Home Sweet Homepage: A story about growing up online

by Amy Wibowo

page 1

Setting: a middle schooler's room circa the late 90s. 3 girls are painting their nails, reading teen magazines, and watching Scream.

Caption: It happens at a middle school sleepover.

Girl 1: The backstreet boys are the best!

Me: I love classical music!

Girl 2: What!? Classical?

page 2

Image description: a CD and booklet of Vanessa-Mae's CD titled The Violin Player. Cover shows Vanessa-Mae playing a white electric violin in the ocean, submerged to her waist.

Caption: My friends make fun of me for liking classical music

Caption: I show them Vanessa-Mae’s album to try to convince them it isn’t boring.

Caption: She has an electric violin and wears knee high doc martens while performing. She’s the only famous Asian person I know of, and I want to be as cool as her.

My friends aren’t impressed.

page 3

Image description: 3 preteen girls huddled around a last 90s era desktop computer.

Caption: A friend interrupts the music conversation to show us Paint Shop Pro and geocities on her family’s computer.

Caption: She shows us how to make text that looked: on fire, plastic, and metallic.

Caption: She shows us websites with twinkling star backgrounds, dress up dolls, and sites that are boyband tributes

page 4

Image description: a 90s era desktop computer, along with mechanical keyboard and 90s era computer mouse. A pink website is loaded on it, with a bubble letter logo, titled "My Homepage" A paint program window is floating to the side, with a drawing of a heart in hot pink. Daisies and hearts float around the image.

Caption: And that’s when it happened.

Caption: (No not my period, that was last year.)

Caption: It was the start of my obsession with websites, coding, & web design.

page 5

class="image_desc"Image description: Me sitting at an office desk using a 90's era desktop computer, with a pile of papers to the side. There are office blinds behind me, and a mug on the desk reads "Number 1 Dad". To the right is a computer window of the Notepad program, full of html.

Caption: But our computer at home was very old with no internet.

Caption: So every weekend after that, I would go to my dad's office to use the internet.

Caption: My very first weekend, I print out an HTML tutorial.

Caption: And once I'm at home, I code up a website. I do it from scratch in Notepad, so I can fine tune everything.

page 6

Image description: Animation of inserting a floppy disk into a floppy drive of a desktop computer.

Caption: By the next weekend, I'm uploading my first website at my dad's office via a floppy disk.

Caption: Even though I had been so eager to make a website, I had no idea what to make it about, except myself.

Image description: A website browser shows a website with “Peace, Love, and Ladybugs” logo at the top. Website text reads “I'm ladybuggirl. I've played the violin for 6 years and my favorite songs in the world are the Bach unaccompanied partitas. Vanessa-Mae is my role model. One day I'll save up enough to buy myself an electric violin like hers.

Caption: Of course I leave off info like my name, that I'm 11 years old, live in Mississippi, and am Indonesian American.

Caption: But I'm boring, so I'm worried my website is boring.

Caption: I want my website to be interesting and useful, but how?

page 7

Image description: Me, with short black hair and a pink hair clip hodling up a pink tamagotchi, with stars in my eyes.

Caption: I get a tamagotchi from a friend for my 12th birthday.

Caption: My mom doesn't let me bring it to school until I show her that I can pause it during class.

Image description: Zoom in on the tamagotchi in my hands, showing bug-like character with a mask.

Caption: I raised it and got a weird masked character. I realized I forgot to discipline it. Maybe that's why it turned out so weird?

Image description: Even further zoom in on the tamagotchi, which I’m holding with one hand. Tamagotchi screen shows an alien character

Caption: Shortly after, it becomes an alien, which my friend says is the secret character!

page 8

Image description: Close up of my face thinking

Caption: After hypothesizing...

Image description: Close up of my face focusing intently on the tamagotchi I’m holding

Caption: and experimenting,

Image description: Me on the left showing an “aha” moment with lightbulb, surprised face, and pointed finger. A thought bubble coming out of my head shows the tamagotchi family tree/growth chart.

Caption: I eventually figure out how to get all the different characters.

page 9

Image description: Window of a graphics graphics program with simple drawing.

Caption: I decide to make my website a guide about how to get each type of character.

I don't want to steal copyrighted images, so I draw all my own graphics.

Image description: Close up of my face focusing intently on the tamagotchi I’m holding

Caption: and experimenting,

Image description: The tamagotchi website, with header graphic at the top that reads “The Tamagotchi Nursery”, and body text that reads “Hi & welcome to the Tamagotchi Nursery! Here you’ll find detailed guides for how to raise each character!”, and graphics of each tamagotchi character.

