the days where comments were updated, they barely resembled what people have come to expect nowadays. A comment posted in the past usually only consisted of a line or two. Let me give you an example: October 18, 2000, someone wrote: “Another clear morning allows another view of the sunrise. Mild weather continues on the summit and is expected to stick around until mid week.” Although some comments were longer than others, it seems that a paragraph or two didn’t become the norm until 2002. This is also confirmed by the archived observer comments we have in house.

Now, over time, minor things were tweaked to the site between 2000 and April 24, 2006 to make it a richer and smoother experience. Thumbnails were occasionally added to comments, comments themselves started to include links to other sites or additional pictures. The high summits outlook was altered and the valley forecasts was eventually added. The photo journal started to include higher resolution pictures as digital cameras with more pixels became more standard. But the next most noticable change came on April 25, 2006 when the entire format of the website changed. Drop down boxes replaced the numerous links of old and the front page became cleaner as it was only populated with some of our most viewed objects. Around this time is when I remember webcams and forums being added to the site as well.

The next year, our logo got updated in celebration of our 75th anniversary and it brought an end to the pastel logo that marked the ’90’s and early ’00’s. Obscasts, weekly videos we put out for our members, were added to the site as well as additional webcam views and videos. And in the years since 2007, additional tweaks have been made leaving us with the page you are currently seeing (Unfortunately I can’t walk you through those changes visually as the Wayback Machine stopped archiving our site in late October of 2007 for some reason.) And the page you are viewing today is, in my opinion, a much richer experience than what I had to work with when I first started here in December of 2005. With todays faster connections, pictures pop up with ease, longer comments seem standard and are posted daily (or at least they should be), videos, whether they are our Obscasts or something on youtube.com, stream instantly, and weather forecasts are updated by 6 am each morning.

So to move from plain, basic and slow to colorful, rich and fast in a little over a decade is pretty impressive. It makes your wonder what tomorrow might bring. Even on a mobile phone with web access (http://m.mwobs.org), our page is faster than what it was on a computer 10 years ago on dial up. We can now get what we want in an instant and then move onto to something else. Now the only thing slowing us down isn’t waiting for the content to load but actually getting through the content itself. Case in point is this observer comment. In the past when comments started to be posted, it might take you a minute to load the actual page just to read the sentence or two. Today however, it probably came up instantly but you had to spend the last minute or so reading it over. So it seems the loading bar has moved off the screen and has become something we all carry inside kind of like an internal loading bar as our brains load what we are seeing and reading off the internet. And since you had the patience to load this page to your computer and in turn your brain, here is another pretty picture from a few days ago to close out my comment with. If it doesn’t load immediately, just be patient, it will eventually.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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