November 15th, 1996.
I was in university and had started watching ER because my roommate brought the TV and she loved the show. I’d just spent 3 years in the back of beyond for boarding school and hadn’t watched any TV except Star Trek and the Olympics. It was that kind of life back in the 1990s for me. For her though, Thursday was ER, and she let me watch this new show Xena on Sundays, so I didn’t mind at all.
Just over a month and change into the year, my computer class got into websites. 1996, websites were pretty new and novel, and we were all tasked to make a website. Most of us had fiddled around with the free college hosting for ourselves, but this time we had a challenge:
- The webpage must include images
- The webpage must contain in-page links, internal (other pages) links, and external links
- The webpage has to be about someone you do not personally know and have to research
The first two were easy. The last one made me pause. Someone I don’t know? Someone I would have to research?
A lot of kids went for historical figures. I scribbled my basic design, and started looking up various people. IMDB was fairly new-ish (started in 1990), and I’d whet my teeth on BBS and other text-only interfaces, so I knew how to do the research part. But I didn’t want to do someone where there was easy information. I thought “Wouldn’t it be fun to make a page about someone most people don’t know.”
I didn’t know this snarky new intern on ER. Since my roommate taped the show, I watched the first three episodes with her, made a note of her name (Jorjan Fox) and got to work.
From Nothing into Something
I did well on my project, got a great grade, and thought nothing of it. I also left the page up on my college website because it wasn’t like it cost me anything. I’d learned a lot about websites, I’d learned a lot about Jorja (not Jorjan) Fox, and it was a fun experience for me.
Then one day I get an email from someone with some more information. How’d she find me? It turned out my site was the top hit when you looked up ‘Jorja Fox’ on HotBot. Back in 1996, HotBot was a search engine. At that time I’d used AltaVista and Lycos, but there indeed was my page, tops on HotBot.
I added the data and didn’t think too much about it until the next part of the class turned into “How search engines index.” Could I get my little page to rank well on the big guys?
Well. More or less, yes.
The State of the Fox
It’s been a quarter of a century now, and I probably have more random trivia about Jorja crammed in my head than any other human. And this year is a little more special than many, since we’re having Jorja back on TV for CSI: Vegas.
The day the original page went up probably wasn’t the 15th, though. I know the month, but since I can’t find the old homework notes, I picked the day because of the date the domain (jorjafox.net) was registered: 2000-11-15 — I bought the domain about 4 years after… who remembers the old domains?
That’s also one month into CSI being a thing. I held off until that was a sure-thing, apparently. It was still on Fridays but the signs were strong that CSI would stay the course.
It did and we did and here we are, 21 years (CSI) and 25 years (this site) later.
Same as it ever was. As long as Jorja’s out there, doing the work, the site will remain.
I’m kind of excited to see what happens in the next 25 years.