[ Happy birthday, bunny_hugger! This essay and much else wouldn't be without you. Thank you. ]
It's hard appreciating how different the Internet is now, so imagine how hard it is appreciating how different it was in November 1999 when the Giant Escalator Database started, and again two hours later when it started the other direction. Back then video sharing was waiting fifteen minutes for RealAudio to buffer enough to crash, and to get your cat a caption you had to hew one from raw timber. I mean the caption was timber; cats, then as now, were Bakelite.
Diana Walked began the site, hewn of HTML and oak, describing the center long escalator at the Washington Metro's Woodley Park-Zoo Adams Morgan station; the Sears-end escalator in the Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold Raceway, Mall Jersey; and an escalator in a Vaduz, Liechtenstein, public park for getting from the lower portion to the portion nearly five feet up. Maintaining and updating it as extra names for the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station arrived, which they did for fourteen weeks straight, drove Diana crazy; she gave it to the So-Called Committee of Five, six people who never assembled. They demanded action, so converted the page into plain text, minimizing the risk of its being read
Though adding data on a second of the three long escalators at WP-Z/AM(llc)-1701 was uncontroversial, debating which second took three months and ended when the factions realized one meant the left-viewed-from-below while the other meant the right-viewed-from-above. With agreement the group broke up over listing the college band stickers on the least-visible areas of the frame. One group wanted every such sticker; the other, which forced the first group out, wanted only bands which had performed. Having won they dropped the name 'Giant Escalator Database', created a FoxPro database without entries, and converted the site to XHTML, which never existed.
Scandal haunted the Major Escalator Database in 2002 when The Uplift (the second-leading escalator fanzine) reported the project, then listing the original three escalators plus two more and ``a broken set of stairs'', was made without public funds. Aurora Otis (fourth-leading) reported it was made with public shoe-trees, growing wild since 1958 when the last person who used them stopped. This drew complaints from Shoe Tree World, orbiting Tau Ceti at nearly 1.04 astronomical units. The database fell to three factions who separated it into the Worldwide Escalator Database and the Escalator-Elevator-Moving Sidewalk-Project, both containing the same information, as SQL and XML, hewn from brass and tin foil.
``Ing'' Aimee, who ran convention security since BaltiCon Stand-In 2004, launched in January 2005 the Racine Putsch, gaining control of the SC Johnson Wax corporation headquarters, but fell from power when honeymooners found the alleged Vaduz escalator was actually a very short elevator. Grover Asdic briefly filled took power but was excluded when his ``Escalator To The Moon'' was worse-received than April Fool's pranks like the Moebius Escalator and ``Trapped On An Escalator'' flashback episode. ``In hindsight'', Asdic would say in an eyebrow-raising interview, ``I shouldn't have announced it in April.'' You'd have to have known him, and those who did, didn't understand either.
Walked began in 2007 getting factions to agree their differences were minor and everybody else was a big dumb dummyhead we don't need to talk to, and Ajax or maybe JSON looked cool even hewn of recycled wool. The database had split many smaller files, web pages, e-mails, notes written over the nice new paint, sarcastic glances, and one quarrelsome goat in the back of a green four-door Saturn LS. A two-year project resolved things and found a wooden-slat fence to which the goat could repeatedly lose debates.
Early this year the database reopened under every conceivable name ever. They host data about the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Azusa and Cucamonga central escalator, the Freehold Raceway Mall escalator, and 14,000 words of ranting about ``The Fibber Of Vaduz''. Thanks to web and database design advances the site is completely impossible to maintain or read, and is hewn in a silly wood-grain veneer plastic. Few visions have been more perfectly occluded.
Trivia: Robin Catesby, leader of the Gunpowder Plot, was scorched by fire when a spark set off some gunpowder he had set out to dry in the safe house from which he hid from capture. Another plotter was blinded. Source: Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World, Jack Kelly, and look at that subtitle again, eh?
Currently Reading: How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II To Hip-Hop, Dave Thompkins.