Caption: I finally have a website that can be useful to people!

page 10

Image description: An abstract collage of code, stars, and tamagotchi characters traveling from my computer around the world.

Caption: It feels thrilling to code a website using just Notepad, and watch it become something you can see visually! It also feels magical to put it online where everyone can see it, anywhere in the world.

page 11

Image description: A zoomed out school dance crowd scene.

Caption: My crush is moving out of state, so his friends organize a dance party for him.

Image description: My crush's face with sparkles around him. He has draping bangs over his eyes, a wide grin, and waves hello.

Caption: I like him because he's really smart but really nice about it. We often have the two highest grades in every class we have together but he's never been competitive or mean towards me.

Image description: Me slow dancing with my crush, while blushing.

Caption: He asks me to slow dance with him. But it's his goodbye party, and I think he asked everyone to dance, so it probably doesn't mean anything, right?

Image description: Silhouette of a mysterious figure tossing her long hair

If I had to guess, he doesn’t have a crush on me, he has a crush on the most fashionable girl in our class.

Caption: I mean, I wouldn’t blame him, I kinda have a crush on her too.

Image description: Zoom in on me slow dancing with my crush, while blushing.

But for those few minutes, as Truly Madly Deeply plays over the speakers, it’s easy to pretend that the world is just us and that maybe he likes me back.

page 12

Image description: A computer window of an email from my crush reading: "Hey Amy! How are you? My new school is okay so far. I’ve joined the soccer team and our first game is next week."

Caption: I'm sad I can't bump into my crush in the hallway anymore.

Caption: But getting an email from him every now and then is another reason to look forward to my weekend internet time.

Image description: A web browser showing a counter and a link that says "sign my guestbook!"

Caption: Wanting more human connection, I add a counter and a guestbook to my website.

Caption: I'm excited to hear from other people who love tamagotchis too.

Image description: Web browser window with guestbook showing spam comment reading: Sweet site! Useful content! Visit my site www.spam-page.com

But all i get is spam bots.

page 13

Image description: High school hallway with lockers and me walking in the hallways dejectedly in my thrifted clothes. Everything in the scene is grey except for me.

Caption: Jr high is over and it's time for high school now.

Caption: High school is lonely—the friend who introduced me to websites has moved schools and we’ve drifted apart.

Caption: Everyone at my high school is so fashionable, while I'm dressed in thrifted clothes.

Image description: Looking down POV of me alone at lunch table, in a full cafeteria of students. The scene is all grey except for me.

People get up when I sit down at the table for lunch so I eat quickly and spend the rest of lunch at the library.

page 14

Image description: Close up of a Sailor Moon hair clip.

Caption: My uncle in Indonesia sends me a hairclip with a cute cartoon girl that says Sailor Moon on it, because his daughter, my cousin, who is about my age is obsessed with it.

Image description: Computer with browser window that has a search box for “What is Sailor Moon?”

Caption: I don't know what Sailor Moon is but that’s easily fixable on an internet weekend.

Image description: A notebook with sketches of Sailor Moon & pals

Caption: As soon as I read about it, I too become 100% obsessed with Sailor Moon & and am soon drawing anime faces everywhere.

page 15

Caption: There's one character I draw in particular, Sailor Mercury.

Image description: A side by side comparison of comparison of me and Sailor Mercury, with my school photo and her holographic trading card.

Caption: She's named Ami (fun fact, Ami was my name before we moved to the US, and my parents Anglified it to Amy when we became US citizens)

Caption: She loves computers like I do, has short hair like mine, is a Virgo like me, even has my same height of 5'2". And she's also a loner at her school.

Caption: I've felt like a monster ever since my class voted me Class Cutest as a joke. Finding an anime character exactly like me helps me feel less alone. The internet helps me find myself, literally.

page 16

Image description: Browser window showing a website with title "The Starfruit Cafe", and a logo of a coffee cup vase with a star-shaped flower coming out. The menu items are as follows: A Cup of Shoujo, with sub-description: Find out what's hot about the awesome anime/manga Sailor Moon. A scoop of Tamagotchi ice cream, with sub description: The latest scoop on digital pets. Menu items have prices listed in kilobytes.

