The World's First Blog?

highway17.jpg 

Most people think of blogs as having only been in existence a few years, but the "Highway 17 Page of Shame" is perhaps the prototypical example, all the way back in 1995.

It was run by Emil Gallant, who commuted daily from Santa Cruz to Apple in Silicon Valley over the notorious Highway 17. Along the way he chronicled stupid and rude acts of driving, such as changing lanes without signalling, tailgating and cutting off, and driving cement trucks during commute hours while navigating the twisting, hilly, no-shoulder two lane highway at 50 miles an hour.

The site, which was active only for about 7 months, came about through the convergence of several technological events:

  • The spread of the World Wide Web, and knowledge of html
  • The launch of the Mosaic browser, which made the WWW accessible to a broader audience (in fact the Mosaic 1.0 browser is what I used to access the site myself)
  • The release of the first consumer digital cameras (Gallant used Apple's early and only foray into this market, the QuickTake 100, pictured below, with a whopping 640x480 size image. But for small postings on the web, it was just fine.)


quicktake100.jpgEach day would have its own page, with a photo and an acerbic, cheeky description of the offense. Mr. Gallant had particular scorn for Volvo drivers (dangerously oblivious to others) and BMW drivers (snobs lacking in a sense of humor, at least judging by those who wrote in snooty letters defending their choice of automobiles). You can see some samples here and here, complete with classic LCD clock style hit counter.

Back in those days, of course, the site was all hand-coded and lacking in the amenities that blogs have today. However, some functionality was evident even back then, such as categories, and the ability to go back through the archives one day at the time and read past posts. Just as importantly, there was the attitude: rebellious, take no prisoners, and the feeling of having a worldwide pulpit from which to invect or cheer or ponder the minutae of everyday life.

Sadly the site is only partially visible on the web archive and many of the pages look to have been stripped out. I hope it's archived in full somewhere for posterity, as it will be looked back upon as one of those early websites that pointed out the future of the web and of our digital surveillance society made possible by cameraphones and the like. Today, bloggers are all following in the path that Mr. Gallant blazed a decade ago on California State Highway 17.