The night of July 7th, 2000, I couldn’t sleep. I’m prone to insomnia so this wasn’t new to me but as I was lying there in a fugue between desire to sleep and annoyance at being awake, I managed to start building up an idea that I just couldn’t let go. It sounds counter-intuitive, but in order to rest, I needed to get out of bed and build this idea on my 15-inch gray-translucent computer with a hockey puck for a mouse.
I was thinking back over my day, going through how long it took me to get to work, what I ate while I was there, what things I had done during the day, and so on. While doing so, I envisioned some kind of layer beneath the surface of my life that recorded what I was doing at that moment into a document to be read later in a sort of Defending Your Life kind of way, and it occurred to me that HTML was a pretty neat way of capturing that. It’s an idea I’d find brilliantly visualized by the agency MK12 in Will Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction some years later:
Anyway, so I took the main data points of my previous day and codified them into an XML/HTML-type language. As this was an art project, it was important to me that the code be highlighted and colored so that when you looked at it as a web page in a browser, it resembled what HTML might look like when edited in BBEdit:
With a rough draft complete, the idea was mercifully out of my head and I could finally sleep. I remember nothing about the next day.
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(Looking at it closer now, it’s no surprise to me that I love React/JSX so much. Also, a lighter version of it won some awards in a web contest in 2001, which I can ironically no longer link to).