Caption: Fueled by my new interests, I plan a complete redesign of my website. It's a virtual cafe, a space I wish excisted in real life. I have so many interests that sometimes I feel scattered. But I can have a website for each interest and put links to each site in my cafe's menu.

page 17

Image description: Browser window showing a website with title "A cup of Shoujo", and a logo of a cup of coffee with Sailor Moon latte art. The side bar text says "How do you like your coffee?" with options "Sailor Moon: with sugar and cream", "Sailor Mercury: with a good book," and "Sailor Mars: burning hot".

Caption: The new website is a chance to learn some more advanced HTML, like the frame tag to make a navigation side bar.

Image description: A computer window with a 3D model of a coffee cup, segmented into polygons and shaded in 3D. The window's title bar says "3D.exe"

Caption: The new website is also a chance to explore new artistic styles. I learn 3D to make my website look different from others I've seen.

page 18

Chat bubble saying: "Omg you like vanessa mae and sailor moon? me too!!"

Caption: I dream of one day making friends that like the same things as me.

Image description: Abstract collage of computer desktop, instant messaging program, art program, and binary numbers.

Caption: But in the meantime, I can spend hours on my website without feeling time pass by. Working on my website combines my love for words, art, and technology, and it's a form of self-expression for me. Computers are logical and code is logical but you can use them to express your emotions, make art, and communicate to other people.

page 19

Caption: Sophomore year, we update our computer and finally get internet at home

Sound effects: EEEEEE KRKRKRKRKRKR *dingdong.... dingdong*

Image description: Teenage girl sitting at the computer.

Caption: I'm excited to spend all of my time online now, but it doesn't work out like I hoped.


page 20

Caption: I try to make the rest of high school pass by as fast as possible. It's a blur of: building legos with my 4 year old brother, practicing the violin, books read in the library, heartbreak, standardized tests, and updating my website.

Me sitting at desk in standardized test center: "Was that a rat that just ran across the floor?"

page 21

Image description: Zoomed in view of a pair of hands writing on a pile of paper college applications.

Caption: Senior year, I'm applying to colleges, including my dream school.

Image description: Finger pointing at pile of college applications.

Caption: My new crush questions what I'm doing.

My crush: "Why? Do you actually think you're going to get in? Be realistic."

Zoomed out view of me at a library desk, filling out applications.

I'm hurt, but he's most likely right. I'm just a girl from a small school in a small town in Mississippi, and no one from my high school has ever gotten into this school. But I apply anyway

page 22

Image description: My crush and I leaning against lockers. I'm wearing a button up shirt with a vest over, and flared pants. I'm pushing my hair behind my ear and blushing.

Caption: My crush asks me to prom, kind of

Me: "I don't think anyone will ask me to prom"

My crush: "I'd go with you"

Image description: Me in a dressing room trying on a prom dress, looking in the mirror at myself at different angles. The dress is pink and satiny with thin straps and a slightly flared skirt.

Caption: I pick out a dress. I never thought I’d go to prom but I guess it won’t hurt to celebrate that high school is over and that I actually survived it.

page 23

Image description: Holding acceptance letter in my hands "Dear Amy, We're excited to welcome you to the MIT class of 20XX!”

Caption: A few weeks later, I receive an acceptance letter in the mail from my dream school to study computer science. I can’t believe it!

Image description: Me sitting on my bed on the phone with my crush, holding plane tickets to Boston in my lap.

Caption: I cancel on my prom date because it overlaps with the official campus visitation weekend.

Me on the phone: "I'm sorry, I can't go with you after all."

page 24

Image description: Zoomed out view of Killian courtyard, with lots of tiny people sitting in the grass, and a domed building with tall columns in the background.

Caption: I’m excited for all the new people I’ll meet,

Image description: Zoomed out view of the Boston skyline reflecting in the Charles River. There are tall buildings and trees, along with a triagular Citgo sign.

Caption: For getting to live in a new place and see more of the world.

Image description: Hands holding a Soldering iron and solder over a circuit board

Caption: and all the new things I’ll learn about computers.

page 25

Image description: My future dorm, two towers surrounded by trees.

Caption: I’ll have a new home soon,

Image description: Screenshot of my website moved to the college servers.

Caption: and so will my website.

page 26

Image description: My hands typing at a keyboard with the desktop computer above it showing a text editor with a blank html file.

Caption I’m not sure what the future will bring but right now it feels like a blank html file: full of possibility.

Image description: Zoomed out version of scene of typing at a desktop computer, my head turned away from the screen to look hopefully out a window.