Website History, Goals, and Information
Elwin C. Penski, Webmaster, January 2011

MISSION OF WEBSITE
  • To support the mission of the Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. (HSHC) by:
    • Helping worldwide researchers and genealogists begin their research on or in Harford County
    • Acquainting high school and college students with Harford County and regional history
    • Increasing Society visibility, contributions, feedback, communications and sales
    • Showing appreciation to the multitude of Society volunteers and contributors
    • Keeping volunteers, contributors, directors, officers and members well informed
    • Long term preservation of the history of Harford County
  • To create the best county historical society website at no cost to the Society
  • To keep the site accessible 24/7 to special equipment for the sightless, to people with other challenges, and to support the hundreds of special new devices, such as web phones, web TV, and hand held devices
  • To keep the site abreast of swiftly changing technology
HISTORY AND CURRENT STATUS

Starting in late 1964, I was driving from the Edgewood Area of APG to the Washington D.C. area to use Navy and National Bureau of Standards computers, almost every other work day. At about the same time the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US Department of Defense was trying to improve access to the inadequate number of expensive, large, powerful research computers in the country for the numerous research scientists and engineers who were not close to one. By 1968, a plan was prepared for ARPAnet, which was the world's first operational packet switching network and the predecessor of the global Internet. I attended some of the early ARPA sponsored planning meetings and reported on Edgewood Arsenal's many uses of computers.

Before about 1970, computing was done by submitting a batch of punched cards to the operator and waiting several hours for the batch to run. The first remote online computing that was performed at Edgewood Arsenal (EA) and probably Harford County was done by me. I was working in the Physical Chemist Branch where I initiated and executed work with a Typagraph machine located at EA interfaced with a Leasco Systems and Research Corporation owned IBM 360 Computer in Bethesda MD. The Typagraph machine used teletype technology to transmit software, data, results, and graphs back and forth to the computers memory for immediate interaction. While the communication rate was only 10 characters a second, it had a faster response time than the other systems on Post in 1970. Instead of one turn about a day, one could get several an hour.

The Internet is a revolutionary communication medium that began online in 1990 when World Wide Web was born when HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) was developed. In 1994, the World Wide Web exploded from only 500 known web servers in 1993 to over 10,000. The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. (HSHC) Website was begun slowly in early 1996 by the current webmaster. The Society's first e-mail address "[email protected]" was introduced. "Harchis" was a contraction of Harford County History. I explored putting it on a Harford County or Public Library server, but that was not possible. It was first put online in October of 1996. It was hosted by NetGSI, an Aberdeen, Maryland Internet service provider. It was assumed that a local company would be easier to work with. Also, we assumed that other members of the HSHC would want to make their own updates and that it would be easier to update the website at the Headquarters. Thus, for several years, the website was setup and updated from computers at the Headquarters of the HSHC. During the summer of 1999, NetGSI went bankrupt. We did not know about that until the fall of 1999. Innovative Exchange Inc. of Bel Air, IXIMD, had taken over as the HSHC Website Host. The computers at headquarters became too heavily used. Thus, during the winter of 2000, it was decided that all of our initial assumptions were in error. Also, I learned that canned website creation software had so many problems, that straight HTML programming was preferable in most cases, but I used FrontPage for special tasks like uploading or selecting colors.

It was necessary to start over. Thus, I bought a new personal computer, with the most complete version of Microsoft Office 2000 for web development. After that, all the work on the site was done at my home. The Officers of HSHC selected "www.HarfordHistory.net" as the domain name. One of the biggest hosting services, HostPro, Inc. was selected. HostPro was a subsidiary of Micron Electronics, Inc. of Idaho. By March 2000, the new website was up and running with all new software. After that, the work on the website was much easier. HostPro had advantages such as 99% up time and free usage statistics.

Regina Pulfrey designed the first version of the Hays House Web Pages. Heather Grammer and Jeffrey Sawyer did some of the work on the Harford County Chronology. The Library and Archives staff helped with the research. Marlene Magness and Thurza Brandt helped with the old photographs.

The Baltimore County Historical Society (BCHS) had a website hosted by the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) that had some difficulties in updating. As a member of the BCHS Board of Directors, I took it over in the Fall of 2000. It had a long address of "www.bcpl.lib.md.us/branchpgs/bchs/bchshome.html" which the Board of Directors decided to shorten to: "www.BaltoCoHistSoc.org." The BCPL bought the BCHS the new domain name and was very helpful. I found that taking care of two sites produces synergistic effects that help both sites. Both websites were greatly enlarged. In the Fall of 2003, I turned the BCHS website over to a paid professional website designer.

In the Fall of 2001, HostPro Inc. was bought by Interland Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, the largest hosting service for small businesses and organizations in the world. The web page was moved to a server in Los Angeles, CA 90010 (NETlimited). This hosting service provided us with FrontPage access and usage statistics.

