A Useful Computer Program Using Only HTML

My intention wasn’t to use HTML as a programming language—it’s a markup language. I didn’t realize what I had done until I had done it.
I’ve been programming since 1982, but haven’t done any of what I called “real” programming since they switched from Foxpro to Access at work well over a decade ago; yes, you can build databases with Access but I didn’t consider it “programming”.
The only coding I’ve done in years isn’t what I call “programming” unless there’s Javascript, and there’s very little on either of my sites.
Mike Meyer bought a very old shuffleboard, older than me, for his bar, Felber’s, last year, and came up with a paperish whiteboard for a scoreboard. I was playing with my tablet a couple of weeks ago and realized that I could make a scoreboard in HTML, so I swapped the tablet for the computer and went to work.
The first thing I needed to do was something I’d only done once before, and that was almost two decades ago—use frames.
That first time was a joke I played with an online friend and link buddy in Canada, who was going to medical school. He often complained of the lab rats biting him.
I ran a contest on my site called the “Ticket to Nowhere”. The winner was a Quake or gaming webmaster who went the longest without updating their site. The winner got a no expense paid ticket to absolutely nowhere.
Dopey Smurf (the fellow’s Quake handle) emailed me and said he was planning to close his site, because graduation was coming up and he feared it would harm his upcoming career.
As soon as I saw the email I had a humorous idea and emailed him back. I would have another contest, and in addition to the ticket to nowhere, the winner (Smurf, of course) would get a box of voracious invisible rats that if let loose would eat a web site. I wrote a container that loaded an unlinked page from my site, which would have a screen-sized GIF of his site. Touching it got the GIF running, which showed the outlines of rats eating their way across the page leaving a dull yellow behind.
Two or three years earlier, Joost Shoor had shut down his Quake site search engine, leaving a dull yellowish screen with a Strogg holding a sign that read “Haste does no lead to success”. What the invisible rats left was identical to Joost’s closed site, except the sign read “Out to lunch”.
If I’d kept that code, the scoreboard would have been a lot easier, as I had some relearning to do. I’d completely forgotten how to do frames. Of course, I’d only used one in that one occasion.
Once I had that figured out, it was a piece of cake. I just made an HTML file and a JPG for each number of each color, with arrows at the bottom to increase or decrease the number, linking to the next and previous. Dirt simple. But when I tested it I realized I needed a way to bring them back to zero, so I added a reset. That done and tested and I rolled a joint and opened a beer.
Later that evening I thought of a big improvement—numbers from one to four at the bottom, with each number linking to the number that value higher than the present number. So I got out the computer and, half drunk and all the way stoned, backed up the working files and tried to do the modifications, but I was nowhere near sober enough. I put it away for the next morning.
It was a lot easier, and the modifications took about an hour or two (there were 44 HTML files to change). I uploaded it to my web site, got out my tablet, and only then realized that I’d written a completely functional program using nothing but HTML 4.1 and JPGs.
The one last thing I need to do is to name the window so I could have a single reset button. I knew how to do it when I gave Smurf the invisible rats, but have forgotten completely how. It might have used javascript, I don’t remember.
I wish I had saved the rats!
The scoreboard is here.


July 20, 1969 (mcgrewbooks.com)



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