Web design company celebrates history of NZ internet

Web video and text project chronicles development of kiwi internet

Wellington web-design agency Heyday, formerly known as Doubleclique, has launched a web-video and text project aimed at celebrating New Zealand’s internet, by looking at its evolution and benefits from the standpoint of users.

The project at www.downtothewire.co.nz has got off to a good start, with the first episode recalling 1989, when the internet first arrived in New Zealand (see above). It features video interviews with some of the pioneers of that momentous first link – Mark Davies, Don Stokes and Andy Linton then at Victoria University of Wellington and John Houlker, then at Waikato University and now with NZ Trade and Enterprise. Houlker recalls how the first router linking NZ to the world, courtesy of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), arrived misconfigured and without local support or a manual and had to be corrected with instructions via voice-phone.

The talk is in “fireside chat” format, with some strange close-up shots of a foot or of a hand holding a glass, seemingly intended to take it out of standard “talking heads” mode.

The second episode, centred on 1990, delivers more on the user focus, with contributions from broadcaster/blogger (and former Computerworld writer) Russell Brown, journalist Alastair Thompson and Richard Ram, telling the story of early email at the Flying Nun record label.

In featuring users, says Heyday brand strategist Nick Allan, Down to the Wire is different from Connecting the Clouds, the history of the NZ internet commissioned by InternetNZ and written by Keith Newman in 2008. “We’ll be telling how the internet has affected people’s day-to-day lives,” says Allan. “It’s for an audience that’s less interested in the technical aspects of how the internet infrastructure works.”

Unlike the earlier work, it’s not intended that Down to the Wire will make a book, though Allan would not discount that possibility long-term. Initially, there will be 21 video episodes featuring interviews with more than 50 NZ figures of the internet’s history and present day. There are also supporting textual statistics and other information; episode 2, for example, recalls the sale of Telecom and Maurice Williamson becoming the first Minister of ICT.

The episodes are being put up at the rate of one a day, starting on October 11, so the core content will be complete at the end of the month, but the former Doubleclique – rebranded Heyday as from October10 – expects contributions to continue to flow.

Visitors to the site are already providing their own thoughts and insights about their own use of the early internet and they are expected to suggest other people who might be interviewed on video in future.

Among others scheduled to appear on video are Duncan Blair (of ISP Orcon), Greer McDonald (stuff.co.nz), Richard MacManus (ReadWriteWeb), Brendan Smyth (NZOnAir), Geoff Ross (venture-capital company The Bakery) and Brenda Leeuwenberg (NZ On Screen). The videos are introduced by actress/singer Madeleine Sami.

“We're excited to tell the stories that we have uncovered, and to create a space for others to reminisce and grow the story with us,” says Down to the Wire project lead Thomas Scovell.

Flying Nun is offering visitors to the site a free MP3 download each day, for 21 days. The MP3s offered will be “iconic Kiwi tracks” from each of the last 21 years, says Heyday.

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