In 1996, I had a web page. I was 15 years old and - as far as I know - the first person in my school (and perhaps, my area) to have one. It started at gurulink.net/~goody, my first tilde site.
That site was largely a cobbled together mess made with the assistance of (I think) Hotdog HTML editor, cribbed images from my favorite bands, and whatever else I could get my grubby little 15 year old hands on.
After finding about Beverly Hill Internet (later known as geocities; much later known as "shuttered"), I became enamored with living in a virtual city a lá the metaverse and - befitting my obsession with music at the time - moved into SunsetStrip.
Shortly after discovering the web, my mom brought home a copy of Visual Studio 4. Now, the thing to remember about back then was that if you were interested in programming, you mostly did it on the desktop. Web servers were prohibitively expensive, the "cloud" was limited to whatever static HTML you could jam onto a free, public site, and besides only desktop programming was "real" programming (at least to my mind).
So I picked up Visual Basic. I picked up C++. And I started programming. And I felt pretty good about myself.
When I went to college, I continued my focus on programming by majoring in Business Administration. That turned out to be about as good of an idea as it sounds. It's difficult to keep your grades up when you're programming 12 hours a day.
It wasn't all downside, though. Working with a designer friend, we produced a piece of software called "Photogenerator". Photogenerator was a piece of software that, when paired with Photoshop, approximated the workflow of dealing with debabelizer. If you were looking to script the conversion of image files from one format to another, change the colorspace, or anything else that we could hook into, we were your guys. We sold it as shareware for $45, which was a steep discount from debabelizer which was, if I recall correctly, about $2k. It was downloaded about 100k times. We made about $1,000. Which for a poor college student was amazing, and really turned me onto the idea of being able to make a living at programming. Apparently the dotcom boom wasn't enough evidence for me - I wasn't a particularly bright kid.
By the end of my freshmen year, I had gotten enough of a reputation to be recommended to the folks at InsideGuide. InsideGuide was a dot-com era company that had a vague notion to create campus-specific webpages, maintained by college students and supported by banner advertising. The editorial content, tone, and presentation were all up to us; InsideGuide merely provided the playground, a rather shitty CMS (rather fantastic by today's standards; it was incredibly lax with what you could put in there).
So for the rest of my freshman year, I set out to make the best damn InsideGuide site that I could. I created mass amounts of editorial content. I couldn't find enough (read:any) contributors, so I made up a stable of my own and produced everything under pseudonyms (this was entirely within the rules, btw). If I found backgrounds that I liked online, I'd download them, fuck around with them in photoshop until they resembled something original,