We Were First! — Weren’t We?

I recently became aware of a challenge to one of our main claims to fame, namely that ROX was the first TV series on the Internet.

When I was preparing for my talk at NOFCPUG I did a Web search that turned up a number of references to the Computer Chronicles as the first show on the Internet. I couldn’t find any documentation that seems authoritative, nor could I find a precise date for the event — only the year, 1995. I have researched this topic several times over the past 12 years, but I never encountered this claim for Computer Chronicles before. I contacted them via their website and asked when they put their first show online. Eight days later, I still haven’t heard back from them.

I also noticed that an article on Wikipedia cited 1995 as the year of the “first television show broadcast via the Internet,” but without mentioning the name of the show. I posted a query asking why the name was not specified. Within a few days, a name was added — Computer Chronicles, not ROX.

So I posted a follow-up, the thrust of which I will summarize here:

I have reason to believe that Computer Chronicles was not the first TV show on the Internet. I think it was a television series called ROX, which debuted on the Internet on April 15th of 1995.

I am reluctant to make that change to the timeline myself, though, because I was and am involved in the production of ROX. I am very obviously biased! It would be contrary to the spirit of Wikipedia for me to make to make such a change. I respect the Wikipedia project too much to engage in self-aggrandizement. I hope my comments are not perceived as such.

Nevertheless, I would like to offer the following evidence. Below I am pasting the text of an article which appeared in Time magazine on May 1st, 1995.

Joe Nickell and Bart Everson, a couple of goofy, twentysomething guys from Bloomington, Indiana, are sick of small fame. For three years their satirical public-access TV show has played to critical acclaim in the greater Bloomington area, but it has never attracted the kind of national attention that would capture a slot on network TV. Though local sponsors chip in enough to keep Everson clothed, housed and fed, Nickell still has to support himself as a waiter. So the pair set their sights beyond broadcast TV, beyond cable TV, to the computer networks. Last week, as their 85th episode, Global Village Idiots, was flickering across Bloomington televisions, it was simultaneously stored on the Internet, where millions of people worldwide could retrieve it — the first television show broadcast in cyberspace. [Emphasis added]

Although the “satirical public-access TV show” is not mentioned by name, it is in fact ROX, as my second piece of evidence makes clear: This article from Wired Magazine, dated December 1995.


Should any Wikipedians find my evidence compelling, I hope they will make a change to the timeline. I won’t do it myself for the reasons cited above. I have offered to provide more evidence in the form of Usenet posts and personal journal entries.

Obviously I’d like to think ROX was first, but I’d also like to get the straight facts on record, even if they prove otherwise.

NOFCPUG ROX

I gave a thirty-minute presentation about ROX tonight to the New Orleans Final Cut Pro Users Group. I was a little nervous ahead of time, but it went smoothly. I managed to tell the story without major omissions or blunders. There were only eight people there, but the real downer was that Brian Gary, who founded the group and invited me to speak, was stranded in Los Angeles and unable attend. (He joined us via video conference for a technical Q&A session after I was done.) On the plus side, I got a little practice talking ROX up — it’s been a few years since I’ve made a presentation like this — and it gave me an excuse to put together a DVD sampler of classic ROX moments.

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • Had tea with the fabulous Heather Weathers at Bayou Coffee.
  • Painted the alcove off our hallway a bright blue. There’s actually a long story here, but I think I can boil it down to this: Xy tried to give the alcove a porcelain crackle finish this summer, and it didn’t work out, so I’m remediating.
  • I did not take the neighbor girls to Six Flags, even though they asked me. But Xy did. First she made them promise they’d help her grade papers anytime she needed them during the school year.
  • Played frisbee with Xy by Bayou St. John. (It went in the bayou thrice but we fished it back out. We laughed so hard our sides ached.)
  • Had a fried oyster po-boy, dressed, at the Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Mmm.
  • Watched the women’s Olympic gymnastics competition.
  • Restored a lot of media files to the rox.com site. There are now 135 audio and video files available on our new media server. That means there are still 57 files which are indexed in our database but still not available on the new server. In most cases the files have been uploaded, but I’m re-evaluating some of this stuff, trying to figure out what’s worthwhile and what’s not.