Y2KOK4U? My Strange Animated GIF Phase of the 1990s

I'm using my temporary unemployment as an opportunity to clean some things up: my daily routine, the house, and—perhaps most daunting of all—my computer. Digging through old computer files is an exercise in bafflement and hilarity. Why did I feel it was necessary to keep this editorial calendar spreadsheet from three jobs ago? Hey look, here's two gigs of random flash video files I scraped off the Internet in 2005! Here's a bunch of files formatted for software I don't even have anymore (hello, OmniGraffle!), and this appears to be a Christmas shopping list that maybe I emailed to myself.

Hoo-boy, now I realize why I've been putting this off for so long.

But every once in a while I hit a gold mine, or at least something that's actually kind of interesting. Six layers down from my main Documents folder, tucked away in an archive of crappy HTML pages from long-defunct personal websites, I found an assortment of surreal animated GIF images. BEHOLD!

It's a fish! A fish! Get it? Huh? Don't you get it?!

Nope, I don't get it either.

Let me explain. These things go back to the late 1990s. Back then I had a little box in the upper right-hand corner of my website called "FO TV," which just displayed these GIFs randomly. Most of them served no purpose whatsoever except to give me an excuse to fiddle with my computer and distract the eye from my cringe-worthy homepage.


As you can see, I also went through a big geometric phase around this time.

Animated GIFs are all the rage now, of course, but most of the current GIF-happy generation were mere toddlers back then. It was a world without Spongebob, without YouTube cat videos, and without mercy. We had to scrape and sweat for our online kicks, and we liked it! So unlike the current wave of animations, which are usually just clips from movies or TV shows, these puppies were handmade: each frame was individually crafted in... gosh, I have no idea what image editor I used back then. It wasn't Photoshop, that's for sure. Anyway, I created each frame separately and then had to stitch them together using some other program I can't remember.

But it wasn't all fun and games in the late 1990s. Danger hung over our heads—a ticking time bomb set to go off at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve 1999! Society as we knew it was set to collapse! Here were my thoughts on the impending Y2K apocalypse:

Deep, huh? That's the level on which I was apparently operating in my late 20s. I really, really needed a girlfriend. 

One of the big features of FO TV was self-referential humor, sometimes including a crude 8-bit self-portrait:

Actually, I still rather like the video game one. Maybe I should bring that back.

Other animations were just weird or embarrassingly dorky. I wanted the three or four people who were likely to visit my website in any given month to pause and say, "what the hell is wrong with this guy?"

That's my college buddy Stephen delivering the important PSA about lye. Listen to him, kids. He speaks truth. Incredibly, he's still my friend.

Towards the end of FO TV in 2000 or so, I began using the space to promote KZSU-FM, where I had just begun what would become a 15-year radio stint. So these final examples are particularly dear to my heart, even though most of them contained ZERO useful information, like, um, what a KZSU was or why I was promoting it or how you could tune in:

"Unknown format," get it? Because it's a freeform radio station and, um... oh, well. I'd never worked in marketing back then!

So there you go. I've actually spared you from the worst GIFs. At least now they're finally back online, where they always belonged. Can't wait to see what's lurking in the next folder...