How it all began, 10 years ago

So what happened 10 years ago? On July 17, 1997, I received an email from a friend with whom I was used to share some free software. Like I knew of a program and I would send him, and he would do the same. This time he sent me a small free English-French dictionary, saying it could help me with my studies. I installed it and found it quite handy and interesting. The menus and the help file were in French, but there were many mistakes, and there was also a note saying we could contact the authors of the program if we found any mistake. So that’s what I did, and a few days later Mr Frits van Zanten kindly answered. He introduced himself and explained how he came up with the idea of writing a dictionary program. He said he went to Italy and had searched the web for a free Italian-Dutch dictionary, but couldn’t find any. So he made it himself, wrote the program and a small wordlist. He then mentioned his friend Tom van der Meijden, who had rewritten the code of the program, and asked me if I would be interested to join the project and to open a website in French.

Those first emails, in July and August of 1997, marked the very beginning of the project. I was interested because I liked the idea of those handy free dictionaries, and because it was a nice opportunity to learn to build and manage a website. I had been on the net for two years already, but I spent almost all my time chatting late at night with American friends on the IRC. Frits taught me everything I should know, not concerning the building of the webpage in itself (I was using FrontPage, if I remember well, so it was not difficult), but especially concerning the indexing and the promoting of the site. Frits was mad about statistics, counters and what was not yet called SEO (search engine optimization). I was a bit reluctant, as promoting a website has always been a boring task to me, even at the time, but after a while I understood how important it was for a free website to have a large number of visitors. It was the only way the project could grow, and Frits knew it. In the merciless jungle the web has become today, Frits’ lessons are still precious, and I’m very grateful for his teaching me.

On November 15, 1997, I sent an email to Frits, announcing him that my webpage was up and running. There were about 5 pages: homepage (with a counter!), download, online dictionary, information and contact.

To be continued, stay tuned!

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