My First Web Server
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

It was nearly 10 years ago (mid 1996) that I first put my own web server on the Internet. Back in college, I managed to convince one of the staff to give my personal computer a static IP address so that I could run a web server. At the time there were no other student computers on the campus network, let alone with static addresses.

It was a year of firsts for me and for the University.

At the time my nearly state of the art computer was a 486 DX2/66 with 16MB of RAM running Linux 2.0.0. (I still remember upgrading from 1.x.x.) The computer lived at the address (that link goes to the Internet Archive, where you can see pizza's old home page). I put my homepage there, as did several friends. We used telnet (gasp!) to login and update things.

I remember spending something like $100 for the Ethernet card, a 3Com 509 with 10base2, 10base-T, and "thick" ethernet. Computers didn't all come with built-in network ports back then. And $100 was a lot of money for a lowly undergrad. But being in the Internet was important to me.

I remember learning Perl and CGI programming in 1996 too. In fact, I built my first "web application" that year and ran it for a few years. Sadly, the Internet Archive never captured the "Vote on Bowling Green's Best Pizza" site I had built. It became quite popular on campus (among those who used the web, at least!)

My First Web Server
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

That application led to the student government paying me $400 a year or so later to build the first on-line voting system. That's right, back in 1997 or 1998 we had the option of voting on-line for our student government elections. That involved more Perl code (complete with socket programming) and a little flat-file database system (with locking) to hold the data. No PHP, no MySQL.

That experience led to a few side jobs doing "web programming" (for rates that seemed really high back then, but it was the beginning of Bubble 1.0), an 8 month systems administration internship in the Computer Science Department, turning down the chance to work at Yahoo! (back in 1997 or so, but that's a story for another day), a longer-running co-op with Marathon Oil Company doing Intranet and Internet Web development, graduation, a full-time job at Marathon, and ultimately moving to California to work for Yahoo in late 1999.

Anyway, the first web server stayed on the school network for a few years and eventually saw a motherboard upgrade. (Remember when we used to upgrade motherboards instead of buying completely new computers?) It then became what it is today: a Pentium 133 with 96MB of RAM running Linux. It went on to be my home Linux server for years, gaining a second network card (it was my gateway/firewall before Linksys made such devices), CD-ROM drive, and so on.

Now, 10 years later I'm giving it away on craigslist. My own little piece of history that no longer serves a practical purpose and nobody is likely to pay money for it. But it still works. ;-)

What do you remember about your first web server?

Posted by jzawodn at January 01, 2006 10:17 AM

Reader Comments
# Steve Foster said:

My first web server was PII-400, 256m ram and a 3Com 805b(?). A huge pain in the butt to get that 3Com card working in Win98; however FreeBSD 2.x handled it like a champ.

Funny thing, that server is still sitting under my desk running FreeBSD 6.0, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

on January 1, 2006 11:52 AM
# Ben said:

386 dx 40 running debian 2.0 I think? I never got into perl/cgi until much later.

on January 1, 2006 12:38 PM
# Dave Winer said:

My first web server was WebStar, running on a Macintosh Quadra. Total workhorse. Never crashed, just ran and ran and ran. It's been gone for a very long time, thrown in a dumpster along with tons of other obsolete posessions in 2003. It hadn't been serving web pages for three or four years at the time of its demise.

on January 1, 2006 01:13 PM
# dan isaacs said:

*sigh* The first time I left myself logged into a shell acocunt to return to a seriously hacked .bashrc was on Pizza. Then, as since, my entire web presence was on one of Jeremy's servers.


on January 1, 2006 01:51 PM
# xavier caballe said:

I don't exactly remember which my first web server was. It should be around 1995 or 1996. If it was in 1995, the webserver was a Solaris box with Netscape server; if it was in 1996; the platform was either Mac OS 7, Windows NT 3.51 or Linux running WebSTAR, IIS and Apache respectively. I still remember that in 1997 I was in charge of a Linux box running NCSA web server.

on January 1, 2006 02:09 PM
# David Geller said:

My first web server was one I wrote while I was bored trying to convicne the folks at LapLink (Traveling Software) that the Internet was going to big. I remember one day thinking gopher was cool to seeing the first web browser and being blown away. So, I ended up writing an web server and it actually ran the first Traveling Software web site for a while. I don't recall the hardware, but it was something bitch'n for the time. I later ended up packaging the same server code as an OCX and made it so any app for Windows could have HTTP capabilities. Ah, the memories.

