On File Formats, Very Briefly

Paul Ford describes the early days of the web:

Then along came HTML, and what I remember most was that sense of being back inside the file. Sure, HTML was a typographic nightmare, a bunch of unjustified Times New Roman in 12 pt on screens with chiclet-sized pixels, but under the hood you could see all the pieces. Just like WordPerfect. That transparency was a wonderful thing, and it renewed computing for me. I was in my early twenties but there was such ennui—NeXT wasn’t catching on, Apple was crashing, and Microsoft was all paperclips. On the web, if something didn’t work, you could hop right in and tidy it up, and hit reload. And hit reload. And hit reload. I imagine I have hit reload five or six million times in my life. If you were to identify the single characteristic of a web person, it would be that their thumb and index finger have certain calluses where they press the command/control and “R” keys. Just thinking of reloading, my fingers instinctually go into a sort of crab-claw formation. I’m always ready to refresh.