A short time after beginning to educate myself in HTML and the technical procedures of creating an Internet presence in late 1995, I cautioned that, although many of you believed me to be a master of the vast functional and creative capacity of the World Wide Web, that I only displayed the title WebMaster in accordance with custom and with regard to my interest in attaining the ability to create a site representative of the best that was SMA. I had a keen awareness that I was lacking in many ways: the technical obsolescence of my current system, which still is the same, though upgraded, being the least of these. HTML is only one facet that sparkles within the jewel that is the World-wide Web. But it is the facet most important to the presentation of ideas through text and pictures, as on the page of a book, and for my purpose, the brightest and most valuable.
The first version of the SMA site was launched on April 24, 1996, and I was then only just beginning to deal with such basic available tools as font controls. There still are whole languages I only copy and adapt, like CGI, JAVA, and even newer, which are designed to make the Web a vibrant, interactive and dynamic media, with pages that come alive, as with the water-effect on the bottom of the Titanic page, and the scrolls and counters throughout the pages that have appeared in the years since. Where I once knew nothing, I now have learned to utilize enough of these languages to add some diversity and polish, and it has been worthwhile. I think that the class administrators, who have become a part of the site since 1998, will agree that their experience has also been rewarding.
I have often been asked why I spend my time on this project, and my motivation--aside from the reason expressed above--was expressed to both David Freidberg, SMA '68, the principal contributor and author of the biography on the Thailand page, and Del Richardson, SMA '67, whose narrative biography appears in the Alaska page:
[David...] the last response I sent to Del and copied you provides the answer [why are you spending your time...]. What you and he are doing is extraordinary, for one thing, and that makes documenting it worthwhile, in and of itself. But, the larger answer lies in the satisfaction I mentioned, which would not come from spending my time on some sort of personal vanity page, as has become a common thing; although, the site is undeniably an outlet for things that interest me. I've even added local political commentary to the weather page, which probably makes it the most oddball weather page on the Internet.Having said that, I thank you for your still-continuing notes of appreciation, and I thank the class administrators, now led by Mark Orr, whose pages add so much to the site, and John Deal, SMA '49, and Mark Orr, again, who took over John's work as registrar after John's death, with their maintenance of the off-line and class-year page alumni lists, a job which is, to me, the most difficult and tedious of all. I am happy to find that the site is growing on both sides of the ISP, and that it is being used and enjoyed. But, as I said at the end of the quoted passage above, this is a site to which you may contribute. If you have a technical leaning and would like to be a class administrator, or an interest in any of the areas outside of the core site pages, please let me know. I'll post the best links I can get, and informed contributions in the disciplined areas are welcome. New pages can be created, as well, depending on the material.
But the fact is...an alumni newsletter article which expressed an interest in having a site developed is what gave me a reason to finally go ahead and learn the HTML and technical aspects required to do it. I had already been thinking about to what I could direct the learning process, so it was an effort that was wanting, but unwilling to move for a project that had no purpose outside of just learning the code.
The real satisfaction, though, is based upon the ability to keep alive an institution that would otherwise, it would seem, be dead, and in my mind, there is little that can say so much about what SMA was as what her student cadets have become. That is why the directory page [and now, the Hall of Fame, maintained by Mark Orr], with its links to the alumni web pages, and the diversity of achievement they reveal, are so very important. But personalizing stories like yours and Del's adds a special flavor that I would expect is unique to our site, and I hope to, before I am done with yours and Del's stories, stumble onto another and thereby perpetually add to the mix, in so much as I have the time and interest to do so.
Look forward to special features, such as editorial and greeting messages from SMA staffers, and perhaps, periodic updates on the educational tradition that is guaranteed to continue on The Hill, through the auspices of Mary Baldwin College.