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UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

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Ten more articles for my 20th anniversary

26 July 2017


This year is the 20th anniversary of www.sean.co.uk, making it older than Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and even Google. Thank you to everyone who's visited over the last two decades!

To celebrate, here are another 10 pieces of my favourite content across the site. See the first 10 (and a screenshot of my first website design) here.

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  1. Under Pressure - An article about hostile environments training for journalists. One thing I learned is that I'm not really cut out for it.

    Creating a shelter: hostile environments training photo

    Putting up a tent with a basher sheet from my hostile environments training.

  2. Interview with Jakob Nielsen about accessibility - Accessibility is all about making websites usable by people who have vision, mobility or other impairments. I wrote one of the first articles in a mainstream magazine on this topic, and I've tried to make sure my site is as accessible as possible over the years.

  3. Make an awesome 3D anaglyph website using CSS text-shadow - This article explains how you can use a CSS stylesheet to create 3D text that pops out of the page when viewed with red/cyan glasses. I haven't seen anyone else doing this. At one stage my site had a style sheet switch you could use to make the whole site go 3D. My later book Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps shows how to use 3D glasses in Scratch games.

  4. Black (Colin Vearncombe) interview - This interview from 1993 with Colin Vearncombe, of Wonderful Life fame, remains a favourite of mine. I greatly enjoyed meeting Colin, and we kept in touch over the years. I saw him for many memorable concerts and built his first website. Colin sadly passed away in 2016, leaving us way too soon, but with a wonderful legacy of recordings.

  5. Among those dark satanic mills - My account of being a volunteer performer in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It feels a long time ago now, but this article brings back many happy memories of the summer that London welcomed the world, and I got to play a small part in the spectacular surprises.

    working men and women walking towards the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony rehearsal

    The working men and women walk to the stadium from Eton Manor

  6. If Goya had learned Javascript - Viewing two paintings by Goya in a gallery in Madrid, showing the same lady clothed and unclothed, I was struck by the possibility of using a Javsacript to switch between them. There's a charming reference to dial-up connections in this article, which was popular when I published it, around 2003.

  7. How to write a novel - My key lessons from the lengthy creative writing process for my music business novel Earworm, originally published as University of Death. I greatly enjoyed the writing process and hope to write another novel one day. Earworm is out now on Kindle and in print, and makes for a great holiday read! :-)

  8. Proofreading test - For this test, I added errors into one of my own articles and published it online so that visitors could try correcting it. It's been a popular feature of the site over the years.

  9. My Travel Photos Gallery - I have been extremely fortunate to travel to places such as China, Singapore, Australia, Japan, New York, San Francisco and South Africa. A couple of years ago I undertook a large project to put hundreds of travel photos online, including a gallery dedicated to my home city of London. Each photo has its own sliding puzzle game. You can also still see my Rock and Pop gallery, with photos of Radiohead, Pixie Lott and Slash, among others.

    A pied butcherbird at Uluru.

  10. How to sell your music on iTunes and Amazon MP3 - I used to write a monthly column about the internet for musicians. This is an article I wrote a few years ago about how to get your music into the major stores. It's been popular with musicians, together with my list of places you can sell your music online.

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Celebrating the 20th anniversary of sean.co.uk

19 July 2017


This year represents the 20th anniversary of my website.

Below you can see a screenshot of the earliest version I have on file, which is dated 1998 but was probably designed in 1997. The box on the left contained a random quote, and the background changed randomly too, to make the site more dynamic for repeat visitors (should I be lucky enough to get any). The pull-down menu was abused to create a window that opened to display more information, a way to squeeze more space out of the limited screen size we had then. The title used individual images for each letter, which were reused across the site, to speed up download time. We didn't realise back then that each separate image request carries a penalty (or perhaps it didn't matter so much in the days of dial-up). The whole thing was laid out using tables. So, plenty of what we would now call bad ideas, but which represent the spirit of exploration and innovation that defined the web back then.

Screenshot of Sean's homepage from 1998

The earliest version of my website that I still have, from 1998.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of sean.co.uk, I'm sharing 20 of my favourite pieces of content on the site. In this blog post, you can find the first ten.

  1. Amstrad CPC book and games - My first published work was programs and tutorials for Amstrad magazines, and I spent one summer writing a book on advanced BASIC programming techniques. When I came to launch my website, this was one of the first things I put online. Last month, I saw that someone has written a new game using my Sprite Definer program which appeared on an Amstrad Action cover tape. It's great to know this software is still being used, over 20 years later.

    Screenshot from Sean's Amstrad disc

    One of the games from my Amstrad CPC disc, The Further Adventures of Fred.

  2. Virtual Sean - Chat to a Virtual me in this simple chatbot I coded in Javascript. It recognises a few words or phrases and has bespoke responses for them, and otherwise chooses a random response. It learns what you type, so it can start saying the same things back to you. It's on my list to update it when I get time. I used a similar idea much later in a Python demo in Raspberry Pi For Dummies.

  3. Play Hangman - With all the online entertainment we have today, it's hard to think of a time when this kind of game was pushing the boundaries of what was possible. I licensed it to a couple of other websites, including a leading dictionary publisher. I also created a Christmas version called Snowman, and a version customised for the Nintendo DS browser. There are some tricky words in the word list!

  4. Learning to run with the Couch 2 5K programme - This blog details my experience using the Couch 2 5K programme to go from couch potato to regular jogger, including completing a 10K at the Olympic Park. If you need some exercise but don't know where to start, I hope my experience will inspire you.

  5. My music - I write and record electronic music. I have an album almost ready, but for now I've just shared a few tracks online, together with articles about recording, and the Novation Mininova synth, which I use. For updates about new music, join my newsletter list.

  6. Stareway to Heaven - This article explaining stereograms was one of the first pieces to go onto the website. The images here look tiny on my screen now. Twenty years ago, they were a pretty decent size for a web page. This page also still uses The Rail: In the early days of the web, people would use this ring of links to surf the web, exploring web pages on similar topics, with a click taking you to the next step on the trip.

    A stereogram

    Can you see the hidden picture? Discover how stereograms work in my article.

  7. When marketers get lazy - I still find this blog amusing, although I could probably have made my disapproval of its inspiration clearer.

  8. 10 Block Demos in Scratch - Scratch is widely used to learn programming, especially by children and young people in schools and at home. I wanted to create some very simple demos that people could quickly try, so I made a series of 10 Block Demos. I've written several books about or featuring Scratch now, including Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps and Coder Academy.

    How to draw a circle: 10-block Scratch demo

    One of my 10-block Scratch demo cards

  9. Designing Shaun the Sheep Football - Read how I made a football game starring Shaun the Sheep in Scratch. This was a fun project, which has been popular on the Scratch website. You can scroll past all the explanation to get straight to playing the game.

  10. Using ScratchJr on the iPad - For younger children, or anyone looking to take their very first steps in programming, ScratchJr provides a simple visual introduction. My review includes a simple game you can build. ScratchJr is available for free download, on the iPad and also now on Android. I was one of the many people who supported ScratchJr with a small donation, so you can see my name in the credits.

Thank you to everyone who's visited the site and shared its content over the last two decades!

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Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Learn to program with the Scratch programming language, widely used in schools and colleges.

Set up your Pi, master Linux, learn Scratch and Python, and create your own electronics projects.

Coder Academy

Coder Academy

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Learn to make games and other programs in Scratch 2.0, and make a web page in HTML, with this highly interactive book for 7-10 year olds.

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

More books

©Sean McManus. www.sean.co.uk.