The History of SpyderArt

The history of SpyderArt is really a history of me, Beth Campbell. I have had a few sub-contractors and assistants over the years, but on the whole, it’s been me. So let’s start at the beginning.

I began my adult life in college, like many typical eighteen-year-olds, and then I served in the U.S. Army as a linguist. After that, I found myself running a household full of children instead of sporting the professional career I had planned for myself; but with a sharp mind and a thirst for knowledge, I started self-educating and writing. I read about 75 books a year, in addition to writing short stories and the occasional article for my local newspaper. I played video games and tabletop role-playing games for fun with my friends and family.

Intel Pentium II
Intel Pentium II

In 1997 technology was exploding. As a video game enthusiast, I was delighted with the new technology of CPUs, RAM and the expanding size of hard drives. I couldn’t wait to play the newest games on the newest PC. I got a new Pentium II processor for my gaming rig, which I needed because I was playing Warcraft II. Starcraft wouldn’t come out until the following year, but that was going to be my next infatuation.

My PC-building enthusiasm didn’t let up; I can boast that I’ve built an average of five PCs a year for the past 20 years. Meanwhile the more I learned, the more I wanted to know, so I started researching ways to utilize my technical skills to work from home. Remember, I had a household full of kids!

My town happened to be the home of a very large printing company, the fourth-largest at the time. It’s now the second-largest. I found a tutor from among the digital imaging masters working at that printing company to educate me in Photoshop 4, Adobe Acrobat, and Quark Xpress. I learned how to professionally touch up photos and images for print projects like business cards, brochures, and direct marketing materials. I was taught methods for processing print jobs from conception to print-ready and I loved every minute of it. Within a year, I had mastered image manipulation and pre-press. I got a few clients, and realized it was time to make a website.

In 1997 I bought the domain www.spyderart.com and bought self-managed hosting space on an Apache webserver. I bought the cutting-edge Bryce 2.0 3D graphics-rendering software and began my education in how to use it by creating the new SpyderArt logo: a shiny metal spider in 3D. Thus www.SpyderArt.com was up and running. (In 1997 we even had to use the “www” in the web address or the site wouldn’t load!)

The first SpyderArt website
The first SpyderArt website

Meanwhile, as I was serving mostly pre-press clients from 1997 to 2000, the internet was gaining popularity like wildfire. Do you remember the AOL CDs you could get on any business counter? I had so many of those that I made them into sun-catcher mobiles for my kids! The world was loving the connectivity of the internet for talking to each other and learning new information. My clients wanted more than print-ready materials now; they wanted web pages. “Company brochures are so nineteen-eighties,” they said. They wanted websites to be their new digital brochures. Consequently, loving all things computer and digital technology, I learned to code HTML and create professional websites and found I had a knack for it. A couple years later XML would expand my website-making skills and complement the ActionScript 2.0 I would soon dive into.

At first, there was only notepad for coding HTML. There were a few places on the internet that had some web-apps with their free site-hosting that would allow a layman to create a super-simple webpage, but the professional sites often had to be coded by hand. I started using Macromedia’s Dreamweaver in 1999, and it felt like cheating after years of typing code by hand!

By the time Y2K became a “thing”, I was creating professional and personal websites for local businesses and educating clients about ways to reach new customers through internet marketing. The latest craze became the animated GIF, and eager to please my clients, I became an expert at it. Animated gifs were a popular part of internet marketing – they were a favorite for banner ads.

The Scrap Post banner ad
The Scrap Post banner ad

Then we learned about landing pages, mass email campaigns, and Java. The explosion of internet activity never stopped. I spent several years honing my skills for clients and for myself, cramming knowledge into my brain about programming languages, databases, web server management, and as always, web page development. I trained in Macromedia Flash 2.0, and found a whole new niche market with clients who wanted a video intro on their site.

2004 saw the emergence of social media with the launch of MySpace in January. One million users were on it within the first 60 days. By Thanksgiving, that number had grown to five million. By 2008, that number exploded to it’s peak of nearly 76 million as Facebook entered the fray. Clearly, people were loving social media, which meant a new internet market method was ready to be tapped. Of course I jumped on it! American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) offered programs for those of us that liked to learn at home, and I went through their copywriting program to get professional instruction.

2004 was a really pivotal year for me too, because that was the year that Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW) came out. Not only did WoW bring me an awesome new game experience, but it also brought me a whole new social medium and potential client base. Through WoW I met many fantastic people across the United States and even in other countries. WoW also added to an exploding new online market: guild websites. The MMORPs Ultima Online and Everquest might have started guild websites, but WoW took it to a new level.

Guild websites require more coding than a brochure-style website. They need forums, instant messaging, achievement notification, voice chat, recruitment features, and mobile site integration. Creating websites with these needs forced me to learn new web design technologies like MySQL, JavaScript, PHP, and Python. I also had to learn how to manage these sites through the popular content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, and eventually, Magento. Meanwhile, I was so comfortable with Dreamweaver, that I went to the next level and sought instruction in another Macromedia software: ColdFusion.

I learned a very valuable lesson from becoming educated in coding languages and scripts. Test Everything! And I prefer to test my code, plug-ins and WordPress themes through a local installation of XAMPP.

Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005, and while I was a big fan of Dreamweaver 8 and Adobe Photoshop CS3, I eventually got on board with the new combined software.

Over the next three years, I devoted myself to one client in particular: a recycling company that came into possession of a scrap metal pricing news service.

The Scrap Post news by fax
The Scrap Post news by fax
The Scrap Post website in 2004
The Scrap Post website in 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was asked to auto-collect data from LME, COMEX, NYMEX and FOREX, put that data into a single Excel sheet, calculate the changes in prices, and then distribute that data to hundreds of recyclers across the USA by fax, email, and secure website. I succeeded in the set-up of that news service, called The Scrap Post, and then I managed it every day until the financial crisis of 2007.

In 2007, my recycling company’s clients could not pay their bills, causing my recycling company to in turn lose his business, and thus The Scrap Post was sold off. SpyderArt was relegated to the back burner as I went to work for an insurance company to pay the rent.

SpyderArt has remained live over the years, serving as a reference and an example of my skills and experience. Today, I continue to use the site as a platform for trying out new code, technology, and marketing. My presence on the web as SpyderArt has been unbroken and steady since 1997, and I cannot imagine I will ever tire of learning new and exciting technology through it’s continued existence.

The technology climate continues to change, which never ceases to fill me with relish and excitement for learning and using new devices and applications. Today’s most popular items in my repertoire of tools include: cloud data storage, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn and mobile app development. I still have two of my best colleagues on speed-dial if I ever need a hand: a talented artist and a gifted programmer. SpyderArt is the way to go for an original web presence!