Museum of Modern Ahmet
I have been tracing my digital fingerprints over the web since I first became online in 1997. Surprisingly, and pleasantly I have found so much content. And I love it.
First a little of my digital history before the interwebs
I got my first computer in 1990. It was an 80286 with 1MB RAM, a VGA color graphics adaptor, and a 20MB hard drive (although it could have also been in 1991 with a 40MB hard drive; I’m not certain about these details). Before that, I had an Atari. In fact, I had many Ataris because my dad was in the business of operating an Atari playhouse (“Atarici”). In 1991, my school offered a weekend course for computers, which was taught by the school’s English teacher/accountant and focused on BASIC. Looking back, it seems strange to teach 8-year-olds BASIC, but it worked for me. I got hooked, and I’ve been programming ever since.
I upgraded my computer in 1997 to a Pentium 100 with 16MB RAM, an 850MB hard drive, a 33.6K modem, a CD-ROM (with a 16x CDROM, if I remember correctly), and a sound card. It was a key moment for me, as I was now able to play the games I had only been able to read about in computer magazines. Additionally, this computer got me started on the internet, as it came with a free browser (“the surfboard for the internet”) included: Internet Explorer 3.0. I signed up for a local ISP (AdaNet, which had just been founded the year before) by going to their physical office. Their basic package included 15 hours of monthly usage and website hosting. I also picked a super secure password of 5 characters total. I was proud of my own creativity in coming up with a password on the spot.
At that point, I started creating online content. Now, in 2023, I’m tracing my digital history on the internet.
First beginning: A Geocities moment
AdaNet was my Geocities moment. I created a webpage with FrontPage and emailed the files to the admin. The page was complete with a .wav file welcoming visitors with “Hoşgeldiniz! Ben Ahmet Altay” and a marquee of rolling jokes. It was June 13, 1997, and I was officially saying hello to the world! My 13-year-old self was proud of it, although, after 26 years, it looks cringe-worthy.
This page was hosted at www.ada.net.tr/~aaltay/. That page no longer exists, but thankfully, the Internet Archive1 preserved it. A good copy of it is available here.
A notable part of this page was a downloads section for my programs, complete with a recycle bin for DOS, a cheat program for the Minesweeper game, a slide presentation software and a separately distributable runtime for that, and a utility for Windows to exit quickly. What a great collection! I’m proud that I was already distributing my applications online. I wish I had the source code for those as well.
My own domain: ahmetaltay.net
In 2004, I registered my first domain name. It had been a dream of mine since 1999, but the high cost of $70 per year at register.com had prevented me from pursuing it earlier. Eventually, the price came down, and I was able to claim my own domain name: ahmetaltay.net.
At that time, I had a PHP website hosted by Ankara Host, a one-person company owned by my high school friend, who is still a close friend today. The website is no longer available, but thanks to the Internet Archive, a good copy of it is still accessible here.
The website had both Turkish and English home pages, with the latter being a limited version with translated content
It linked to my blog at that time, which I hosted on Blogger and still maintain today. The blog contains 169 posts spanning from 2005 to 2013, which is an important period in my life when I moved to a different country, found my first job, and met my now-wife. Reading the posts now, they reflect my emotional journey and my attempts to connect the dots in my changing life.
In addition to my blog, I also had an articles page, which served as a preamble to my blog. I had a dedicated programming section with write-ups, source code, a mobile J2ME app, a time management/note-taking/to-do app, an “AI” to solve Tic Tac Toe 😂, and a file compression utility. I used “Prizma Software”2 in the about pages during that time.
One of the most interesting features of my website was an online tool that I called OpenHTML. It allowed anyone to append any HTML directly to a specific page 🤦, making it a powerful guestbook. It was in “beta” for so long that I cleverly renamed it to “OpenHTMLbeta.”
I liked the about me page, which was written in a fun tone. Similarly, I kept a list of changes with dates in the “What’s New” section, and when it got too long, I archived them in the “What’s Old” section.
Around 2011, I updated my website, simplified it quite a bit, and wrote a new about page.. That was the end of that iteration.
My many own domains
Around 2012, I built altaysoft.com to showcase some of my Android, Nook, and Java desktop applications. Sadly, there is only a poorly preserved archive of that page, and it is missing all formatting, media, and most of the content.
At some point, I also owned ahmetaltay.info (circa 2014), but it never had real content and was just a redirect to my homepage.
Starting in 2013, I switched to the altay.me domain. It started as a WordPress blog and eventually evolved into this website. Around 2018, my other domains started to redirect here as well. In 2023, I tried to acquire altay.com, but it was too expensive for my taste 🙂.
Lessons and Emotions from the Past
Reflecting on my past digital experiences, I am pleasantly surprised by how much content I generated over the years. I shared long-form thoughts, short-form thoughts, pictures, binaries, source code, movie and book reviews, music I was listening to and more. I am glad that I am still doing that and sharing my thoughts publicly. Although I now spread my content across my blog, Twitter, various photo services, and GitHub, I am glad that I still use my own website for the majority of my content. Hopefully, I will be able to repeat this experiment in 20 years.
Revisiting my digital past showed me how much I enjoyed coding, building applications, and sharing them while seeking feedback. Creating software adds value to the world, and I am pleased that I can look back on artifacts I created from over 26 years ago that still exist today.
It was surprising to see how much had stayed constant even after multiple decades. I still have a passion for writing, sharing, learning, growing, and connecting with others. My desire to remain in touch with family and close friends has remained a constant, and my fundamental values have not changed.
One of the highlights of revisiting my old content was reading through my various ‘about me’ pages. These pages were both creative and fun ways to introduce myself to others.
As I read through my many posts, I saw myself growing over time. I became more confident in expressing vulnerability, sharing my struggles, and detailing how my values, beliefs, and life were evolving over time. Some of those posts were challenging to write initially, but I’m glad that I documented my growth and evolution over time. I wish I had written more personal posts and had fewer long gaps in between. However, I plan to work on that in the next 25 years.