Matchstick Media Production

Online Portfolio for the Web Sites Built and Managed by Matt Slaybaugh

History

I first began creating websites in 1994. I was working at Cornell University and had access to the Internet that was better than most people at the time. I was familiar with Gopher and Archie but the Web was new to me. I downloaded the Mosaic browser and noticed that lots of colleges and their departments had websites. We did not, however, and when I asked my boss about it, he paused and said, “Good idea. Make one.”

The first step was getting a server, so I went to a storeroom where there were a bunch of DEC Alphas gathering dust. I selected one and got it on the network with some help. We had to decide what to call the server. Our local domain was “bio.cornell.edu”, and I suggested the name, “web.bio.cornell.edu”. I was told however, that the convention was to call the server “www…” which made no sense to me since it was so cumbersome to pronounce (“web” has one syllable, while “www” has nine).

Once up, I got the NCSA http daemon from the Urbana-Champagne servers at the University of Illinois, and got to work.

I had made HyperCard and SuperCard applications, so HTML was not a big deal. I had already used Photoshop as well and so my toolbag was nearly complete. And I have to wonder at people learning web development now. It was so easy for me when there was so little to learn and each new tag or protocol was delayed by months. When I started, web pages could not have images or tables, or a background any color other than gray.

The big conceptual development came from learning JavaScript. I had done some programming on the Atari 800 as a kid, but JavaScript is where I learned the basic concepts of if/then, while loops, variables and arrays, etc.

Then, in 1997 I moved to New York and joined the heady Web scene there. I worked full-time for a variety of dot-coms, some of which no longer exist, not even on the Wayback Machine. That is a bit disillusioning, to work for weeks or months on something that now has no trace of it – that’s the ephemeral nature of this business.

In 2002 I chose to not renew my contract with the United Nations, where I was working at the time and “made the leap” to working exclusively as a freelancer. The insurance and constant hustle for work has been challenging at times, but the flexibility has made up for that.