on January 1, 2006 02:40 PM
# Joe Zawodny said:

My first and only web server was a Abit BP6 running dual celeron 350s overclocked to 500MHz with 512Mhz (later 1GB) of RAM. I bought the stuff new so if you remember when the BP6 came out you can determine the date. That System was configured as a LAMP system and I learned a bit about PHP and MySQL. It ran pretty much non-stop until a year ago when it got hacked badly via an Apache vulnerability. I retired it immediately after discovery of the hack (which rendered my website totally unusable). I have not found a proper home for my web presence yet. I gave that system away this morning.

on January 1, 2006 03:03 PM
# Alan Levine said:

In October 1993, a colleague handed me a floppy disk labeled "Mosaic". Ji said, "Hey, Alan, you've been playing around with Gopher, try this out." I was hooked into hypertext.

A month later I plugged a Mac SE/30 into our network running Chuck Shotton's MacHTTP, the first web server in our organization, and have not stopped since:

A year later I moved it to a 486/DX2 and in another year it was on our IT department's enterprise Alpha servers.

on January 1, 2006 03:34 PM
# Paul Westbrook said:

My first web server was a 233Mhz Power Mac G3 desktop, running Yellow Dog Linux

on January 1, 2006 04:21 PM
# Scott Yang said:

My first webserver was a 486 DX4-75 lappy with merely 8Mb of RAM running Slackware 2.x (Linux 1.2.8? I think) and can't remember what httpd was it. It was '96.

It wasn't really a "server" as it actually lacks decent network connection. It was on a lappy because I used it to demo a Perl CGI app I wrote for a library. It runs the whole thing (httpd, Perl-CGI + X + browser). In fact in demo mode it runs no window manager but bootstraps maximised Netscape in its .xinitrc. Usable, but swaps like crazy.

But that was what 8Mb+swap can do back in '96...

on January 1, 2006 04:41 PM
# Julian Melville said:

My first server was around 1995-6. A Mac, I think it was a Centris of some kind, it moved to being a PowerMac 7100 later on. It was christened the Unseen Machine, and lived at in the old Teaching Technology Group at Waikato University. It ran a mix of things, but most often Webstar, Userland Frontier and Filemaker Pro, and allowed the multimedia dev staff (including me) to get a taste of the web.

I remember being pretty excited when we had hits from MIT and Macromedia (we were a big Director shop) in the same week.

That server also ran a weird Mac chat room server of some kind that I publicized through a column in the student newspaper, and it attracted a small group of followers - most of whom I never met.

A later version of the homepage is on at

I guess it did it's job as I'm still working in the industry nearly 10 years later!


on January 1, 2006 06:56 PM
# James said:

I've never actually had a webserver of my own.

But my first BBS machine was an Amstrad PC1512 XT. It had a 20MB hard drive and because it was noisy, it turned itself off at midnight and on again at 6am so I could get some sleep.

That got replaced by a $400(NZD) 386 with a 100MB hard drive which happily ran my BBS full time until I discovered the internet, and it became a linux gateway/firewall etc.

I first used the internet in 1994 (I think) when my favourite BBS became a linux login prompt.

on January 1, 2006 08:00 PM
# Nicholas Paredes said:

I miss my Raq2! What a nicely integrated package. Although I hosted previously, it was my first web server.

on January 1, 2006 08:29 PM
# Kevin Marsh said:

That's pretty awesome that you went to BGSU... being a Rocket you are my sworn enemy, but it's cool nonetheless :)

(BTW: was the winner Pisanello's?!)


on January 1, 2006 09:38 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Heh. It was either Pisanello's or Myles, depending on the day you checked. :-)

on January 1, 2006 09:42 PM
# Andy Stoffel said:

It's been awhile so I don't have the exact date anymore but it must have been some time in 1993 I put up the early CERN http server up on our VMS cluster (running on a trio of VAX 4600's). It eventually replaced our gopher server on the same machine (which itself replaced a VTX installation.).

