Content from before the internet existed is generally well documented, but there’s always gaps in the transition periods.
As new media formats appear, so must we develop the tools and methods to archive and store them. The oldest books are mostly gone, but we eventually figured it out. The same goes for newspapers: Virtually everything the New York Times ever published is available online. Early television was recorded on kinescope, which was never meant as a storage format, and most were lost or destroyed after they served their purpose of rebroadcasting across time zones. For the most part, however, we figure these things out and eventually it’s not a problem anymore.
Much of the early World Wide Web is lost. If the creator didn’t archive it, and the Wayback Machine didn’t catch it, it’s probably gone. Well, I’ve got one of those things to share.
In early 1999, the world was trembling with excitement for The Phantom Menace, the first Star Wars movie in 16 years. There was no such thing as ordering movie tickets online yet, so so we actually camped out in front of the movie theater, a week before the release. I wasn’t alone out there on Lackawanna Ave. in Scranton — I’m pretty sure it was the first time I met Colin Devroe. It’s hard to overstate what an event this movie was.
A few months ago, as I was first getting the digital decluttering bug, I came across a video file on an old hard drive. I actually had to download a codec to get it to play, but eventually it did open. What I found was a 60 Minutes interview of George Lucas by Leslie Stahl. The picture is minuscule, and the quality is basically as bad as you’d expect from internet video in 1999, but this broadcast was a big event at the time. So big that I downloaded it the day after it aired. It probably took a long time.
After looking around, I found that this video apparently isn’t available online anywhere else. This is it. CBS still has a page about the interview, but the video itself is long gone from their servers. Sadly, the article is filled with broken links to what looks like what would have been a really nice story package about the movie at the time.
The Phantom Menace may not have lived up to the hype, but it’s also hard to overstate exactly how huge the hype was. The hype itself was undeniably great. Please enjoy this little resurrected bit of the the hype: