Friday, February 27, 2009

The stone age (i.e. 10 years ago)

Ooh, I’ve known Nimbos for 10 years. There should be a celebration. But he’ll have to settle for a blog post instead.

Nimbos and I both worked together at a mail order wine company, though in different parts of the building. A customer asked me when he could expect some wine he’d bought in advance of its bottling, and I was directed to Nimbos as the Man Who’d Know.

While Nimbos buzzed through the green-screen database for the answers, I noticed the keys on his desk. And the distinctive, anchor-shaped key ring.

“I know that object,” I said. And he knew I was quoting from Earthshock.

(At an academic thing last month, the Dr outed another fan by spotting the same TARDIS key on his watch-chain. He took great delight in showing it was attached to a Doctor Who fob watch.)

I invited Nimbos to the pub where Doctor Who fans still meet on the first Thursday of each month (I think; I haven’t been in ages). And he invited me to another colleague’s house to watch the first 30-second trailer for The Phantom Menace, which said colleague had spent all night downloading.

Hang on a sec… “Green-screen database”? All night downloading a 30-second trailer?

Such geekery reminds me how much things have changed, and how little the young folk will believe us. In early 1999, the mail order wine company was just daring to consider having its own website – fearing damage to the exemplary reputation it had built up over the phone.

Doctor Who and the SirensAround the same time came the promise of new Doctor Who on cassette – Big Finish would produce as much as one whole new story every couple of months. How would we ever keep up? CD versions were only available by special mail order. If I remember the press coverage correctly, producer Gary Russell (who I’d met very briefly the previous year) didn’t think audio-drama on CD would catch on, because tape let you stop and start easily.

Doctor Who Magazine #280 (cover dated 28 July 1999), ran a short article on the small number of Doctor Who sites on the internet. And new Doctor Who on the telly seemed so unthinkable the front cover tells fans to watch Buffy of Babylon 5.

At the risk of getting all Yorkshire, things were even more primitive when the Doctor had last been on the telly. In 1996, I was one of only a handful to use the small room of computers in the Fylde building – and there were serious discussions about whether they should allow students to submit typed essays. As news broke of the Paul McGann TV Movie, my friend D. in Scotland worried I’d miss out, so printed and snail-mailed the latest Who gossip from Shannon Patrick Sullivan’s news page.


Rob Stradling said...

Methinx you overstate rather.

The number of DW sites online in 1999 could not be described as "small", even by a visiting alien who had so far only learned the single English word "small". Mine, for example, had been shut down for over a year by then! :-)

And you couldn't get time an a University Library computer for love or money after about 1990, moving up to a kidney and/or your firstborn child by the time the internet arrived in 1994-5.

"loiness"; An angry vagina.

Tara O'Shea said...

In 1999 I was hanging out on "The Watcher's Web" contributing news about "Angel" and actor Glenn Quinn (God rest him) with a few blokes who I'm sure got out of that whole risky Internet thing since then--Goss, Francis, some geordie bloke whose name I've lost now. And having attended my last Visions in 1997-ish, I had no inkling there even was still an active "Doctor Who" fandom.

(I actually scare myself now and then by going to the Usenet archives to look at the idiocy I spewed regularly on and rec.arts.comics back in the early 1990s. In Internet-years, I'm a toothless granny.)

Nimbos said...

Well we did get rather drunk last night, so I think that counts as celebratory.
As for the primitive past and the space-age future - I'm still waiting for my flying car!

Le Mc said...

I loved this entry.