I know some of you have been following, as I have, the posts by Web pioneer Chris Gulker about his illness over the past couple years. Over the summer, Chris told us that there was nothing more to be done about his brain tumor, and he proceeded to settle his online affairs in the same thoughtful and careful way he seemed to approach everything he did. He died last night. Of course, you can read about it on his blog.
It’s a trip we’ll all take sooner or later, but few of us venture to do so as publicly as Chris did. His posts chronicling his state of mind and health in recent months and weeks have been graceful and courageous.
I wasn’t a close friend of Chris’s, but I tried to keep up with him over the years, because I owed him a great debt (which I talked with him about last year): he is more responsible than any other individual for turning me on to the Web fairly early, and the Web has been at the center of my work ever since.
In September or October of 1994 Chris showed me the Electric Examiner, the SF Examiner’s Web playground that he ran off a Sun server sitting in an empty hallway behind the Examiner’s press room. I said, “This is cool. I’ve heard HTML isn’t that hard — can I, like, do something here?” He told me that, if I knew FTP, I could just download an HTML guide and be off and running. I already had Internet access through the WELL, so that’s what I did. And he was right: It really was easy! Anyone could do it. I got excited about that, and I’m still excited. A few weeks later the Examiner staff went on strike and I had the chance to use that HTML knowledge as part of the San Francisco Free Press effort. Soon after that I built my first personal website, and within a year I’d left the Examiner (as Chris had) and moved to the Web.
Chris went on to a long career at Apple and Adobe. He was also a top-notch photographer, and one of the very early bloggers. Rudolf Ammann’s article traces some of his very significant role. Rudolf (with a tiny assist from me and some others) also built a Wikipedia page about Chris. He will be missed by me and many, many others.
Here’s Dave Winer’s post about Chris’s passing.