My name is David Elfalan, today I am going to tell you the true story behind CultureShock and how the PageMonster the Amigas first commercial web page generation software, came about.
Culture Shock was a software company that was founded in 1996 by Me and a very good friend mine Quintin Woo
I had met Quintin a few years earlier while he was heading the computer lab arts program at Franklin High School is Seattle WA.
I had contacted Quintin because I had heard about this guy
who had put together a complete computer lab using strictly Commodore Amiga computers. We immediately bonded because of our interest in technology and have been very close friends ever since.
However it was in 1996 while I was visiting Quintin at his home basement Computer lab, when he showed me the early World Wide Web on the Internet for the first time.
I was blown away and I clearly remember pointing to his computer monitor and saying “This is the future!”. If you were a computer buff at that time prior to this the only way to connect to a network was through something called
a BBS (Bulletin Board System) such as America Online. But this was different even at time Web Pages was a way to organize digital content ie text, pictures and audio, that could be accessed from anywhere in the world.
This was extremely exciting to me creatively, because I immediately saw how you could share thoughts feelings and concepts with a large number of people across the planet. I then set out to learn as much as I could about HTML this stands for Hyper text Markup Language and it was the scripting language used to create webpages. But instead of using it just to create web pages I decided to learn HTML to create what I called at the time a web page generator. This is how Pagemonster came about.
I became a commodore amiga user after I had returned from Atlanta in late 1984. At that time I was being encouraged by my father and older brother (both engineers) to get into computers so I purchase my first Amiga 500. During my time learning the Amiga I came across a program called Amigavision.
Amigavision was designed to help people with no programming experience put together interactive audiovisual presentations and like other amiga software it was compatible with Arexx. Arexx is the amiga version of the Rexx (Restructured Extended Executor) interpreted programming language. Using these two amiga staples as the base I was able to develop Pagemonster as CultureShock’s first and only software product.
Pagemonster was developed over a 9 month period going through 7 revisions. A very detailed user manual was also Written and the program was thoroughly beta tested by Quintin and Myself before releasing. Because Amigavision was ideal for handling multimedia it was possible to add things like audio narration inside the program (listen to example), this would teach users how to use the software as they went along Building their websites.
Also because of Amigavision’s built in Arexx Port Pagemonster allowed for other amiga programmers to write their own plugins for use inside of Pagemonster. This meant that Pagemonster had the power to communicate with all third party programs that had an Arexx port, so for example if you loaded an image into Pagemonster to be used in your webpage an Arexx script or plugin could open an image processor, do a number of operations on the image and then save it back into pagemonster for use on your website.
The release of Pagemonster turned out to be my first insight Into what was possible by harnessing the power of the internet and the World Wide Web. CultureShock’s first move was to do a press release so we contacted via email the editor of the Amiga Web directory located in the UK. This was one of the biggest Amiga hubs on the internet at the time and we figured to get the word out about Pagemonster, this was the place on the internet we could reach the largest audience.
This was the correct move because within days Of the press release we had received at least eight requests for a sample product from Amiga publications around world so they could write reviews on the product. Within months there were hard copy reviews of the PageMonster in the UK, France, Spain Canada and Slovenia to name a few.
Finally we were contacted directly by an editor with Amazing Amiga Magazine in America, who was extremely agitated that CultureShock didn’t release the news about Pagemonster in their magazine first! especially since we were a American software company. I apologized profusely and explained that CultureShock was just getting into the business, being very diplomatic about it, remembering my grandmothers philosophy of kill them with kindness.
In the end Randy Finch who was a noted Amiga reviewer at the time wrote the largest in-print English review about the PageMonster software which you can read by clicking on the cover Image of Amazing Amiga embedded in this article.
Most reviewers said that the software was great for people who did not know how create websites with HTML and that the software showcased the power of the Amiga system but the complaints were that the software wasn’t designed as a WYSIWYG web page designer like Frontpage that was being introduced on Windows at the time, and that the main requirements were that you had to download and install the AmigaVision Player and the append command.
We made this decision at that time because PageMonster was a commercial software and the rights to the Amigavision Player were in a grey legal area as to who owed it. we did not feel that we had the right to freely distribute it in a paid for software package.
In retrospect maybe the idea of a web page Content Management type software was too early for the user audience at that time. Remember this was 1997, the World Wide Web was still in its infancy and very primitive by todays standards.
Yet webpage design programs like Front Page have pretty much gone the way of the dodo. Content Management Systems have taken over much of todays web. WordPress alone powers a third of the 2 billion websites existing on the internet today. WordPress like Pagemonster allowed developers to create third party plugins to run inside its software. I believe this is one of the reasons it has become so successful.
Block based Website builders like Elementor, which by the way is a WordPress plugin, are becoming increasingly more popular. This method of putting websites together is very similar to how Pagemonster put its webpages together in the late nineties using a module based approach.
In the end we barely broke even on the PageMonster project the main reason for this was we had to depend on the old fashion Mail order System to distribute the software. The Amiga was dying in America which put most of our market in Europe. With no such thing as PayPal existing at the time to take payments online and Banks wanting Merchants to back the majority of the risk for online purchases, We could not exploit our biggest market which would have been digital sales. Being a home grown Minority owned company with very little Capital didn’t help the situation either.
However as I look back to 24 years ago, I learned quite a lot from that experience. Especially that use of the internet can be a powerful tool if executed correctly.
1997 was also the year my father passed away and one of my last joyful memories of time spent with him was at an Amiga user group in Bellevue WA where Quintin and I introduced the PageMonster to the local Amiga Community including a number of former Commodore Executives being present in the audience.
I remember an older gentleman who was about my fathers age coming up to him and myself and saying “you should be proud of your son he has put out quite an Amazing product” The look of pride beaming from my Dad’s face was worth more then anything money could buy and It remains in my heart, even to this day.