My first ever website was on Geocities and most of the hyperlinks didn’t go anywhere. It was half-finished but I was desperate to get it online. I was 11 at the time and I didn’t even have full access to the internet.
It’s incredible knowing I’ve been active on the Web for 20 years. Some of the biggest sites around are much younger than that. And some are even older. rhyal.com is by no means the oldest but the technology running it is as old as me.
As it says on the site, rhyal.com is being hosted and served by a Macintosh SE/30 running MacOS 7.5.5. Because of that, all you get is a dithered GIF image, lots of unstyled text, and an archaic guestbook. Remember those? Before commenting systems like Disqus, there were guestbooks.
Tech specs for Rhyal.com
But anyone who knows about computing will understand you can’t just put a website on 30-year-old computer and hook up an ethernet cable. So, to ensure it runs smoothly, the webmaster upgraded the Macintosh SE/30 with:
- A custom 32-bit ROM
- 68MB of RAM (previously 2MB)
- 4GB SSD (previously a 8MB internal SCSI hard drive)
There were other modifications too, including adding ethernet capabilities (as seen in this Imgur collection). The project is the creation of sales engineer Huxley Dunsany who said he just wanted to see if it could be done.
What is a Macintosh SE/30?
As you can see above, it looks pretty old. Apple sold the PC for two years between 1989-1991.
The SE/30 was the first compact Mac to come with a 1.44 MB high-density floppy disk drive. It was powerful enough to produce This Week, the first colour UK tabloid to use a desktop in this way.
It retailed for $4,369 in 1989 (over £7,000 in today’s money) but you can pick up a Macintosh SE/30 on eBay for around £200.
Sometimes, popularity needs a reboot
After rhyal.com was featured on Slashdot, the site grew to over 20,000 visits. But not even Dunsany’s mods can handle large visitor counts. Apparently, the computer manually reboots once the “sequential visitors count runs past ~1000” likely due to an overflow issue with the software running the site.
And the URL? Rhyal is Dunsany’s son’s name. He said he felt he might have wanted his own domain name when he was older. Almost cooler than a trust fund.
Rhyal.com and the bare necessities
But Huxley Dunsany’s mini-project tells an important story about the Web as a whole and what you actually need to create technology in our post-Information Age. Websites are disappearing from the Internet due to obsoletion and deletion. It’s upgrade or die in so many ways, so it seems remarkable to see someone in 2019 make a few adjustments to an Apple computer from 1989 and get a website live.
But not only is it live – people are visiting regularly and leaving comments using rhyal.com’s guestbook. So many web services tell us what the present is and what the future will be. But sites like rhyal.com show that ingenuity and imagination can see past capitalism buzzwords and ideology and get consumers to use the most basic of technology to communicate.
Billions of tweets, Instagram comments, and Facebook statuses are left every day and people have no trouble visiting a site that wouldn’t look out of place when I was a baby. And leave comments in Times New Roman. Rhyal.com also shows that you don’t need to spend a lot on top-of-the-range hardware and software to just get a site on the internet. That’s all this is. Fundamentally, it’s another node on the World Wide Web.