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Securis
2013-06-24, 05:11 PM
Back in 1996, my rural Georgia subdivision finally was connected to the internet via dial-up service. Not too long after I decided to play around with this newfangle internet thing, and discovered search engines, namely Yahoo. To a 15 year old from a sparsely populated backwater area, this was an incredible amenity. Sitting down and facing the empty search field, I'll never forget that feeling of anticipation. "You mean I can just type anything into this thing, and it'll find web pages about it?" I asked my more tech savy younger brother. He nodded. I couldn't really think of anything to search, given that a world of possibilities was at my fingertips. This was too overwhelming a decision. Finally, from the dusty recesses of corridors within my mind long left unaccessed, a random two-word phrase emerged.

I typed "Optimus Prime" and clicked search.

Being dazzled by a new technology, at least on this level, doesn't happen too many times in one's life. I could never forget that the first website I came across was called Wheeljack's Crunchy Taco Website O'Fun; it's the sort of thing that really doesn't exist anymore, like so many "So-and-so Ate My Balls" pages. The early internet was quaint and full of oddball stuff like this, and as rudimentary and simplistic as it was, it did have a number of links to other sites.

Among the many treasures I found were sites like Gregg Gaub's collector site, Phantom's Fanfic Archive, Rob Jung's Electric Escape, the Lexicon fanfic archive, alt.toys.transformers, Charlotte Brogden's fanfic page, The Serpent's Lair (run by a fanfic author named Raksha), Steve Stonebraker's website, Stanley Lui's Transformers Encyclopedia (a resource a decade ahead of its time), Jon and Karl Hartman's Tech Spec Archive, and on and on. There were too many to name, and unlike the template-generated wiki clones of today, each had their own sense of personality and unique flair. I think even this site was among them, with a two-tone red grid and the old style G1 logo as its background.

In those days, I was in the midst of a deep situational depression. The reality around me was so thoroughly displeasing that the reality inside the computer provided me with a softly glowing, warm escape. I remember reaching out to fellow fans for the first time, the novelty of instantly contacting people all across the world stoking the flames of enthusiasm and my childlike sense of wonder.

I became pen pals with a toy trader from New York City named Marlon L. Key, who sold me most of my rejuvenated G1 collection. I also contacted Becky "Phantom" Romam, of Phantom's Fanfic notoriety, Raksha, Gregg Gaub and Steve Stonebraker. Rob Jung actually read one of my fanfics (though he didn't much like it).

Looking back on that early fandom, I realize a few things. They were really the founders of something that has endured to this day, even if their original websites and offerings are long gone. They primed the interest of what might have otherwise been a lost generation of TF fans, and they did it without a ready-made "how-to" guide. I've also come to understand that their era, the early internet days, was a sort of golden age unto itself; it was before everything was on Netflix and Youtube and Hulu at our beckon call, but after the original Transformers craze. We had to make our own content, in a way, and that's what these early fans did with their websites, fanfics, and fan art.

Over the last couple of months, I've tried to find some of them and been unsuccessful. This left me with a deep sense of melancholia, but I had to temper that impulse. People move on, get married, have kids, start their careers... It isn't true what people say about the internet. It doesn't put everyone you've ever known within reach. I tried for two hours just to find a working email for Becky Roman, and even with her name and birth year, was unable to find anything. The same seemed to apply to Marlon Key and everyone else I looked for. If anyone knows any contact information for any of the fans I mentioned, or even just knows they're alive and kicking, feel free to PM me that information or comment in this thread.

And finally, I wanted to ask everyone here if they have similar memories to mine about those early days of the fandom, or met the same people or remember enjoying the same sites.

Skyquake87
2013-06-26, 08:29 AM
I resisted joining any fan-sites for a very long time. Transformers has always, and continues to be something that's weirdly deeply personal to me (despite always being aware that this is ultimately a toy franchise aimed at children, huge box office films or not), and isn't something I make a big deal about in 'real' life. i suppose it was just nice having something that felt like it was my thing.

Anyhoo, I eventually cracked and joined the tf.net and a couple of years later this site. And its nice to have made some new friends. The job i have has robbed me of much in the way of a social life, so its nice to have somewhere to go to talk to people. I've met a few folk from the tf.net and found that a few of them are local to me, so its been nice to meet these people with exotic names in the flesh :)

I remember having a look around the web in the late 1990s and was amazed that all this stuff was out there and spent ages waiting for pages to load on wacky old dial up so I could google at pictures of Transformers.