In the Fall of 2001 and in 2002, a number of web pages for the Booth Room Committee was added. Under that site, three sections have been added. These are titled, "Tour of Booth Family Historic Sites, Tour I. Harford County" and "Tour of Booth Family Historic Sites, Tour II. Baltimore and Howard Counties, and Baltimore City." The tours were researched, photographed, and written by Dinah Faber. In 2003, a Booth bibliography page was also added.

In January 2006 we passed one million hits. In the Spring of 2006, Interland Inc. changed its name to Web.com Inc.. During July of 2006, I upgraded my computer to a Intel Pentium D (dual) processor, with a 160 GB hard drive, 11 USB ports, 3.5" floppy, 2 DVD R/W drives, and a 21" monitor. The rapid increase in use of large monitors forced me to modify about 130 web pages that make up the site. Several flash USB drives and the large screen allowed easy access to many files and the internet simultaneously.

Web.com Inc. (our hosting service) had a very good record of less 0.1% of downtime for many years of seven days a week, 24 hours a day operation. On February 21, 2007, I started getting reports that the site was down which I forwarded to Web.com Inc. After 12 days of being down, I decided that I should use this problem as an opportunity to make some upgrades to the website.

On March 5, 2007, I moved the website to IX Web Hosting of Ecommerce Inc., Hopkinsville, KY. In addition to improving several technical matters, the name of the site has been updated. The recommended name is now HarfordHistory.org, but the following names access the site: www.HarfordHistory.net (renewed to March 2016), www.HarfordHistory.org, and HarfordHistory.net (renewed to March 2016). In March 2008, IX Web Hosting moved the host site to its new Ecommerce Inc., Data Center in Columbus, Ohio with optical fiber lines and more speed for loading.

June 2009 was the last month our hosting service, IX Web Hosting, supported Microsoft FrontPage, our uploading software. As a result, we switched back to a new version of the old brand of software which we started with in 1996, Ipswitch WS_FTP 12, for uploading. We still use FrontPage and MS Expression Web 3 for diagnostics, and still write codes without the aid of software to keep the code uncomplicated, but we are frequently adjusting to imposed changes and having our software evaluated by diagnostic websites.

In December 2009, the website included 57 million bytes, 588 files, 429 pictures, 1360 total hyperlinks, and 133 links to the Internet. Google showed about 900 links from other internet websites to HarfordHistory.org.

In 2010, we added the PastPerfect-Online Electronic Card Catalog thanks to Judy Rogers, Doug Washburn and their coworker volunteers. Also, we added the original founders/members, researched and compiled by Chris Smithson and Henry Peden

Growth in Hits
for Year Ending
       Hits per Year
12/31/2002       113,364
12/31/2003       231,750
12/31/2004       274,718
12/31/2005       377,619
12/31/2006       479,104
12/31/2007       503,884
12/31/2008       572,719
12/31/2009       625,898
12/31/2010       788,004
Total Since 2002     3,967,060

HELP THE WEBMASTER AND THE SOCIETY

While I can handle most aspects of the historical research, photography, writing, web page programming and development, we could progress more rapidly with your help and teamwork. Getting events on the website very early and accurately is a big help to the webmaster and visitors to the website. The longer notifications of events are on the website, the more people who will see them. Please review your events after they are online to make sure they are accurate and complete. We can always use your thoughts, ideas, word-processing, writing, research, drawings of web page maps, artwork, and photos. Comments, suggestions, corrections, and even criticism are helpful. Since 1999, all of the cost of photographs, typing, coding, domain management, the hosting service, and the domain names for the site have been donated to the HSHC. We have contracted with professionals a few times, but the Society has had no expenses with regard to this effort.

PHILOSOPHY

I have been an active volunteer trying to help people most of my life: packing bags of groceries, hauling tons of groceries, tutoring intercity children, donating critical items, coaching teams, serving as officer or president of profession organizations, challenging school systems, and so forth. I feel that websites provide a good oppurtunity to help the many students, eldery, disabled, and disadvantaged in Harford County and distant places that do not have easy access to bookstores or libraries. In many countries, there are communities with no electricity, no roads, no libraries, no bookstores, no books for schools, no teachers, or no schools. As a result, some MIT faculty members started a nonprofit corporation named OLPC (One Laptop per Child) to revolutionize the education of the world�s poorest and most isolated children by developing a $100 or less wireless laptop PC with batteries charged by a crank. Thirty one countries are ready to buy one million OLPC laptops each. They recognize that their most valuable resource is their people. Online education is growing at a rapid pace around the world with most universities and many school systems joining the effort. During the week of 12/24/2006, our Society�s website got 263 hits from profile.myspace.com, a teenagers� website. Thus, it should be possible for an isolated, bright, motivated child, using the Internet resources of the world, to progress from kindergarten to an Ivy League Doctorate with only a wireless laptop.


"A country with no regard for its past will do little worth remembering in the future."         Abraham Lincoln


The Webmaster on the State Yacht near Annapolis, MD,
Photographed in 2001

Elwin Penski, Webmaster, Telephone: 410-877-2923      E-MAIL:   [email protected].


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