History of The Aqua-Zone

The Aqua-Zone was hastily conceived in the basement of a suburban home and was published to the web using Tripod Site Builder around 6:30PM on July 21, 2000. It was the work of a junior high student with questionable spelling and grammar skills. The Aqua-Zone has endured three servers, three web addresses, three major redesigns, and twenty years. The history of The Aqua-Zone is divided into four parts, covering the four major designs of the website.

The Tripod Era (2000-2001)
The Aqua-Zone was initially built in the summer of 2000 on Tripod Site Builder. Within a few weeks, I stopped using Site Builder and started editing the website HTML manually. The first step to building an audience for the website was to enter the Aquatica Webring. Despite the lackluster quality of the initial version of Aqua-Zone it was graciously accepted into the webring on July 30, 2000 by iSoaker and Super Soaker Warrior (also known as MaxStar). An interesting feature of the early days of Aqua-Zone was the Technology section. Basically this section was some brief reviews of walkie talkies available from Radioshack and included a couple of other gadgets.

During the winter of 2000-01 the website was greatly expanded to include individual review pages and the strategy and tips pages. This version of Aqua-Zone marked the limited debut of the pull down review menus, which are still used on Aqua-Zone as of 2020. It was my intention at this time to eventually move to using Macormedia Flash for the website, which was heavily utilized by the leading websites iSoaker and AquaNexus. However, despite some tinkering with Flash, this never happened.

In March of 2001, Aqua-Zone version 2.7 was launched. This was a slight redesign of the Tripod Site Builder layout. This would be the final version of Aqua-Zone hosted on Tripod. The Interactive Section was launched in this version and initially included a chatroom and forum. The complications of making significant changes to the original Site Builder coding coupled with the irksome pop up ads sent me searching for a new host and a total redesign of Aqua-Zone. In December of 2001, Aqua-Zone was relaunched on a new host called Brinkster. When the server was switched, many of the 2.7 era pages were left intact. Much of the Tripod era website can still be viewed Here.

The Brinkster Era (2001-2003)
With the help of community member Takrogoth and some HTML books, The Aqua-Zone was rebuilt from the ground up. The core of the code for this new version of Aqua-Zone was used until the end of 2012. The launch version, code named Aqua-Zone 2.9 was fairly rudimentary. In October 2002, a DHTML drop menu was added to the website. This update was codenamed Aqua-Zone 3.4. The result, coupled with new logos, a new dividing bar, and font size reductions carried out earlier in the summer of 2002 gave the website a more compact and easier to navigate layout. The success of the navigation during this period is reflected in Aqua-Zone winning an award for the best navigation in the Aquatica online community. This new version of Aqua-Zone expanded the Interactive section and included it on the main navigation menu. The Interactive Section included polls, a guestbook, forum, and link to the Aqua Zone Info Station Yahoo Club. In May of 2003, the random image generator was added to the homepage, this has gone on to become one of the most recognizable features of Aqua-Zone

To make updating the entire website easier, the website transitioned to ASP beginning in February 2003. This was carried out under the codename Aqua-Zone 3.5. This allowed the use of the include tag to make updating the review drop down forms and website navigation easier. Although Brinkster did not include ads and allowed for the use of ASP, it was not without problems. The website regularly hit its allotted traffic limit and in general Brinkster seemed to have a lot of down time. It was clear that the future of The Aqua-Zone laid in acquiring a paid hosting account. However, I was still a minor and had no access to a credit card. In 2003, my parents agreed to let me use one of their credit cards to purchase a hosting plan. From August 2003 to the spring of 2004 the entire website was gradually moved over to the new server. Sadly, the Brinkster version of Aqua-Zone was deleted by Brinkster after I failed to login for six months.

Middle Years (2004-2012)
When a section of Aqua-Zone was moved to the new server it was converted from an ASP page to a PHP page. The new server did not support ASP. The layout of the website was initially unchanged when it was moved to the new server.

In January 2005, the border dividing the logo area and content was dropped in favor of integrating it into the logo itself. Other changes include the switch to the courier new font, a change of color for the navigation bar, and new flat logos in plain text. In 2005, the Interactive Section of the main menu was deleted due to the general decline of the Super Soaker community. This version of Aqua-Zone was considered versions 3.6 to 3.9. The bulk of the coding remained unchanged since the implementation of the drop down menu in 2002.

The mid 2000s and early 2010s were focused on improving the content of Aqua-Zone rather than changing the layout or coding. During this time earnest improvements were made to the spelling, grammar, and clarity of the website. Another new feature was pages that displayed all the Super Soakers in a particular lineup, which made finding a Super Soaker much easier if the web site visitor was not sure what model number they had. Additionally, the Featured Review part of the home page was added in 2007.

By 2012, it was evident that the website layout and coding were out of step with the changes in technology. The website had been designed in a period were most web users had a resolution of around 1024x768. It was time to update Aqua-Zone using CSS and modern code, while remaining true to the original aesthetic of the website. A copy of the homepage from 2012 can be viewed Here.

Aqua-Zone 4.0 (2012-Present)
With some help of online tutorials and refinements by iSoaker, a new version of Aqua-Zone was ready for debut in December 2012. This new version used CSS to create a new menu and navigation table. The website was centered in the browser instead of being left aligned and the width was also increased, allowing for larger images. The process of converting the entire website began in December 2012 and was completed in June 2015 when the XP section was converted. This is the current version of Aqua-Zone and no redesigns or major revisions are currently planned. The main content expansion in this version occurred in 2018 when the History Section was launched.

Aqua-Zone Version History

Aqua-Zone 1.0: 7/21/00-7/31/00
Aqua-Zone 1.5: 8/1/00-12/20/00
Aqua-Zone 2.0: 12/21/00-3/28/01
Aqua-Zone 2.7: 3/29/01-11/30/01
Aqua-Zone 2.9: 12/1/01-3/1/02
Aqua-Zone 3.0: 3/2/02-9/02
Aqua-Zone 3.4: 10/02-5/18/03
Aqua-Zone 3.5: 5/19/03-1/8/05
Aqua-Zone 3.6-9: 1/9/05-12/2/12
Aqua-Zone 4.0: 12/3/12-Present