I recently discovered some very old1 photos buried deep within the recesses of my hard drive. These were photos that I’d shot and shared online in the mid-2000s on an old website of mine. The subject of these photos were stuff that made me laugh or say “wut?”—typically non-sequiturs or crappy design or hilariously-bad spelling and I thought I’d share some of these here over a series of posts.
But first, as I’m wont to do, a digression.
I invented Instagram and failed to capitalize on it. Or at least, I built some infrastructure to share photos online via mobile phone in roughly 2005 and used this to share the aforementioned photos on my site.
These were the days before iPhone and Android…we had “great at the time, crappy in retrospect” feature phones that happened to have cameras. Crappy cameras with tiny, almost-useless sensors. But at least we had cameras and, as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you.
Cameraphones that I distinctly-remember owning at the time include the original Motorola RAZR:
The Sony-Ericsson W600:
And a Motorola V220:
The neat thing about these, at least at the time, was that you could take a photo and send it via MMS to another phone. Or, as I leveraged for my photo-sharing infrastructure, to an email address for recipients that didn’t have a phone that worked with MMS.
My site was built on ASP.Net and featured a page I called the “Moblog”. The moblog was simply a grid of photos that I’d uploaded in reverse chronological order. It even paginated so that there are only like 25 photos on the screen at once. The way it worked was that I’d snap a photo that I wanted to post and email it to an email address that I’d set up on my server. On the server itself, a job ran every few minutes to check for new emails in that mailbox. If there was an email, the job opened it, extracted any attachments, checked if the attachments were images and, if so, copied it to a folder and inserted a record into the moblog database for that image. The subject of the email became the caption of the photo when it was posted. When someone visited the moblog page, it would render all the records in the moblog database with the photo and the caption in each cell of the table.
And that’s how I invented Instagram. Or at least could’ve, had I capitalized on this infrastructure for monetary gain rather than sharing dumb photos with my friends.
At any rate, as I mentioned, I recently found a few of these photos and thought I’d share, so here’s the first batch. Remember, these were shot on crappy mid-2000s cellphones, so the quality is shite. I’ve done some AI-based resizing to clean them up a bit to make them fit in on a modern website, however, so at least their legible and are still enjoyable a decade-and-a-half later.