Whatever else folk say about the internet, it is great to find that there are other people out there with similar interests which can make you feel less alone in your interests and 'hooray! its not just me then!'. :)

Knightdramon
2013-06-26, 01:34 PM
Hmmm...really early 2004 for me? By my join date I'd assume so.

Not really social at the moment, and the people I knew back then I know now as well. I certainly remember Nevermore with the binalternators site, Denyer, Cliffjumper, Claypool [not to be confused with our Clay], Clay and dedicon. Sir Auros, yep, first person I sent my first review on this site to.

Fandom changes though, and the main contributors do as well. I was around 16-17 when I first joined, so it's nearly 10 years for me. Most of the guys you speak of were probably in their early or even late 20ies circa 1996, and that's nearly 20 years ago.

There was a pretty large fandom boom, for lack of better term, around 2007 with the first movie, and it brought a whole "new" generation of "old" fans. I don't think something like that will happen again, and slowly the "old" fandom I know will fade into obscurity as well...it's just a vicious circle :lol:

Denyer
2013-06-26, 07:20 PM
This won't be as long a reply as deserved, I'm afraid...

I half-remember pretty much everything. Early finds were ATT and most of the sites mentioned. It was all much more cartoon oriented than my experience of Transformers had been... being only three in 1984, and in the UK where more and better comics emerged, I had bits and pieces of Transformers stuff but went through MOTU, Thundercats, and bits of other properties before settling on TFs as having more potential in the various backstories; a big cast, science fiction outlook and not making too much of a stark good/evil duality are still appealing. Picked up a lot of annuals, comics and figures second-hand as the craze was tailing off in the G2 era (and didn't get to read the US G2 comic until Brendan and Ryan put up scans.)

The big bursts of activity after that were the Dreamwave era and the lead-up to the first live action movie.

Last time I looked ATT still gets a bit of traffic, and some of those folk settled at the Allspark. It's been years since I had time to follow several forums, though. I'd start by asking at those two if you haven't already.

It isn't true what people say about the internet. It doesn't put everyone you've ever known within reach.
Yeah, in particular there's a black hole between 1995 and 2000 for small band stuff. The sudden fall of MP3.com took a lot of that with it.

The amount of misconceptions about, eg, Japanese TF media back then was pretty hilarious in retrospect. Lots of conflict between sites, too.

Can't say I really miss Yahoo's directories, web-rings, GeoCities, Angelfire, etc. though... a lot of the content's still around one way or another and with rare exceptions such as http://www.meshyfish.com/~roo/ most of it was crap.

Warcry
2013-06-26, 07:48 PM
Transformers was the first thing (well, after porn...I was a teenager :glance: ) that I looked up after getting internet access, too.

Among the many treasures I found were sites like Gregg Gaub's collector site, Phantom's Fanfic Archive, Rob Jung's Electric Escape, the Lexicon fanfic archive, alt.toys.transformers, Charlotte Brogden's fanfic page, The Serpent's Lair (run by a fanfic author named Raksha), Steve Stonebraker's website, Stanley Lui's Transformers Encyclopedia (a resource a decade ahead of its time), Jon and Karl Hartman's Tech Spec Archive, and on and on. There were too many to name, and unlike the template-generated wiki clones of today, each had their own sense of personality and unique flair. I think even this site was among them, with a two-tone red grid and the old style G1 logo as its background.
I joined the fandom a bit later than you, so some of those names are familiar and others had faded into the abyss before my time (I particularly remember the name "Raksha" still being whispered with mute horror).

Lexicon in particular was great (and still is, the last time I looked for it -- lots of older, good quality fiction still hosted there).

The Archive is the first site I stumbled on (actually, it was first in the Google rankings when you searched "Transformers" those days), and I've stayed ever since. That was the site's heyday in retrospect, and things changed a lot around here when Hasbro hit us with a C+D and made us take down the episode downloads and comic scans that were the site's bread and butter.

From my early days in the fandom I also remember an Archive/Seibertron feud that I never really understood (beyond the "Seibertron store" debacle), Orson's World over at TFW2005 (which in retrospect is probably what made them the big TF site in the years that followed), the Dreamwave disaster and the huge reissue boom (and eventual bust). Also the Archive's RPG, of course, which has turned out to be a really big part of my life over the last decade.

