My friends would (hopefully) say that I'm not one to toot my own horn, but since this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of my foray into the world of digital photography websites, I'm taking the liberty. Over Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 I founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, aka DCResource. The site is no longer updated (that probably wouldn't go over well with my current employer), so it remains as a sort of time capsule to days past.

In this Throwback Thursday I'm going to share my story of how I stumbled into the world of digital photography and the rollercoaster ride that followed.

I'm fortunate to have been an early adopter of many technologies. Prior to my first year of college I spent a summer working in a research lab at UC San Francisco, where we had a computer connected to this Internet thing. On it were copies of NCSA Mosaic 0.86, TurboGopher and Eudora (for e-mail). When I started college at UC San Diego in Fall of 1994 I was selected to test out a "cable modem," which back then was larger than a VCR and had a five figure price tag. Goodbye 28.8kbps dial-up, hello sort-of-high-speed Internet.

The combination of three different thing resulted in the creation of DCResource. First and foremost, thanks to my job at the UCSD Bookstore, I was able to get my hands on early consumer cameras from Kodak, Apple and Casio that were up for sale. Second, I had already dipped my feet into running my own website, in the form of PowerWatch, which covered Mac 'clones' made by Power Computing, which (after the return of Steve Jobs) eventually closed down. Using the successful model of PowerWatch and noticing the lack of any sites covering digital cameras, in November 1997, in my college dorm, the Digital Camera Resource Page was born.

The original site design by Delane Barrus, who was involved in the website for the first few years.

The goal of DCResource wasn't to be the most technical site out there (Imaging Resource and DPReview would arrive a year later to handle that), but to be the most accessible to the average person. Even now, I still get feedback from folks who thought that the site succeeded at doing that.

The early years of DCResource were pretty busy, with more and more companies entering the market with their plasticky, VGA-resolution cameras. In addition to the big names, companies such as Agfa, Sanyo, Sharp and Toshiba were all in the market at the time. If you ever owned any of those, consider yourself old. At the time, your camera either used SmartMedia (ugh), CompactFlash or floppy disk. I wrote about new '4X' speed CF cards and troubles getting the FlashPath SmartMedia-to-floppy adapter to work on Macs.

Back then there was no content management system to hold reviews, so everything sat in static HTML files. Users e-mailed their camera reviews to me, which were often cross-posted on rec.photo.digital on Usenet.

In the first couple of years it felt like the site just wasn't taking off. I considered closing it down, but kept it going, working on it in my spare time in and after college. As people started to gravitate away from film and toward digital, I realized that I was just a little early.

The purple version of DCResource launched in 2000. I made a mobile version of the site around then, designed for Palm VII PDAs. I still think that's pretty awesome.

When it came to camera reviews, I quickly established a standard that lasted for the entire life of the site. Besides being accessible, I wanted to be as consistent as possible. The layout was always the same: intro, what's in the box, software, look & feel, how many photos fit on a memory card, menu options, photo tests and conclusion. (I always use the term 'tests' loosely, since there was never any DPReview-level science involved.)

In every sample gallery I included the same set of photos taken in SF's Chinatown as well as at Stanford University about 40 minutes to the south. I'd take out groups of cameras at a time (my record was 10 at once) since the weather in SF is so unpredictable. I'd do my best to arrive at the same time on each visit.

Around 2001, I realized that keeping my site open was a good idea. Digital cameras were selling, and traffic was going up. I finally had good access to cameras to review, and back then, you could have a full review published on launch day. In the early days, it felt like the cameras manufacturers needed websites like mine (and others) a lot more than they do now. I quit my day job and started to run DCResource full-time.

The year 2004 was the beginning of what I (and probably many of my peers) called the glory days. Technology moved so quickly that some photographers were upgrading cameras every year, and that's in addition to first-time buyers. Business was booming.

You know what they say about 'all good things,' right?

Unique visitors over time, minus the actual data. Traffic peaked during the 2006 holidays.

On June 29th, 2007, consumer digital photography changed forever. That's when the original iPhone was announced, and for most of us in the publishing world, it was all downhill from there, though I didn't know it at the time. Manufacturers didn't either, because in January 2008 they collectively released 80 cameras at CES, again, most of them being compacts, with little to differentiate them. They still hadn't gotten the memo a year later, with 75 cameras announced.

While DCResource's traffic was slowly slipping, it didn't really hit home until after the 2009 holiday season, when I saw that my unique visitors were 60% of what they had been two years prior. It wasn't panic time yet – I kept going without worrying too much about it, because as long as I was still making a good living, everything would be fine...

The 'orange' version of the DCRP website launched in 2004. I still think it looks great today.

2011 was panic time. The time to sell the site for anything except peanuts had long since passed (DPReview was acquired by Amazon four years earlier), and regret set in. I remember thinking "if only I had hired a salesperson while times were good," - not that it would've made a difference at that point. While I still took most of my photos with my DSLRs, I was reaching for my smartphone more and more often.

The next year, manufacturers announced 55 cameras at CES. The problem was, nobody was buying them, and since DCResource leaned toward the consumer end of the spectrum, it was starting to hurt. I starting tapping into my savings (gotta pay the mortgage) so it became obvious that it was time to get back into the workforce and resume running my website on the side. While Silicon Valley had tons of tech companies to choose from, running a digital camera website for almost 15 years was an unusual thing to have on your resume.

The sheer ridiculousness of the number of point-and-shoot cameras on the market inspired me to make a family tree of Canon's ELPH ultra-compacts.

Around that time I was in touch with none other than Simon Joinson, who, along with Phil Askey, I'd known for several years as friendly competitors. Simon had expressed an interest in adding me to the DPReview team for a while, which was both a good opportunity for me and an excuse to move to Seattle, one of my favorite cities. Later that year, I accepted a position at DPReview, took a 3+ week trip to South America and Antarctica, and then drove myself and two partially sedated cats to Seattle. Since then, my brain has been stuffed with technical details (thanks Rishi and Richard), and my photography has improved as well (my old 'work' now makes me cringe).

Naturally, I feel very fortunate for the opportunity that I had to leave the corporate world behind and build one of the original, and for a time one of the biggest photography websites from the ground up, almost entirely on my own. Sure, in retrospect I would've done a few things differently, but it was a good ride while it lasted.

As 2017 comes to an end, I'm concerned that smartphones are following the same path as compact digital cameras, since they're so good now that there's less need to upgrade every year. That said, there is still a lot of innovation in this space, and smartphone photography is a lot more advanced than it was just a few years ago. While I don't know (yet) whether computational photography is the next big thing, I'm strapped in - ready for another ride.