A Brief History Of The F1Page
I began Paul’s Formula 1 Page in 1996 as a project while I was learning HTML. In those days it was just a page or so of Formula 1 related news hosted on an AOL members server. The pages were originally coded by hand using my favourite text editor.
In April 1998 I purchased the F1Page.com domain and on Tuesday April 14th, 1998 I moved the site to a FreeBSD server hosted by Best Communications. This move from the AOL server where it had been for the previous two years made it much easier to find and bookmark as well as improving download times and functionality. I was also able to add some scripts to the site which AOL would not allow.
At about the same time I bought my first copy of Microsoft FrontPage and imported the F1Page into it. I wasn’t really all that interested in the WYSIWYG features of FrontPage as by then I was quite proficient at coding by hand — using vi on a Solaris box in my “real job” made sure of that — but the site management tools like site-wide file renaming and link checking seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only later when I looked at the source code that I saw how many extra and unnecessary tags had been added every time I made even the smallest changes.
Taking advantage of FrontPage Themes I created a new custom theme which gave every page of the site a common look and feel which could easily be changed whenever I wanted. I later discovered that each new theme I created also added hundreds of system generated images that I would never use so in 2000 I replaced the FrontPage Theme with a fairly simple set of styles using cascading style sheets (CSS). Removing the FrontPage Theme removed hundreds of unnecessary FONT tags and system generated images and greatly lessened the time it took to render the pages. This worked quite well and so the following year I added some new items to the style sheets to make the pages look a little more spiffy.
Before Macromedia invited me to a few of their product seminars I wasn’t very familiar with their software but when I saw it demonstrated I was very impressed with Dreamweaver and purchased a copy the following day. In a couple of days I had migrated the site from FrontPage to Dreamweaver so that it looked the same but each page was less than half of its previous size.
I have retained the minimalist approach which I adopted in 2000. Less may not always be more but it certainly downloads a lot faster which is what most people want these days. To this end I have optimised the sizes of the main images and removed some of the larger graphics entirely.
In 2003, after reading some interesting and inspiring articles by Jeffrey Zeldman (The Daily Report and A List Apart to name but some of his works) and Carrie Bickner (The New York Public Library Style Guide), I decided that it was high time that this site became standards compliant. To that end I rewrote the style sheets and edited all of the mark-up so that the entire F1Page is now CSS and XHTML (1.0 Transitional) compliant according to The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and, let’s face it, they should know!
During 2004 I switched from using a PC to a Mac and, rather than buy another copy of Dreamweaver, I went back to coding by hand with BBEdit. Surprisingly this was not only more fun but also quite a bit quicker.
That same year I finally got around to automating the site so that I could update all of the results and get them online much more quickly than before. All of the team, driver, event and result data were stored in a MySQL database which was updated by a custom content management system that I wrote using PHP. The HTML tables showing the GP schedule and the various championships were generated dynamically when requested.
Over the years the CMS was rewritten in C, C++ and finally Java as I experimented with those languages. Unfortunately, the source code was lost in a system crash and for the time being I was back to coding by hand with a little help from a LibreOffice spreadsheet.
Thankfully, the site has since been imported into WordPress and now, with a little modification to one of the standard themes, I am happy to let them handle the layout.