Also also, Cliffjumper's old Aftermath fanfic -- which I'm pretty sure he's erased all traces of, but was a big part of the reason that spurred me on to do writing of my own.

Whatever else folk say about the internet, it is great to find that there are other people out there with similar interests which can make you feel less alone in your interests and 'hooray! its not just me then!'. :)
Same here. I was stunned to find out that not only was I not the only person in the world who still loved Transformers, but that there were thousands of us running around.

Fandom changes though, and the main contributors do as well. I was around 16-17 when I first joined, so it's nearly 10 years for me. Most of the guys you speak of were probably in their early or even late 20ies circa 1996, and that's nearly 20 years ago.
I'll be honest, sometimes it scares me how much the fan community has changed over the last decade. It's not just the technology or the increased exposure, either. In 2002 it was purely a nostalgia fandom, mostly driven by fan creations with Hasbro rarely even bothering to toss a bone our way. Now there's so much new content, so much going on, that it's lost some of it's appeal to me. Which isn't to say that I don't like the new content, but sometimes I feel like a stranger in a strange land -- or like the world's moved on and left me behind.

I suppose that's what getting older feels like?

Knightdramon
2013-06-26, 08:46 PM
I'll be honest, sometimes it scares me how much the fan community has changed over the last decade. It's not just the technology or the increased exposure, either. In 2002 it was purely a nostalgia fandom, mostly driven by fan creations with Hasbro rarely even bothering to toss a bone our way. Now there's so much new content, so much going on, that it's lost some of it's appeal to me. Which isn't to say that I don't like the new content, but sometimes I feel like a stranger in a strange land -- or like the world's moved on and left me behind.

I suppose that's what getting older feels like?

I get what you mean. During Energon/Superlink, people were amazed at how much an homage SL Galvatron was to G1 Galvatron, how Sprung was an homage to Springer [not even a triple changer], etc.

Now people got angry, offended, swearing because Takara didn't announce MP20 at tokyo toy show. Then they got offended when it wasn't either Galvatron or Megatron.

When we first got MP01 it really felt like a gift from heavens. Many people were satisfied with him as it was intended to be; a one off, high end collectible. Nowadays most fans get angry because the next MP car is X and not Y. :lol: 10 years ago we didn't even know if there was going to be anything to go with MP01 [and for years, there wasn't] and we were happy.

I do however like the "bones" takara is throwing us at the moment. 16 year old me would have a heart attack at the sight of masterpieces 9 through 19.

Cliffjumper
2013-06-26, 09:43 PM
Sort-of pine for the old days sometimes myself, it's all a lot more tabloid and short-term now... People getting so obsessed with protoypes, announcements and scoops that they're bored of things before they're even released, such a saturation of stuff out there that it's difficult to focus (and it seriously feels like the quality overall has slipped).

Then at the same time it's selfish to want something to stay small just because it makes it more digestible and simpler. I doubt I'll ever outgrow Transformers because Transformers are ****ing awesome but I'm quite glad that I've largely outgrown the increasingly pathetic fandom with their skewed perspective and ever-obsessive behaviour.

That's why I like this place. There aren't hundreds of posts a day but the ones that are made tend to be worth reading and there's about an eighty percent chance the person making them isn't a complete ****ing plum.

Warcry
2013-06-26, 10:41 PM
I get what you mean. During Energon/Superlink, people were amazed at how much an homage SL Galvatron was to G1 Galvatron, how Sprung was an homage to Springer [not even a triple changer], etc.
Simpler times, my man...simpler times. Though Galvatron actually is awesome and I still pine for one, imports and the giant Hasbro version of the toy were out of my price range in those days.

Sort-of pine for the old days sometimes myself, it's all a lot more tabloid and short-term now... People getting so obsessed with protoypes, announcements and scoops that they're bored of things before they're even released, such a saturation of stuff out there that it's difficult to focus (and it seriously feels like the quality overall has slipped).
So much agreement.

I hatehatehatehatehatehate that we hear about toys now six months or more before they're released (and thus, eight to ten months before most show up where I live). It's gotten to the point where stuff feels old before I've even bought it because the fandom's already passed judgment and moved onto the next thing before anyone's even seen the damned things in person.

