Europe Times is not a pet project in the strictest sense, since it was actually part of an assignment back in school. However, many fond memories are attached to it - and looking back, I think that the results have been, in hindsight, revolutionary.
What it was
The assignment came from the local newspaper: Suppose it’s 20 years in the future, so the year is 2020. What would a newspaper from that year look like? The assignment was pretty open, so this was as much about style, design and layout as it was about contents and articles.
What I learned
I learned a lot about the basics of web programming during that project. The idea was that we create a completely digital newspaper, which in our mind was the local edition of a global paper called the “Europe Times”. Others in my project group wrote the articles, and I created the web site. I experimented with state of the art tools for web development back then (Front Page and Dreamweaver), before reverting to directly editing the source code, thanks to a free HTML documentation called selfHTML (which is still around 20 years later!).
It’s important to note that this was before the internet was widely available, so we had to hand in something physical, even though the magazine was supposed to be digital. Additionally, we could not assume that the jury knew how to operate a website, so I converted the website to an executable with a program I found on the internet and we burned that on a CD with an auto start script which executed the file as soon as the CD has been put into the drive (Computer security was a tad bit different back then!)
Equally noteworthy is that all the technology we used was bleeding edge: It was very hard to get access to a CD burner, blank CDs were equally hard to find, and CD shaped labels where almost impossible to get. Similarly, while we did have access to a digital camera, it was extremely difficult to handle the large files it produced. But we managed!
The end product was something we were really proud of: Not only was the actual magazine very modern (for 2000 standards), it came in a self-designed CD case with a labelled CD and everything.
How it ended
We lost. I don’t know if there was a second or third place, and how we were ranked, but I know for sure we lost, and I also remember vividly the project that has won:
What they did is that they (cleverly) copied the design of the local newspaper and pasted their articles into that design. It looked great, very much like the real thing, but what really bothered me back then is that it didn’t look futuristic at all. Ultimately, this seems to have struck a chord with the jury
- maybe the idea that whatever the future will bring, the good ol’ newspaper will still look the same was appealing to them.
It’s ironic that our own vision was much closer to the reality that we see now, in the actual year 2020. Print newspapers are losing subscriptions everywhere, and smaller newspapers like the one providing the assignment are slowly dying throughout Germany. The irony here is that it’s precisely the kind of thinking that lead to the other group winning - that there will always be a market for the good ol’print newspaper - is what caused (and still is fueling) the downfall of that industry.
This post is part of my Pet Project Sematary, click here to get to the first post in this series.