One of those interesting exercises... had to start with installing a C compiler. And when I wanted Perl I had to build that from scratch. The wonders of working in a non-Unix mini-computer environment in the early 90's. The Unix guys on campus had it much easier when they did the same thing later...

on January 1, 2006 09:51 PM
# Alex said:

You lucky bugger.. I set up my first server round that time and had to content with a 486 sx/25.. .but its still running ! :)

bogomips : 12.42


on January 1, 2006 10:01 PM
# Anjan said:

I was going to say I used to vote for Myles and then I saw your reply :) That's one of the things I miss in NY - Myles' Meat Lovers Pizza. I take that back - miss Trotters too.

on January 1, 2006 10:18 PM
# Justin Lundy said:

My first web server was a 486dx 33Mhz with 16MB RAM and a 200MB disk running Slackware (I forget which version). It is probably in a landfill in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

on January 1, 2006 10:22 PM
# Lori Bravo said:

My first web server was some sorry Mac that no one wanted backe in 1994. It was also the University of Texas at San Antonio's first web server. No one thought it mattered, and one day I came in to my office to find the Mac taken apart and the memory gone. Apparently, one of the techs thought that a secretary's computer that needed an upgrade was more important than the University's web server. Back then, he was probably right -- but still...

on January 2, 2006 12:10 AM
# Chris Chapman said:

My very first webserver was a NeXT slab, believe it or not. I had picked one up through a friend of a friend in '95 to kick around. They had a tendency to not run headless so you had to plug the monitor in, boot, then unplug. The monitor was this greyscale 19" monster so it wasn't practical to keep in the closet. Finally I read that you could use 2 or 3 capacitors and connect some pins on the video out port to make it boot headless. I did that and covered it with scotch tape - ran for years like that.

Around the same time at my day job, I used a quadra 800 to start my company's first website, using Webstar and this funky little app called Aretha, which was the free release of frontier. That was the dawn of content management systems for me.

on January 2, 2006 06:20 AM
# Juanjo said:

I have my first web server arround here, but I don't feel like throwing it in a clean point to be recycled. It's a Pentium 100Mhz with 64 MB of RAM and 840 MB hard disk. And it works!

on January 2, 2006 07:57 AM
# dan isaacs said:

Hey Joe, I'm STILL using a BP6 (Celery 400's clocked to 525) as my primary desktop. In it's 7 years of life, it's run BSD, Linux, BeOS (Prevue Release through v5), NT, Win2K, Win2K Server, and now XP.

Trotters is long gone. And last I checked the vote (I had to be one of the last to check) Pisanellos had a 13 vote edge on Myles, proving that some people do in fact pay attention to the Health Inspector.

For two years, I spent more time next to Pizza than I did going to class. And I have the transcripts to prove it.

on January 2, 2006 09:40 AM
# Brad said:

In 1982 I was serving up a stock ticker ActiveX control from my Vic-20 running Badger. Hmm, that may be wrong, the memory is fuzzy now.

on January 2, 2006 09:58 AM
# Michal Bencur said:

What a coincidence. My first PC built (in late 95 or early 96) had the same case as your pizza. It was AMD's 486 clone - the best 486 you could get that time. I was running Slackware, compiling, configuring, and running everything there was - kernel, apache, squid, various window managers, everything. That was tons of fun! I think I used it for 2-3 years, then replaced with Celeron266 running on 400 MHz - after few months I realized the fan on cpu is not working, but the machine had no problems, so I let it just running, without fan, overclocked at 50%.

on January 2, 2006 01:57 PM
# Sean said:

Sergeant, a 386 SX-16 with 5 MB of RAM with coax ethernet running Slackware something-or-other. I lived in rez at the time, I was on the second floor, the connection went out my window upstairs, then window to window across the wing, and finally up a telephone conduit to a computer lab. Sergeant eventually became someone's firewall (and my backup MX) when we moved out of rez, then the magic smoke came out of the box and it was retired.

on January 2, 2006 05:37 PM
# VonSkippy said:

You kids today. My first web server was a handful of spinning spiders and some note cards.

on January 2, 2006 06:07 PM
# Adam said:

Ah, I don't remember the specs on my system, but I do remember in 1995 or so, while I was supposed to be actually studying for my JD and MBA degrees, I was playing with O'Reilly's "Web Site" Web server software... and used a dynamic IP thingy so I was able to have or something like that (eigenmann -- the name of my dorm at Indiana University). I also had an ftpd running, an e-mail list, a shell account of course, and so on. Ah, what fun days!

on January 2, 2006 08:34 PM
# Kevin Burton said:

Dude. Don't do that!

