It's Sean!

UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

Printed from © Sean McManus.
You are here: Home > Blog Home > Sean McManus's Writing blog: Celebrating the 20th anniversary of

Sean's Tech and Writing Blog

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of

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, 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!

Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | April 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | Top of this page | RSS

Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in Easy 


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.

Super Skills: How to 


Super Skills: How to Code

Web Design in Easy Steps

Web Design in Easy Steps

Learn how to code with this great new book, which guides you through 10 easy lessons to build up your coding skills.

Learn the layout, design and navigation techniques that make a great website. Then build your own using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

More books

©Sean McManus.