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Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV


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Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV

from the September/October 1995 issue of Shift magazine

Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV
Who would have thought that some drugged-out wackos would make TV history? As ROX says, "Welcome to the Stoned Age of Television."

You might have thought that the first publicly available TV program to play on the Internet would be funded by some visionary media mogul. It's not.

In fact, it's a community-access program called ROX, "broadcast" out of Bloomington, Indiana. Since 1991, the show has been freely produced and distributed though the World Wide Web site dubbed the "ROX Quarry" by two energetic and eccentric guys called Bart Everson and Joe Nickell. On ROX, they're known as J&B.

With various intoxicants coursing through their veins, J&B spend their time gallivanting around Bloomington with a hand-held camera documenting their hedonistic lives. Characters regularly appear smoking a joint or downing a cold one.

It's surprising that ROX darted across the historic finish line first, for there is no new technology at work here. Scenes from ROX come hacked apart into numerous QuickTime videos that, when strung together, form nearly a half-hour of quirky, original humour.

The technology to mount such an undertaking has existed the day the Web was born. However, accessing cyber-ROX reveals a major glitch: it takes an enormous amount of time to download video. Two minutes of programming takes two hours to download with a 14.4 Kbps modem, and it takes around 24 hours to cue up the whole show. Which is why no one else has entered the market.

J&B's 85th episode entitled "Global Village Idiots" is currently pulsing through cyberspace. Is making online TV worth it? No one knows. Certainly better funded program will hit the Net, and the bandwidth problem will be solved. But it 20 years — maybe only in two — J&B will be able to say that they were the first.

Sam Horodezky

Requires: QuickTime viewer, Macintosh or Windows platforms.

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