The first Burning Man website was on The Well until after the 1995 event, when the webmaster decided to move on and it needed a new home. In 1996, Burning Man veteran Stuart Mangrum was working at the web design company LVL Interactive in Palo Alto and he offered to develop a new website for Burning Man. Stuart, along with David Beach and an awesome team of developers worked on a new design which became part of iSTORM, a cutting edge, rich media website that was a side project of LVLi.
Along with the new website, they put together the first real netcast from Burning Man, using steaming technology by MediaCast and internet connectivity through InterNex.Net. In those days I was shooting a lot of video, so I volunteered to help out with the netcast. I would run around the playa shooting video of interesting stuff and then come back to the RV, where Beach would digitize and then upload the video to the website. I remember how excited we were to know that we were sending out photos and video live from the playa, digital pioneers, we were.
Prior to the start of Burning Man 1996, I took a ride back out to Gerlach with Jeff Holmes who explained the setup for the netcast we were doing that year. We had dual ISDN lines coming into a room in Bruno’s Motel that would then transmit the internet back to Back Rock City via a series of microwave antennas mounted on radio towers. It was a pretty impressive setup for 1996.
Jeff also told me the story about a rancher who installed the tower outside of the motel so that he could have cell service 100 miles away. Sadly we lost Jeff in 2008, but I’m glad that I was able to capture a glimpse into his passion for technology. We really miss you Jeff.
Recently Beach was cleaning out some of his clutter and came across the old files and media from the Burning Man 1996 website and netcast. He uploaded the photos and videos he found and reconstructed the Burning Man 1996 website, posting it online as well.
Some of the videos Beach uploaded were those I shot, including clips of Chris de Monterey with the iSTORM pocket protector that was being handed out at the event, Dan Miller leading the raising of the man and the SEEMEN “Clappy Boy” machine.
In 1997 I ended up going to work for LVLi as well, staying there through 1998. After the 1996 event, the Burning Man website was brought in-house by the Burning Man organization and I joined the original Burning Man web team, working as the webmaster from 1997 through 1999. The LVLi gig was my last regular job before going full-time with Laughing Squid and the rest, as the say, is history.