In this post I plan to take you on a trip back through history to a time when Tony Blair had been Prime Minister for just six months, Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer and ‘The Teletubbies say “Eh-Oh”‘ was at the top of the UK singles chart. Yes, I am describing the year 1997. I’m aware that 1997 is not long ago in relation to some of the records held at The National Archives, but as my colleague Mark Merifield explained in his recent post, the last few decades have seen drastic changes in the way that public records are produced. A majority of records are now digital and many are made available through the internet.
I work as part of the Web Continuity Team and we are responsible for archiving the websites of UK Central Government departments. The first departmental websites were launched in the mid-1990s just as general use of the internet began to take off. As government use of the internet increased, The National Archives recognised that valuable information was at risk of being lost and in 2003 we began a programme of archiving websites. We worked with the Internet Archive, a US based non-profit organisation which had started archiving websites from around the world as early as 1996. Fortunately for us the Internet Archive had archived several early UK Central Government websites. Some of these early archived versions are now available through the UK Government Web Archive.
One of my favourite examples is this instance of the HM Treasury website which was archived in December 1997.
Viewing the earliest captures in the archive is like a step down memory lane for me. I’m transported back to the dark days of dial up and having to wait through 10 minutes of strange noises while the modem dialled several phone numbers before finally connecting to the web. Then after all that having to disconnect a few minutes later because someone else in the house needed to use the phone!