I've been meaning to do this for a while, each time an anniversary passes. But truth be told I don't know exactly when we started the site. Web archives seem to suggest early 2004 (Feb/March/April).
I used Internet Archives (http://oldweb.today/) to pull these pages to life, none of these pages have functioned in years. Some backups may exist on old CDs I burned or in my Cloud storage but it would take some time to restore and run them on a local web-server and really what's the point?
Sadly no matter how hard I tried to see exactly how the first version looked, I could not find 1 without broken images.
Version 1 - Early 2004
When web counters were still the rage (or sort of), it had a basic blurb and ability to sign up to a free forum, which we migrated away from.
The forums were hosted "off" the main domain at: http://viczcar.conforums.com/ - now long gone.
The forums lasted about a year or 2, before I realised I needed to take control over the forum and manage the database etc..
Version 2 - Introducing PHPBB software. Open source forum software.
I was quite proud of the redesign at the time, but as nice the shinny buttons were, they were flawed as they depended on Adobe flash. Also the 3rd column got pushed below on some browsers, instead of being on the right hand side as is shown in this render. I would learn a lot more about proper web-design soon enough.
Todd Kaneko's 240z L28 Turbo Z would grace the homepage banner.
Version 3 - I learn to use photoshop.
I'm still quite proud of this design, I had been going through a lot of Photoshop tutorials online and figured out how to design a bit better by this stage. Only problem was copious use of HTML tables. The site was not easy to update like this.
We were running on PHPBB for the forum, and Coppermine for the photogallery. Both open source, free software.
Version 4 - Joomla was all the rage back in 2005. It was the CMS to have for some reason. The design had to change to accommodate this new software which allowed me to create more of a web-portal for the site. But we now had 3 different bits of software running the site. I had also started to learn more about Search Engine Optimization and Joomla had some severe limitations.
Version 5 - 2007ish Drupal is the new CMS of choice for Open Source web-developers.
Building a site in Drupal is like using Lego, you gotta use the building blocks to get what you want. It takes time to learn the new software and design template files etc.. This design remained with the site for years. Upgrading the software and patching it where required.
At this point we're still using 3 different bits of software. Coppermine Gallery, SMF forums (which was a big upgrade from PHPBB which had spammers always posting) and Drupal for the homepage.
You probably remember look..
Version 6 - The next version is less visual, more backend changes. I migrate to the current software. Invision Power Suite. I decide as good as free software is, you make up for the lack of purchase costs with time developed to getting it to run right or deal with spam etc.. This is a big migration as it takes all the historical forums and photo gallery and merges into 1 bit of software. A work colleague who is better at SQL than I helps me on a Saturday write some SQL to migrate the tables and set the right owners of the gallery.
The new software is meant to replace the whole site, but due to limited time on my side I don't get around to replacing the whole site and retiring old software for a couple of years.
Version 7 - I finally retire Drupal, the new design is far less custom and visually sexy, but the backend systems are not all integrated. The new software works better and has far better support. I now only have 1 database to backup and although the site looked like 1 bit of software in the past, it was always driven by different bits of software. The plan has always been to migrate the site to www.auszcar.com but moving 3 bits of software was always going to be a challenge.
The new software is also much more mobile device friendly which is increasingly important and is far more search optimized. Old URLs are easier to redirect to new locations and the site responds much faster on the new engine.
Version 8 - Or Future plans are to create a new logo (modernise it) with a view to making it more T-shirt friendly or printed media friendly. Update the colour scheme. Potentially add blogging abilities to give the homepage more of a visual (images) feel and open up access to publish to it to other members on the site to help promote events and get people to attend drive days etc..
From a backend perspective I may look to migrate to AWS storage to open up more storage space, speed up site response and make backup even easier.
It's been a long nearly 15 years of running this site, I find myself as time poor as ever, so making the site easier to run and maintain is my priority. I want to thank everyone who's helped build the site over the years, all the donations and support. I'll admit there are times I've thought, why do I bother doing it.
The big challenges I see ahead are Facebook / Social media, a lot of people seem happy to use that to discuss their favorite topics, but the biggest flaw Facebook is that the information is ephemeral and we have years of good technical information that Facebook just can't easily serve up. I've noticed a lot of forums have died off in recent years, but the good ones are still going strong. Let's hope we can keep going for another 10 years and who knows how the site will change in that time?
Thanks and I hope you found this interesting!