PEI2014: The Island Web at 20

In addition to the other hullabaloo, 2014 almost marks the 20th anniversary of the first Prince Edward Island website, one I was happy to midwife during my tenure at the PEI Crafts Council from 1993 to 1994.

The site – – isn’t around any longer (although its descendant is) and it’s old enough that’s it’s not even archives in the Wayback Machine. It went live on July 7, 1994, announced with a press release sent out, among other destinations, to Usenet, where it remains archived for posterity. My favourite part of that press release is “For additional information on the World Wide Web, contact Tim Berners-Lee at the European Labratory for Particle Physics.”

The site itself was running on an IBM-PC sitting on my desk at 156 Richmond Street in Charlottetown. It was running Linux, and was connected to the Internet via two 14.4 kbps modems, one on eash end of a leased Island Tel copper circuit, with the other end at PEINet on Kent Street across from the fire hall. That’s about 1500 times less bandwidth than I have running into my office now, but it did the job. And people visited: as I related in a speech in Newfoundland later that year:

And then I took our old MS-DOS database files, massaged them a bit, wrote some programs under UNIX to allow them to be searched, and plugged our Gopher and World Wide Web servers in.

I put notices up in the various crafts related newsgroups and got us listed in the InterNIC and Gopher jewels directories, wrote a short FAQ file about how to get to us, and opened the door.

Since we went “live” on July 11, we’ve averaged about 300 Gopher hits a day, with about half as many Web hits. Roughly 1500 people have searched our database which, if your extrapolate out over a year at the same level of usage, would mean 9000 searches a year and a cost to us of just over $2 a search.

While the Crafts Council website didn’t last much longer than my time with the organization, the investment in that project – from the provincial and federal governments and from CANARIE – paid off: I took the skills I developed there and applied them to creating a website for the Province of PEI, a project that I remained with for 8 years, and they are, fundamentally, the skills I use in my job every day.

While this PEI2014 doesn’t have a logo nor a Shania Twain concert to its name, I think it’s worthy of marking nonetheless: come July maybe I’ll track down Kevin O’Brien and Jim Hancock and Dave Cairns and Bob Horobin and Earlene Gallant and Scott Fletcher and Irene Renaud and everyone else who helped make it happen and we’ll toast the memory of the little website that did.


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