MARCH 4, 2020
CODEC: 209.9563 -06.5399


I never learned how to code. Because of this, I was so excited as I watched the web become more and more accessible through platforms that turned WYSIWYGs into the norm. What I didn't realize is that these WYSIWYGs would lead to a cookie-cutter internet where everything looks the same and no one has any room to create what they desire.

When I was in high school I took a computer class with the hopes that it would teach me the things that I needed in order to build. Instead, I was put in front of a computer loaded with a copy of Microsoft Frontpage, and given very specific instructions on how to build a website about golf balls. I finished the exercise in thirty minutes, and have no other memories from the class at all.

When I was in middle school I came across a "the web for dummies" book in a bookstore that my father and I frequented. The book began by saying how wonderful it would be when (not if, but when) everyone learned how to code. What power this would put in the world's hands!

Instead of this utopia, we instead have an internet where a handful of organizations have this power and choose to pass a watered down version to the rest of us. Instead of coding, we build with rudimentary blocks. Instead of blogging, we tweet. Instead of creating, we watch.

When I was in elementary school two brand new computers were delivered to the building. The school already had a few computers, but they were green-and-grey text machines, these had user interfaces and graphics. The school cherished these devices, sacred new totems that had so much learning potential stored within. One day I was plunked down in front of the screen and told to 'make a website,' and given a pre-logged in Geocities account with my name on it. There were no further instructions. I had just learned about outer space, and so I decided to make a website about black holes. It was three pages, each with a pitch black background. The home page had a gif of a rotating black hole spinning ominously in the center, and the other two pages had facts I copied from library books. I can't recall any teacher asking me to properly cite my sources. My friend made her site about cheetahs, on the computer next to me. She said she was amazed by how fast they could run.

I look back on that fondly, and I realize now that I want that internet again. Not the internet of now, with its building-block limitations. Not the internet of my high school days, with its copy-and-paste HTML requirements. Not even the internet that I read about in middle school, idealistic, casting vision for something far off.

I want the elementary school internet, the one that felt clunky and weird and strange and yes, a little bad, because even though it felt half-baked it also felt substantial and ready for anything. I didn't worry about making my black hole website perfect, I just made it and pushed 'save'.

Then, there it was, on the internet for all to see. A piece of my mind, focused on something I was fascinated on, cast out in a beacon, ready to be found by anyone else out there.

'Hello, world.'