The Pixel Toybox EraAround 2006, I had moved on from my roots, coding HTML neopets pet pages. I was briefly on freewebs before I made a website and layout that were good enough to apply for hosting. My host freely provided me an FTP login, and I manually edited my HTML files using CuteNews to update my site. This was a world that lived alongside but separate from Wordpress, a world before Tumblr had taken off. This was a web meticulously crafted by teenage girls who created their own pixel paradises or punchy green day-themed vector layout complete with lots of visual overlays and eyeliner. These personal sites acted as portfolios of art with free to use graphics ("sozai" in Japanese) and pixel art adoptables to be added to your toybox, a cbox to leave comments, a button wall filled with 88x31 and 32x32 buttons to "affies", and a minimal about me section with a mandatory tour of what's in my bag. We connected over Harmonyland and Teahouse MB forums daily. Cinni also captures this period well in her post, i dream of pixel paradise.
credit disclaimer: whenever possible, original creators are given credit for their work, but there are a few pixels that I couldn't trace to original sources. I really want to ensure correct attribution, so I would sincerely appreciate it if you could please reach out via the guestbook if you know one of the original artists that I'm missing. ♡
My Pixel Art & SozaiHere's a couple of pieces of pixel art that I made for you to adopt and sprinkle throughout your site:
- These graphics are closed-source freeware for personal and non-commercial use only.
- Download and host these yourself. Do not hotlink.
- Credit me with a visible link back to Lost Letters.
- DO NOT use for commercial purposes nor NFTs.
- DO NOT edit, copy, or use in your art works, products, or services.
Surviving Pixel Websites From That EraWhile you can experience quite a bit of this era of mostly static sites just by browsing the Internet Archive, there are still a handful of these sites that are live, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in it. I vividly and fondly recall visiting these sites as a kid and marveling at these folks' incredible artistic talent. I still am in awe nearly 20 years later. Please check these sites out:
About This PageI reworked my toybox page as my entry for the Oldweb Nostalgia Jam hosted by Metaparadox.
For this jam, I wanted to experiment with flexbox for the first time. I couldn't have done it without the help of this guide to flexbox by Chris Coyier of CSS Tricks. Flexbox was introduced in July of 2009, but I never saw folks in the personal web / toybox era use it, so it's a bit anachronistic to use; however, the point of this page is partially to show the through lines, connecting a bygone time to the nostalic revival efforts going on right now, mixing old and new. Even more meta, this whole site is a mix of that as well, so perhaps it actually is fitting afterall.
If you're still here, I hope you're inspired to make your own toybox page or add to it with pixels from any of the sites linked above as well as to join a pixel club or two.