NPR logo
Dole-Kemp Campaign Site Immortalizes '90s Internet Tech
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/470280421/470280422" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Dole-Kemp Campaign Site Immortalizes '90s Internet Tech

Technology

Dole-Kemp Campaign Site Immortalizes '90s Internet Tech

Dole-Kemp Campaign Site Immortalizes '90s Internet Tech
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/470280421/470280422" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

It was among the first campaign websites, and it's still archived online for all to see. Robert Arena, director of Internet strategy for the campaign, takes a stroll down memory lane.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hey, guys. Kind of a rough political season, huh? Makes you long for a simpler time, like, I don't know, 1996 maybe? "Jerry Maguire" was the big movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JERRY MAGUIRE")

TOM CRUISE: (As Jerry Maguire) Show me the money.

CUBA GOODING JR.: (As Rod Tidwell) Jerry, you better yell.

CRUISE: (As Jerry Maguire) Show me the money.

MARTIN: Celine Dion was climbing the charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME")

CELINE DION: (Singing) I'm everything I am because you loved me.

MARTIN: It was the early days of the Internet, the World Wide Web. And while there's not a lot that survives from the pre-high-speed days, you know what's still there? A snapshot of 1996 in the form of the campaign website of Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole and his running mate, Jack Kemp. Robert Arena was a 22-year-old kid when he built that site, and he took us on a tour. First, he set the scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF MODEM DIALING)

ROBERT ARENA: Back in the '90s, high speed would've been a 56 K modem. So today, a 50-megabit connection would be considered somewhat fast. That is 1,000 times faster than the Internet speeds that we working with back in 1996.

MARTIN: Wow.

ARENA: In total, there were 20 million people on Internet, and that's worldwide. Google did not exist. You might have had your own personal webpage at GeoCities, which was one of the top...

MARTIN: Oh, yes.

ARENA: ...Websites back in 1996. So you would've waited for everybody to get off the phone so that you could use your phone line, and your dial-up modem would screech to life. And then after going through your Internet service provider, you would have come to what was the very, very early days of the World Wide Web. So there was no Flash back in those days, we were just going to see things call Shockwaves, so websites were very flat.

MARTIN: OK, so here I am, looking at Robert's website, dolecamp96.org, and it does look tiny and a little flat. And then I notice something.

Can we talk about this coffee cup?

ARENA: The rotating GIF file.

MARTIN: (Laughter) There is a coffee cup on the front of the website...

ARENA: ...Steaming hot.

MARTIN: It is - the steam is moving. This is, like, groundbreaking stuff.

ARENA: Rachel, this technology is all over Snapchat and text messages right now.

MARTIN: It's true.

ARENA: I mean, that's really what this is. We are really trying to make a website that was interactive. But at the same time, you're stuck on a modem, so you can't really have video files everywhere. This was the technology to make something move back in 1996.

MARTIN: OK, but as much as Robert Arena is telling a story about nostalgia, it is also a story about foresight.

ARENA: We ended up with about 15,000 people volunteered for this campaign online in 1996.

MARTIN: Wow.

ARENA: In today's numbers, that doesn't sound like a lot. But again, relative to where we were, that impact of that was something like one-quarter of our small business coalition was generated on the Internet. We actually did do fundraising online. If you gave $25 in the primary, you got a free Dole for president mouse pad mailed to you.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

ARENA: But certainly all the customization features we were driving towards were really about list-building and really creating a one-to-one relationship with an individual voter. And that's really what Internet's promise was, particularly in the political space back then, was to bypass the traditional media and speak directly to the voter.

MARTIN: That's Robert Arena. He was the director of Internet strategy for the '96 Dole campaign. Oh, and one more thing.

ARENA: When we went to the general election, we redid our letterhead. And we were not allowed to put the website address on the letterhead because person at the time in charge of that thought that it would look like a typo.

MARTIN: And so to those of you working with fresh-faced 22-year-olds as I happen to, listen to them because everyone once in a while, they might have a pretty good idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME")

DION: (Singing) Because you loved me.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.