Dunfermline Athletic

The History of Dotnet, by OzPar

Date: Sunday, 2nd May 2021

It was 25 years ago, back in 1995, that Microsoft launched its revolutionary Windows 95 operating system, and for those of us with the desire and the money to keep up with the latest computer trends at home, it opened a whole new world of opportunity.

With the additional purchase of a 14.4k modem, suddenly the Internet became available at the click of an icon on our computer screen.

Those of you of a certain age will well remember the long agony we endured as we listened to the changing pitches and painful screeching sounds of the modem connecting with our phone line, allowing us entry into this new and exciting world. And once in, it was as if one’s life up to that point had been without colour.

While the Internet had been in existence for some decades by then, it was still primarily the preserve of academia, the military and government agencies around the world. In many respects, Windows 95 democratised the Internet and opened it up to folk like you and me.

In those days, there were a variety of search engines to explore the Internet. My early favourite was known as Alta Vista, and it was through this that I discovered I was not the only Dunfermline Athletic supporter online. To my utter amazement, I quickly realised that there might be as many as 20 Pars fans on the Internet!

Tracey Haldane, an administrator at at St Andrews University, had set up a website and email mailing list for Pars fans. And before I knew it, here was I, in Melbourne, Australia corresponding three or four times a day by email with fellow fans in Scotland, England, the US, even in East Asia.

I still remember some of those early dotnetters. There was Jeff Farrell in San Diego, John Morman in San Jose, Keith Franklin in Tokai, Japan. There was another Keith (Mackie), a chef who I think lived in Alloa, and Ronz (I don’t think I ever found out his second name!) who drove trains in and out of Edinburgh, and Stevie Starr, who later gained almost legendary status posting as My Lovely Horse here on dotnet. Other names I remember were Deek Margetts, Stephen Slater, Jean Cotter, Stuart Holland, Tony Mann, Jonathan Lord, Ross Arnott, Dennis Jubb, Michael Thomas, Tom Goodison and Colin McKean.

I would like to think that most of these fine people still post on here, though I don’t know their dotnet monikers.

Many of them, like Tracey, were uni students with easy access to the Internet. There were two or three up at Dundee Uni as I recall.

One, who I remember well, was Cammy Wilson (the last I heard he was in Shanghai, China). One hilarious night, Cammy frantically posted messages to say that he was a wee bit pissed and locked inside the university library. So being good dotnetters, several of us kept him company through the night with regular emails until he found release in the morning.

There was John Murphy in Aberdeen, who came from Crossgates and was a close pal of then Pars manager, Bert Paton. He worked for a North Sea oil company in Aberdeen. Murph had a way with words and would often come up with some poetry to review the latest happenings at East End Park. His closeness with Bert meant that, now and again, we dotnetters were aware of the goings-on at the club when others, including the press, were not. Naturally, we kept schtum about it.

In Dunfermline, we had the local butcher and renowned author of ‘Black & White Magic’, Douglas Scott. The always innovative Douglas introduced live email updates from matches, an absolute boon to those of us living overseas; a tradition carried on today with less clunky means by the wonderful Buffy.

I am quite proud of the fact that I was directly responsible for the first “official” meeting of dotnet Pars. It was on 22 March 1997 at the East Port Bar up the toon.

My then 13-years old daughter, Kirsty, and I flew over from Oz to Scotland to visit the grandparents and decided to take in the Pars v Celtic game that day. Ahead of the trip, I suggested that it might be an excellent idea to meet up with a few of the folk I had been corresponding with this past couple of years. To my delight, a dozen or so lads turned up, and we had a good time getting to know each other over a few pints. The game itself turned out to be a beauty. It was a 2-2 thriller, with Celtic’s centre-forward, Jorge Cadete, throwing a significant tantrum towards the end. I think it was his last game for the club.

Such was the novelty of our meeting that it got reported in the Dunfermline Press and the Daily Record. Thanks to Murph, Kirsty and I had got to meet Bert Paton before the match, and I gave him an Aussie hat with hanging corks designed to swat away the flies. The back page of the Record the following Tuesday carried a picture of Bert wearing the hat that I had given him with due mention of our internet group.

And so began a tradition of dotnet fan meetings that lasted for several years, most notably when Marv (Steaua) hosted several very well attended fan meets at her pub in the town.

From that point on, going to a Pars match became a somewhat different experience for dotnetters. Up to then, it had primarily been a solitary experience in the sense that it was you, perhaps a couple of schoolmates or friends or family, surrounded by a sea of strangers. As time went on and the online presence of supporters grew, it became far more common to be acquainted with many more supporters in the crowd. That surely was a very healthy and positive outcome.

Another development of note in those early days of the email message list was the creation of an internet fans’ football team, known as Parscelona. I think it was Johnnie MacDougall who set it up, with guys like Chris Ozog and Alan Maxwell in the team, with train-driver Ronz in goal. The idea was for online supporters to arrange games against each other and promote good relations between opposing fans. And it worked too. It was a terrific idea, though I don’t know if it is still going.

It was Douglas Scott who launched the original dotnet – dafc.net – on the Rivals network, I think. I would guess that this would be around 1998 or 1999. Someone will doubtless clarify that. From then on, activity on the Pars email message list started to fall off. I think the last message that I got from the list would be four or five years ago. Progress, I suppose, but sad in a way too, for looking back now the email message list was something special.

