Boba Fett’s Lair
A quick story about the first real thing I put on the web, along with some GeoCities-era web archaeology.
In the early days of the web, people just made web pages. There were no social networks, and the closest equivalents of the time — forums, chat rooms, IRC, etc. — weren’t really platforms for creative expression, but places for people to meet and connect.
If you wanted to express yourself, you built a personal site, and the giant in this space was GeoCities. There were others like Angelfire, FortuneCity, and Tripod, but GeoCities was by far the largest, at least in terms of mindshare. I don’t know what made GeoCities so much more popular than the others, but the fact that there were no obligations to post a link back to GeoCities was a selling point for me. The others always seemed like cheap knock-offs of the original, which put me even deeper into the GeoCities camp.
Personal sites being an expression of one’s interests, it was common to build a site around a particular topic, which GeoCities not-so-subtly pushed you toward. When signing up, you had to choose a neighborhood and address. When a neighborhood filled up, they added a sub-neighborhood. On February 15, 1997, I staked my claim at Area51/Vault/3227. I had decided the topic of my site long before I ever actually launched it: Boba Fett.
I don’t really remember what made Boba Fett so interesting that I’d want to make an entire web site about the character. It could have just been that I was enthralled with the very idea of putting something on the internet, There was also the fact that there was so little material dealing with him that it was actually possible to build a definitive resource. The Special Editions had just been released in theaters, and though much maligned today, they had successfully restored Star Wars’s place in the broader pop culture consciousness. I guess it seemed like a somewhat natural topic to build a site around at the time.
I scoured the internet for anything Boba Fett related — no easy task before Google — and collected everything I could. Video was mostly out of the question, but I did compile a good collection of text, audio, images, and photos. I even painstakingly retyped entire articles from Star Wars guide books, which first necessitated buying the books.
It wasn’t all just downloaded images and sound clips ripped from VHS tapes. In January, 1998, I visited Star Wars: The Magic of Myth at the The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I had with me an early digital camera, and I managed to capture some surprisingly clear, though low-resolution photos of the exhibit. The Smithsonian’s original “virtual online exhibition” is still available on their website, and it is itself extremely GeoCities-esque. I’d say my photos are at least comparable to theirs.
In mid–late ’90s personal site terms, a few tens of thousands of hits added up to a fairly popular site. I eventually became a GeoCities community leader, which had minimal benefits and lots of extra work. The few extra megabytes of web space was both worth it and necessary to keep up with my growing collection. Eventually, as with most things, life got in the way and I moved on to other projects.
Enter the time warp
GeoCities is long gone, but much of what I posted there survives. I still have two more or less complete versions of the site, along with lots of spare parts from earlier iterations. Today I’m sharing the 1998 and 1999 designs of the site. The content isn’t significantly different between the two, but each one is a unique look into what I was doing with myself on the internet 20 years ago.
A bit of meta commentary
I have actually had some of this posted in the past, though it wasn’t linked to from anywhere. This time, things are a little different. I had wanted to post everything exactly as it appeared the days these versions of the site went up in 1998 and 1999, but it didn’t quite work out that way. My static site generator, despite being told to just move them to the build directory, decided to do some processing along the way. As a result, some of the late-’90s HTML was causing errors. I cleaned those up and took a few more steps, namely:
- Changed all media paths to they could be stored along with the rest of my images. This gives me some additional control over how they’re stored and served.
- Converted audio files. They’re nice, normal MP3s now. Although the Au file format is apparently a de facto standard, most people wouldn’t know what to do with it. I don’t expect many people to listen to low-quality audio clips, but I just want it to work if they do. I chose Au over WAV files at the time because the files were much smaller. I only had a few megabytes of storage, and 56K dial-up modems were the best most people could hope for.
- Converted video files. These were created with an ancient QuickTime codec that I couldn’t even open anymore, so I converted them. Unfortunately, they’re still postage stamp-sized full-frame VHS rips. Sorry!
- Replaced all the Smithsonian images. I had slightly higher quality versions with better color correction. Some had been cropped in 1999 to focus on the subject, but I think the original crops work better, since they provide a few interesting glimpses of the exhibit. I do have several more photos that I never posted at the time that I’ll eventually make available, as soon as I build some kind of gallery functionality for this site.
- Re-zipped downloads. Do you want 32x32-pixel, MacOS 8.5-era isometric Star Wars icons? Well, dig in and you’ll find some. They’re in standard .zip archives now instead of older Stuffit .sit archives. I also have an Aurebesh font for download, although you can find many more available elsewhere these days.
- Fixed a few broken links, because why not?
- Added analytics because I’m genuinely curious if anybody will ever actually see these pages.
One last thing
I swear I’m out of the Boba Fett fansite game, but I had to do just this final thing.
Boba Fett wears two insignia — one on his shoulder and another on his chest. I wanted to use the chest insignia in this post, but I couldn’t find a good quality version of it. Everything is either a poor quality bitmap, or a vector that doesn’t look even close to accurate. So I did what was necessary and made my own. It’s not perfect, but it got the job done for my purposes. If you think you can do better, well, have at it! I’m posting the source file to Sketch Cloud, and you can download an SVG or PNG from me. This design is based directly on the screen-accurate Return of the Jedi symbol from the costuming guide at the Boba Fett Fan Club. Check them out for all your current-day Boba Fett needs.