Google employees could get hold of it and use it for Voodoo and screw up your mojo!


on January 3, 2006 04:01 AM
# Kevin Burton said:

Oh. And my first web server was sort of a blur. I had a 486 SX/33 for a while that ran Linux 2.0 or so. Upgraded from my DOS addiction.

Then I managed to h4x0r a 14.4 modem connection to my local school (shhhhhh) which I used basically as a slooow FTP/HTTP server. It would end up dropping off the Internet before I'd ever need to use it though.

.. and yes... telnet. But I wrote the daemon myself so.... thats cooler.

Then I managed to sucker these guys to actually PAY me to work on computers at which point I convinced them that their Windows machined had to go. The let me install a version of Apache in the corner to keep me happy but it ended up becoming production. w00t!


on January 3, 2006 04:11 AM
# Stephan said:

Our first server was a PII-400 with 256 MB RAM and a 4 GB hard drive. And since we liked it so much, we painted it:

Must have been sometime in late 1998. It's still in use today...

on January 3, 2006 06:29 AM
# Sheeri said:

My first web server was in 1998 (or 1999) -- I was in college, building a web-based ordering and proof system for business cards for a major university in the Boston area (not the same one I was going to). I was hacked with a root kit every 6 months, until I learned better. I should say that the machine was a Dell server, purchased by the university's reprographics company, and it lived in my house.

Now THAT application was interesting. They were still running on Mac OS 9, and this was before PHP and graphics manipulation were hot. Using Perl and a template, I generated proofs. Once the order was placed, the system sent the order to a machine running OS 9, and used Applescript to fill in a Quark Xpress template.

on January 3, 2006 07:02 AM
# imabug said:

Ooooh, my very first webserver was a Color NeXTStation that I managed to get NCSA httpd to run on. It was a 68040 with a whopping 32 MB of RAM and maybe a few hundred MB of disk space. That must have been around 1993, 1994 maybe (sometime during my grad student days). Don't remember exactly when. That NeXTStation eventually turned into a department webserver and hosted the department web pages until around 97 or so when the NeXTs we had were taken out of service and replaced with PCs.

on January 3, 2006 12:37 PM
# Maurice said:


a 426 sx that ran part time on BT's Intranet sometime around may/June 94

Rgds Maurice

on January 4, 2006 02:09 AM
# Jason Stirk said:

I had an old P133 with 32Mb of RAM and a jumble of 400Mb and 1.2Gb HDDs living in the cupboard (yeah, just great for heat!). Over it's life, it ran several versions of Red Hat.

I lost count of the number of times (very second hand) NICs died on it.

Ah, those were the days...

on January 4, 2006 05:12 AM
# Vivin said:

It was a P4, 1.7Ghz with 512Mb RAM. I didn't set up my own server until early 2002!

on January 24, 2006 12:24 AM
# Dedicated Linux Server said:

Wow, ten years ago. I remember 1996 in New York City. It was a year I considered so cutting-edge. But now it seems like another era for technology. I guess that's one of the paradoxes of life.

on March 2, 2006 10:29 AM
# planetxapps said:

486 10 years ago.... Hell, you can still run a 486 as a web server today.

I currently run a Pentium 166mhz running DSL(Damn Small Linux) as my web server today. It isn't much newer that your 486. I have Apache, PHP, MySQL DB, all running on my old system from my house. Yes, that is MySQL... MySQL database is the backend on my chat forum I have.

Try it out...

I have a standard DSL connection (384K up and down)... because I don't have a ton of bandwidth, you don't need a real powerful system to run a 384K DSL connection. I also have my web server working as an email server and remote proxy. I am using DSL 2.3


on December 27, 2006 10:12 AM
# Gregg Lain said:

My first webserver was in 1998 - I was at Sun and set up a Sparc Station 20 with Solaris 7, Apache 1.3 or something. I wrote these gnarly resourcehog scripts to make index pages - did not know perl or about PHP. That served our lab for 3-4 years until it was retired and upgraded.

on March 16, 2007 02:25 AM
# vivek said:

hai guys i need help as i am hosting my first web server i am using a webstar cable modem i have done i right but the cable moden is not letting me other computers on the internet to get the site viewed i used no-ip to get a domain and please help me

on September 25, 2007 12:21 AM
# E. David Zotter said:

I owe you a big big thank you for letting me use your server back in the day!

on June 10, 2008 12:23 PM
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