EDITOR: adding some information and insight to the very original development of the .net forum.
In 1996 Brian Duncan investigated the use of the internet with some very basic html. At the time there were very little tools to create a web page. The first real use was on the 28th of October 1996, some backup of the original site remains. Brian Duncan (as Web Advertising Ltd) was working with Douglas Scott of John Scott and Son Butchers in the High Street, developing a web site for the shop. Douglas then suggested he could upload match reports and then helped develop the forum further. It was around this time that we became aware of the email group.

Brian registered the domain "DAFC.net" on the 26th March 2000 after a meeting with Douglas on how to go forward. Brian though that a `.net` domain may well have been good as it was related to football ! Due to the success of our forum Rivals asked us to join their new network, (around the time the dafc.net domain name was first registered).

With the advent of dafc.net, we had a real-time message board. And for the first time, we saw anonymity become the modus operandi as each of us adopted a pseudonym. With that, we gradually saw a change in behaviour.

Where before, correspondents on email had communicated mainly civilly and courteously; over the years, there has been a noticeable decline in that respect. That is regrettable, of course. Perhaps it is as much a reflection of a generational change. Younger correspondents had been weaned on the Internet; it was a regular part of their daily lives, not a new-fangled novelty as it was in the early days for us, and consequently they were less cautious in their approach to online debate.

Today, a barbed comment does not have the shock value of 20 years ago.

Around about the turn of the century, as the club changed ownership and Jimmy Calderwood replaced Dick Campbell, many things at East End Park changed. There was a massive investment in the ground, and the club facilities were improved to meet modern day standards. International-class players that we would not usually have contemplated arrived to wear our new black and white pinstriped strip. We all felt we were on the cusp of something quite extraordinary.

As part of this development, the club’s official website got revamped, and Douglas Scott moved over (ED: Poached! without a fee) from DAFC.net to lead that change. In his place, Brian Duncan continued to manage the website. Jason Barber, Stephen Taylor and Neil Farell took over the reins of providing content for the website.

Under Jimmy Calderwood’s stewardship, the Pars improved markedly culminating in an appearance in our first Scottish Cup Final since 1968. Although we lost out to Celtic, our presence in the final ensured our entry into the 2004/05 UEFA Cup, our first taste of European Football since we lost to Anderlecht over two legs back in 1970.

After a summer break of growing anticipation and excitement, we learned that we were to play the Icelandic club, FH Hafnarfjordur. On the face of it, this was as good a draw as we could have hoped for, but we soon discovered there was an issue. It was a big one; the game would not be televised.

But we had by then come to learn that there was no end to the ingenuity of the Pars family and in our moment of need, up popped LuxPar with the answer. Incredibly, he negotiated and established, at considerable personal expense, the TV rights to the match in Iceland. And so, thanks to his efforts, Pars fans around the world got to see the game live from Reykjavik on their computer screens.

I honestly cannot remember if the second leg up in Perth was televised. My memory suggests that it was not and that I listened to live commentary from BBC Radio Scotland, but in common with most Pars fans that I know, I seem to have blanked that horror night out of my mind.

In the following years, more and more fans tuned in to dafc.net to get their updates on all things Pars. By the turn of the decade, the noticeboard was essential reading with popular posters such as Fu Manchu, Slim Hoolie, Honk and the previously mentioned My Lovely Horse playing a huge part in keeping us entertained and informed.

It was a glorious time for dafc.net. There were sublime moments when posts went off in zigzagging tangents and posters made quips that were so humorous, even the Queen at her most austere would have burst out laughing.

It surely was the zenith for the website, but sadly, its nadir was just around the corner.

By 2011/12, it was becoming increasingly clear that all was not well financially at East End and we were starting to get posts to that effect from some folk with inside information. There is no need to go over the ins and outs of this regrettable period, but with the benefit of hindsight we now know that the stance taken by the site administrators at the time was perhaps not the best one. (Editors Note: no choice in the matter that posts were removed. Frequent threats of solicitors and legal action were thrust upon dafc.net. Said posters were asked not to post sensitive information.)

However, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. The schism that resulted in 2013 left painful wounds, but time is a great healer and it would be wonderful to see those old posters return to the site as their contribution is sorely missed.

The one thing that I have most appreciated from my 25 years on dotnet has been the people that I have met through it. I guess that over the years I have probably met and talked to 40 or 50 Pars fans in Scotland and around the world. It could well be more than that.

On my travels around Australia, I have made a point of meeting Pars fans in Melbourne, in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Townsville. I have caught up with Scots Pars travelling through Oz, guys like Par in Exile, and drank bottles of Singha beer with Rigger Al and ThaiPar in Bangkok. It has been a wonderful experience.

When all is said and done, this little old website is a very important means of genuinely uniting us. We shouldn’t take it, or the people who put it together, for granted. And to be honest, having recently seen how generously and lovingly the Pars family came to the support of one of our finest in his moment of personal tragedy, I don’t think we do take it for granted.

In recent years, Brian and his dedicated team have brought a new level of professionalism to the site. Let’s be honest, it is very well run. I would challenge anyone to find a better, more inclusive fan site in Scotland.

More recently with the update to the DAFC official club website, DAFC.net was duplicating stories and content and therefore content was reduced on .net. Brian was spending most of his time on developing a new website for the club and it was decided to reduce the number of stories and photographs and concentrate on the forum.

On matchdays, we have Buffy up the stand typing her commentary on her laptop so that fans everywhere can keep up with the action on and off the pitch, while Jordan, Brian and the others are perched up in the gantry providing overseas fans like myself with a live feed of the match over Pars TV.

I can hardly wait to see them back in action again. Let’s hope it is not too long until they are.

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