Ceefax pages

After many weeks of toil, www.jameslark.co.uk is finally online.

I made my first website when I was temping for the civil service using a free web-builder template, so there wasn’t any skill involved except in choosing the right pictures to put on it and pretending I was actually processing grant applications. (I maintain that my website is one of the most creative and interesting projects that the office in question saw, and I still didn’t get a government grant.)

But it has long since ceased to be useful and interesting, and for some time I have been putting off learning how to properly design a website. Until a few weeks ago, when I started the process of sitting for many hours at a time making decisions about layout and looking a lot of photographs of myself.

I was cheerfully explaining this to a friend at the weekend when she asked me “why exactly do you need a website?” and I realised that it was a legitimate question to which I didn’t entirely know the answer.

The reasons I gave her went along these lines:

1. A website is a useful tool for self-promotion in the arts
2. erm…..

I’m not a huge fan of self-promotion, but I was given a lot of advice about websites a while back by an actress called Rosanne Priest, who says she has even been offered jobs on the basis of her website alone thanks to its clear layout. Presumably, if you present yourself as if you’re the dog’s bollocks, casting directors might presume it to be true. So I’ve swallowed my lack of pride and exaggerated all my achievements. A bit.

In the process of doing so, a different possible line of reasoning for making a website has presented itself:

1. to make my life feel justified and in some way worthwhile
2. to impress my friends and family

Again, in the arts this is kind of legitimate – it’s not as if I can expect regular promotions or pay rises to make me feel like I’m getting somewhere, or indeed to indicate to relatives that, yes, I am making something of my life. So a pretty web-page displaying all the latest news, or better still a page of reviews saying I’m good, may even be the thing that stops me from committing suicide when it’s all going horribly wrong.

Although perhaps I should also consider the possibility that:

1. I like having photographs of myself displayed on the internet
2. especially when they make me look like I’m modelling for a perfume advert

Check out the miscellaneous gallery if you think I’m exaggerating – it’s amazing what sympathetic lighting with black and white film can achieve.

But now that I have finished the process of building my website, the sense of aimlessness I am feeling suggests to me that perhaps the real reason for doing it was the sense of purpose and achievement I gained in learning to do it in the first place. After all, let us remember that I am of a generation that, in terms of technology, is “old”.

I mean, I presume they teach people how to make websites at school now. They certainly should. To the younger generation, getting one’s face all over the internet is – well – child’s play.

When I was at school we learned how to make ceefax pages. Yes, really – we sat at the BBC micros laboriously placing little squares of colour on the screen like on ceefax.

Perhaps our teachers thought that ceefax pages were the way of the future. Maybe they envisaged an internet-like web of ceefax pages which we would all contribute to one day. Or maybe they thought there would be a lot of openings working for ceefax in years to come.

Either way, they were wrong, and you won’t find my ceefax page anywhere on the internet, with its purple blinking greeting “WELCOME TO JAMES LARK’S COMPUTER PROGRAMME!!” (until somebody pointed out that in that context it you spell it “program”).

The idea of a room full of people sitting making ceefax pages is probably as foreign to the youth of today as the idea of people writing on slates, and slightly more laughable. Even in my own head it plays out like a scene from a period drama. Ah, the early nineties is a foreign country indeed.

By learning how to make a website I feel I have managed to keep up with technological advances. In a minor way perhaps, but in a way which means I can give my Godchildren a few pointers on how to do it in years to come.

Or at least get pointers from them without being totally confused.

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