from Paul, the Webmaster
In mid-February of 1996, Alf phoned me with the wild idea of creating a web site. At that time, the Internet (outside of schools and the military) had only been around for a short time. New domains were starting to spring up, but it was nothing like what we see today. Creating a corkscrew-balloon web site seemed like a crazy idea ... and so, of course, it had to be done!
We moved fast, although the machinery supporting the Internet itself didn't move as fast back then. We had to get set up with hosting services; we needed to register the domain name. Physical checks for various payments actually had to cross the country and reach the people who needed to be paid. From today's perspective, it was like the days of the Pony Express (although the telegraph appeared to be coming soon).
The corkscrew-balloon domain name's registration became effective on February 29, 1996, and the site was launched.
Domain Name: CORKSCREW-BALLOON.COM
Created on: 29-Feb-96
Because the expansion of the previously non-commercial, non-personal Internet into a more "open" vehicle was controversial in some circles (and we didn't want to step on any toes), I drafted a justification as to why this "enterprise" required a web presence. I decided to emphasize the corkscrew aspects, in particular the educational benefits of Alf's collection and the impact his "international dealings in the antique corkscrew market" would have on the global economy. As it turned out, nobody ever asked for this document.
As soon as all the registrations went through, however, all pretense of seriousness was abandoned, and soon, the "Bead of Sweat Girl" was greeting visitors to the opening page at www.corkscrew-balloon.com. (Bead of Sweat Girl was followed shortly thereafter by the "heroin chic" girls who had been waiting in the wings.)
Initial plans called for three main pages: One for corkscrews, one for hot-air ballooning, and one for elephant polo. As required, these pages might expand to include sub-pages. That humble plan has grown to the thousands of pages that you find here now.
Less than three months after the site's launch, an event occurred that set the future course for The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com. Alf presented his friend Denise with a choice: She could keep her boring job at the gym, or she could quit and spend three weeks traveling in Europe with an impromptu touring group, writing about the group's adventures bicycling, hot-air ballooning, and partying throughout Italy. She wisely chose the second alternative, deep-sixing her gym duties, and in the summer of 1996 she brought us "21 Reasons Why Denise Quit Her Job," with each day of the adventure presenting a new reason.
Thus began the "journaling" aspect of the site. Journals have followed ever since, largely written by Alf, but with numerous "guest journalists," too. Two years ago, on the site's eighth birthday, we compiled a list of all of the guest journals, along with some additional history. For more of the story, and for links to those journals and to some archives of some very early pages from the site, visit the 8th birthday page.
During the first few years, the journals went through a bit of a reporting lag. After a trip was complete, the trip's journalist would forward the report, via email or a diskette, here, to the west coast editorial offices of THOCBDC ... and the journalist (and other contributors) would also send the paper photographs, printed from film negatives, via U.S. Mail or Federal Express to the same destination. Here, the paper photos would be scanned (with equipment that was at first laughably primitive but later somewhat more advanced), and the entire trip's journal would ultimately appear, all at once, a few weeks after the trip was over. (Even though this was only a few years ago, it's difficult to believe that this is how it all happened during those first few years. No wonder there weren't as many sites back then! Now, of course, journal entries and their accompanying digital photos are instantly transmitted around the globe.)
With better communications and the arrival of digital cameras, journal entries have been posted in a timely manner pretty much every day for the past six or seven years; a substantial portion of the days during the early years can also be found in the "old fashioned" journals.
In the mid to late 1990s, when the Internet was A New Thing and there were only a relatively small number of web pages in the world, "web surfers" would find interesting sites and spread the word about them. A number of outlets reported on new and interesting destinations regularly, and the recommended sites were awarded a seal of approval. This corkscrew-balloon site was frequently recognized by these arbiters of "Take a look at this!"
One of the first major outlets to notice THOCBDC was USA Today, which asked, on the front page of its Life section, in February 1997, just a few days before our first birthday: "What do you do if your hobbies include collecting corkscrews, playing elephant polo and ballooning? Why, create a Web page, of course!" Here are a few of the "awards" that we still remember receiving, back in those early days when the web was young:
In more recent years, the "awards" have given way to a different measure of recognition: an increasing torrent of visitors. In its first month, March 1996, the web server's logs indicate a total of 5,029 files transfered during the course of the month. By March 2001, halfway to today, the number of files was up to 7,174 per day. In the month just ended – February 2006 – the number of files served pushed the needle on the hits gauge to its now-typical level of nearly 3,000 per hour.
The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com, a pioneer of the Internet, continues to forge ever onward and upward. To all you visitors who have shared the trip: Thanks and keep coming back!
Next: Disney World