Inkstain is dead. Long live Inkstain.

For more than two years, Inkstain was little more than a small box with a wire plugged into the back, connected to a rack of gear that magically let it communicate with the world.

That simple fact never ceased to amaze me.

It was physically located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, though in some sense its corporeal being was irrelevant.

It had its roots in an old Mac Rob Browman set up running mkLinux in the fall of 1998. He had one of those unlimited time dialup accounts, and he'd dial in before he came in to work in the morning and leave the box connected all day. He gave several of us accounts. We didn't know what to do with it, but we'd log in during the day and just sort of be there.

Sometime around September of that year our benefactor, John Brown of iHighway asked if we'd like to plug a box into his backbone, and Inkstain as we know it was born.

Rob and I weren't entirely clear on the concept of what a box on the Internet might do, but we dutifully hunted down an unused domain name - Inkstain came to mind after some hunting, first because we were newspapermen and second, and perhaps more importantly, because it was available.

We compiled our first program - BIND - and with John's help got the nameserver configuration files to work, and Inkstain was born.

We added a mail server and a web server and a ton of the sort of Internet googaws that make a box like that so fun to play with.

We also added a number of folks, building an informal little community of journalists and others who need a home for their work.

Rob and Bob used it to publish their photographs, the sort of stuff that ought to but frequently doesn't appear in the newspaper. I used it to collect pointers to some of my work, and also to push my own agendas of free software and the non-proprietary, standards-based development of the Internet.

We celebrated birthdays and weddings there, several of our children had their own web pages, and we even had two dogs with accounts on the box. ("Sit Sadie. Stay. Write alt tags for your image sources. Good girl!")

When the box was first annointed, Rob named it after Jello Biafra, and we've tried ever since to live up to the machine's first motto:

"A prank a day keeps the leash away!"

- Jello Biafra

In March 2001, it became clear that it was no longer practical to continue hosting our little box on John Brown's network. So we found a new home at Southwest Cyberport. And while our little Inkstain box is no more, our virtual community continues, with people in Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago and Albuquerque all linked together into Inkstain.


John Fleck

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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