Frontier Channel 16 Years Later

I started posting online news and commentary about science and technology on January 18, 2000, and I eventually named that effort Frontier Channel. After a few weeks of short posts, I didn’t get back to posting again until January 2002. Two years after that, I finally started posting in earnest, and Frontier Channel enjoyed a nice run with frequent articles through about 2007. I really enjoyed researching and writing the articles and redesigning and updating the website. I eventually interviewed scientists, launched a podcast (RADIO Frontier Channel), and learned a lot about journalism and graphic and web design.

The Frontier Channel website is now defunct, but I merged all those articles with my personal website a couple years ago. Now I’m beginning the long process of cleaning up those old articles by adding back images and deleting broken links.

One fun aspect of this work is rereading those old articles and recalling what was most interesting to me back then. In the year 2000, for example, I was most fascinated by fuel cells, the web, and astronomy. It’s amusing to see how hyperbolic my writing could get. Several headlines end in exclamation points, and some of the reporting is pretty breathless. For example, in “Media Fusion Feature Coming Soon!” I was really excited about a company that promised to “pass data over power lines at speeds in excess of 2.5 GB/sec.” Turns out the claim was fraudulent. Today Google Fiber offers internet speeds up to 1 Gbps over fiber optics, cable companies are seeking similar speeds over cable lines, and there are power-line adaptors for home networking, but nothing now or on the horizon promises anywhere near the speeds Media Fusion was claiming back then.

I was also really excited in January 2000 about the launch of Transmeta and its super-efficient Crusoe mobile chip, the merger between AOL and Time Warner, and the W3C recommendation of XHTML 1.0. Things didn’t turn out as expected, though. Transmeta eventually folded. The AOL-Time Warner merger eventually failed. XHTML eventually gave way to HTML5. What do I know.

It’s also interesting to see now how scientific discoveries from around 2000 have been confirmed or not since then. For example, in “Black Hole“, I linked to a Space.com article (the link is now defunct and I cannot find their article online) about the X-ray image of the region around a black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The original image suggested to scientists that the black hole was cooler in temperature than expected. Only a year later, however, additional analysis revealed that the black hole was not as cool as it first seemed. Don’t worry, black holes are still cool, just not in temperature.

I’m now writing new articles, and while I don’t plan to commit the same amount of time to the project as I did in the past, I’m using Frontier Channel as the brand to categorize them. Have I learned anything about writing since I started in 2000? I like to think so. My excitement is tempered by more skepticism, I think, and I tend to research more and write more in-depth content.

But I can’t promise there won’t be exclamation points at the end of some of my new headlines.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype and is forthcoming from The Laurel Review. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.