On November 18, 2009 we slept through an important anniversary — it was a full ten years since our first fully functional website went up into cyberspace (yes, that was what they all liked to call it then along with other shibboleths like Information Superhighway, etc.).
Anyhoo, it was our first great gig in the sky.
For our very first web presence we have to thank, with all our hearts, Vinay Satyan, then a senior designer and my colleague at Planetasia (when we last looked, he was Director – Global Demand Marketing at Oracle).
In November 1999, two days before Floodaid, our relief concert for flood-affected families in Orissa, Vinay glanced across from his always-interesting workstation to see me fiddling with Microsoft FrontPage and tearing my hair out in despair. All he asked me was: “Do you have any images of your band?” Within the next hour or so, he had fashioned for us a fully functional web page and hosted it at the free web address http://go.to/floodaid. That was our first-ever web page and it had an email form as well. I’m terribly sorry to say that I have no record of it today thanks to a hard-drive crash that fried a lot of archived data, even backups. But hey Vinay, wherever you may be reading this, we still owe you a big one!
A few months after that, we bought our domain (http://www.thermalandaquarter.com) and put up standby websites at the address — mostly, web pages with text teasers and fat GIF animations that, on some computers, never animated. Or worse, never loaded. I remember we were very inspired by a few sites namely, Balthaser Studio (then at www.balthaser.com) and Sting’s then website at (http://sting.compaq.com).
Of course, we had no web design skills and certainly no money to pay for them. So yours truly crammed every stray tutorial on the then-not-yet-powered-by-Google web and put together a few sad-but-true-color swatches. Some of them agglomerated into our first website, as opposed to the “web page” that existed hitherto. Of course, we got a lot of rave reviews from our fans and that gave us a delusive sense of pride at our achievements. One of our hottest features was ‘Improve your Vocabularity’, which featured a new word or phrase from TAAQ’s unintelligible argot.
Soon enough, via Rzhude, we met Shivan (then just out of O&M and freelancing) who designed our completely tripped-out logo. He and his designer pal Vinayan (who, incidentally, spent a week as my colleague) designed our first website. Despite being strong graphic designers and Flash artists, everything they made was at least 50 times too heavy for the 28.8 kbps download speeds of those days. So we spent a considerable time downgrading the whole thing. I was to leave for the US within a week, and I spent the last week running about for my visa and alternating that with visits to Shiv’s rented place in Thippasandra with Rajeev. I spent all afternoon on my last day in India uploading the fricking website on a dialup connection. Three or four crashes later, it went up and stayed there. With two hours to go and a plane to catch, I made it to the airport (which was then, mercifully, much closer than it is now).
The band launched the new website at a special gig called thermalandaquarter.com (which I attended mentally from somewhere over the Pacific). The ticket stub, designed by Shiv, got a lot of people talking and a lot of others (with dirty minds) blushing. Were it not for Shiv and Vinayan, we wouldn’t have gotten off the ground at all.
The site stayed that way, splitting gently at the seams over the years, until we tore up the home page and reordered it many years later in time for the launch of Jupiter Cafe.
Then, as now, we remain fashionably ten years behind the times in web tech. We’re as retro as they come!