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If you close your eyes and picture today’s rural American small-town police chief, that’s the guy who conducted my TSA PreCheck[1] interview this week in C⸻, Vermont. Shaved head, folds at the back of the neck so that the head can fit onto the big shoulders, overloaded and outward-tilting utility belt with its medley of options both partially and entirely fatal from which he could select to suit the moment. The TSA PreCheck processing area, with its private-sector equipment, was situated across a narrow hallway from the department’s single holding cell.

Chief M⸻ asked me for my email address as we were wrapping things up. After I spelled it out L-Y-Z-A-at-L-Y-Z-A-dot-com there was a pause. This happens, more these days. I’ll admit to pride. Owning a four-letter TLD that matches my legal first name ranks alongside being left-handed in terms of identity aspects whose loss would cause me profound grief and self-confusion. Huh, he said after a moment, and asked me how this had come to pass. And I unshipped my usual vague answer: I’ve had the domain a long time, I dunno, the late nineties? I’ve been doing this web thing a long time.

With about to evolve, technically and philosophically, yet again, it’s a natural navel-gazy time for me to be curious about its genesis and history. To put a timeline to this little domain that has shadowed more than a quarter century of a human’s life and echoed the shape and moods of the web.

27 years old in May, 2024

I registered on the 18th of May, 1997. I don’t know that because I wrote it down, or because it has enough weight with me that I remembered it on its own accord. I know because an ICANN lookup today told me so. I was 19 years old then. I know that because I am more firm on my birthdate; that is a date I know.

Not that it was my first website. That would have likely been associated with my university computer account, along with my first email address, which was — and I do remember this without struggle — Then a series of accounts at local ISPs like Hevanet. These were the tilde-FTP days, basically serving straight out of your shell account’s home directory. All this before

If I had to put a date on it, that is, My First HTML Document, I’d wager 1995, possibly late 1994. My mother was the personal technology reporter at The Oregonian at the time. She showed me news groups, the NCSA Mosaic web browser.

The 1990s happened before universal self-promotion and the ceaseless, obsessive contributions of tiny pieces of our lives to entities that we neither fathom nor like much, and the concomitant digesting and compaction and mashing and indexing of all of those bits of humanity online. I was 19 when my domain arose. I wasn’t anywhere near parts of my life to which terms like stewardship or archival could be applied. Thus the fact that any traces remain cannot be credited to me. I wasn’t careful. And those traces are faint.

But let’s start here: will turn 27 on May 18, 2024. Now I know.

  1. TSA PreCheck® is a program through United States Customs and Border Protection that "expedites traveler screening through participating TSA security checkpoints", e.g. I won't have to take my shoes off or my laptop or liquids out of my bag when going through security at participating U.S. airports. The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) "partners" with private-sector "enrollment providers" to process applicants, in my case, Idemia, "leader in biometrics and crypotgraphy." ↩︎