Then at the same time it's selfish to want something to stay small just because it makes it more digestible and simpler. I doubt I'll ever outgrow Transformers because Transformers are ****ing awesome but I'm quite glad that I've largely outgrown the increasingly pathetic fandom with their skewed perspective and ever-obsessive behaviour.
I dunno. A lot of the time I think it's the other way around -- the fandom has outgrown people like us. Increasing popularity brings with it all the bandwagoners who suddenly "always loved Transformers" because it's cool again, along with people a generation younger than us who were first introduced to the franchise by Michael Bay. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it has led to the "old fan" perspective being shouted down by increasing numbers of people who didn't live through the same things we did.

Reading threads at TFW (bad idea, I know...) it amazes me how many of the posters weren't even fans during the time of the first Bay movie.

Knightdramon
2013-06-27, 11:04 AM
Wholeheartedly agree about your points, Cliff and Warcry.

I think the "seen months to year before release" syndrome started around movie 1, but it wasn't that bad. We were seen very rough testshots and whatnot since...December 2006? But even then, they were rough gray testshots in mostly static poses, not the whole "announced, seen, obtained, reviewed via production sample and then the fandom already made up their minds" thing we have now.

I seriously believe that the FOC Bruticus we got now would be celebrated as if it was the final gift before the end of times if we got it circa 2006-2008. Even though it doesn't look like much [and probably isn't, don't have one yet], it's still a cybertronian 5 members gestalt with no parts forming.

And yes, a vast, vast portion of the current fandom came during or after the first and second films. Judging by the join dates for most, this leaves about a 5% or so of lurkers who were around before. Some of the "biggest" photographers, reviewers and whatnot came at that point.

People still grip about the lack of reissues, or lack of MP news and releases...they weren't around at the TRU G1 reissues with the stupidly long missiles and the 35 or so USD price point :lol:

inflatable dalek
2013-06-28, 10:06 PM
I'll have been here ten years next year, and I still feel like a noob, and will continue to do so as long as the real decrepid old farts who've been posting since the internet was a big piece of paper don't drop dead from their advanced years.

I do recall my first idea of an afterlife for the original Transformers (as opposed to new stuff like Beast Wars), was an advert for that months Titan books in Dreamwatch magazine that included a plug for the All For Down book. And I know I've told this story before, but the sheer excitment at realising I wasn't the only person who remembered those comics I still had rotting on top of my bookcase had me ejaculating nearly as much as James Roberts does. I think I even tried to use that old comic guide (Zorbov's? Rob Jung?) to work out which issues would be in it and the promised follow up book. All of which was hopelessly wrong as the titles were just picked for sounding cool...

It must sound really odd to anyone coming to the old stuff now, where it's all now or going to be in the near future reprinted (with most of it having beeen done multiple times) that there was a slight sense of, for want of a better word, danger, about the Titan books.

They were never about being comprehensive, they were started as a Furman vanity project that just grew and grew and there was real tension over whether we'd get everything reprinted or not (and frustration over what was missing as the idea of their being another series of reprint books down the line seemed insane). "We'll never have Man of Iron in book form!". Now I have more Man of Iron than I know what to do with.

Denyer
2013-06-28, 10:49 PM
the sheer excitment at realising I wasn't the only person who remembered those comics I still had rotting on top of my bookcase had me ejaculating nearly as much as James Roberts does.
You heard the inadvertent but libellous accusation of sex addiction here first, folks.

Still no IDW G2 books, unless I've missed something. Still missing some fairly key annual stories such as State Games, Peace, etc. and the charmingly throwaway Ghosts and other stuff. On the one hand I don't care as much... on the other, my copies of the annuals are more worn than I remember, and a collectible "complete" G2 volume with the Joes issues also present would be nice. They've got both licenses, after all.

inflatable dalek
2013-06-29, 01:33 AM
I come from a more innocent age where all it took was a comic. These days fans need Megan Fox legs akimbo to get them going.

Assuming IDW don't go tits up the current run of UK and US classics should mop up everything G1 that's never been collected before (as I understand it the last American book is even going to add the profiles frrom the later issues to Universe). I'd have thought the most logical step after that would be a big G2 book with Ghosts as well, but I suppose it depends on how much they don't want to show up Reg.

Mind, even though the IDW run is more complete my poison of choice for the American series remains the Titan harbacks. Luuuuvley.

Skyquake87
2013-06-29, 05:33 AM
If IDW do a Universe reprint with the late G1 profiles from the old Marvel book and a complete G2 - with the Joe lead in and Ghosts- I will be in like a shot for those.

I do still like my Titan collections though.