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Launching A Cutting Edge Website In 1997

Looking through The Gadget Guru online text archives, I found this story from March 11, 1997 and it brought back some memories of the online space nearly 20 years ago. This story related to a new generation of the GadgetGuru.com website and while it was satirical in tone, it captured the flavor of what it was like creating a website in that era.

 

To set the stage, at the time GadgetGuru.com had captured a lot of eyeballs, but in my question to document this history accurately, there were not that many choices for online information at the time. Much of the attention brought to the site was due to the fact that I was participating in a quite a few TV shows, print and online projects simultaneously. And, much of the attention came to GadgetGuru.com as there were not that many alternatives.

Here’s a look at what it was like launching what was then, a massive overhaul to an existing website.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 11, 1997 — In a move sure to please users and strike fear in the hearts of imitators and competitors, the Gadget Guru unveiled his new website design at 4:30pm CST on Monday. The long-awaited renovation got off to a rocky start due to a network outage caused when a construction crew accidentally severed a T1 line, but thanks to the untiring efforts of webmaster Rob Braden, service was restored by 2:30am. News of the enhanced service spread outward through the net like wildfire. 

“It’s astonishing,” marvelled one awestruck websurfer, one of the first to make the early morning connection. “It’s blazing fast and easier than ever to find the latest product reviews.” Other vistors, pushing the server volume to near its capacity, were similarly impressed.
The new site features a completely new style, designed with speed, elegance, and clarity in mind. “We wanted to extend the newspaper metaphor to the web,” said the Guru’s systems engineer, Eric O’Dell. “With the steady guidance of the Guru’s expert eye, what we got exceeded our wildest expectations. Unlike many other sites, our site incorporates a bold mixture of rich, relevant content and eye-catching graphics, subordinating form to function and…” Overcome by the jargon peculiar to artists with technical backgrounds, O’Dell’s further remarks became hard to follow. Simply put, the Guru’s new site contains informative articles and product pictures, and it loads quickly.

New features, implemented by Braden and O’Dell under the direction of the Gadget Guru, include a search interface at the bottom of every page along with a quick product locator, a site menu and manufacturer index in the left margin of every page, and an enhanced message board. Also featured are summaries of recent stories on the site’s home page.

Coming soon is a review archive by date, more manufacturer pages, even more product reviews than before, and a monthly product review newsletter in Adobe Acrobat format.

Rumors that even more enhancements are planned could not be confirmed. We inquired with webmaster Rob Braden, whose heroic early morning troubleshooting session saved the day, but he declined comment, rolled over, and began snoring.

Yes, we had a sense of humor in The Gadget Guru offices!

And, I’m wondering if you noticed that in the third paragraph, there was a typo. Marvelled should be spelled, marveled. And, isn’t websurfer two words?

Looking back, it appears we needed to upgrade our spellchecker too!

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