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History of the TowerBells Website

Background
The author/owner/Webmaster has been collecting information about carillons for more than six decades, having learned to play that instrument while an undergraduate at Trinity College (Hartford, CT).  He joined The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA), and became a Carillonneur Member, which he remains today.  In the course of his professional life in another field, he developed expertise in the use of computers to organize information, and eventually found a way to use that expertise in building a database of information about carillons.  Recognizing that there are other types of instruments made of cast bells besides the traditional carillons that are the focus of the Guild's interest, he expanded that database over time to include carillons with non-traditional mechanisms, chimes (some of which have been expanded to become traditional carillons) and rings (tower bells hung for change-ringing).  In the 1970s, some attempts were made to publish information from this database using conventional methods of the day, as recorded in the hardcopy history here.  But that was ultimately impractical because some parts of the information changed so rapidly that a book would be obsolete before it left the bindery.

Phase 1 - GCNA Website
The advent of the World Wide Web changed the situation, making it possible to publish information in a way that allowed it to be updated as frequently as desired.  When the Guild established a Website in late 1996, the author volunteered to make his data available as an annex or attachment to that Website.  Doing this required modification of the report generator program previously used for the production of Bulletin articles and custom hardcopy, so as to generate the basic material appropriate for Webpages.  Initially only information about the traditional carillons of North America was posted, but later that was expanded to include information about non-traditional carillons, chimes and rings in the same region.  Eventually the geographic coverage was expanded to include the world, although it was still incomplete for the "big four" countries in Europe - Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.  Details of this extended development can be found in the "What's New" pages retained from the GCNA Website.

Phase 2 - TowerBells Website in parallel
Meanwhile, the author was accumulating other bell-related material which could not be made to fit logically into the carillon-based annex to the Guild Website.  This led to the establishment of TowerBells.org in early 2000.  At first that was hosted at Intec, a local St.Louis company which provided dial-up Internet access (via 19.2 kilobaud modem).  When that firm became defunct, the author had to find a different method of access to the Internet.  After a period of turmoil, DSL access through Southwestern Bell (later SBC), the local public telephone utility, was acquired; since the service package included some personal Web space, TowerBells.org was re-hosted in a subdirectory there.  (The service package also included email, thus providing the start of the author's principal email address.)  As is well known, SBC eventually merged with AT&T; fortunately the Internet service offerings were continued unchanged.  In this time period, TowerBells.org was being expanded with information about tubular tower chimes (which are made of a metal similar to the bronze of conventional tower bells) and about the St.Louis bellfounders (a subject which the author has researched extensively).  Details of this extended development can be found in the "What's New" page retained from the previous versions of the TowerBells Website.  It is important to note that the tubular tower chime information was stored in the same database as the information about instruments made of conventional tower bells - carillons, chimes, etc.

Unfortunately, AT&T eventually terminated their personal Web hosting service for customers to whom they were providing Internet access.  This forced another re-hosting of TowerBells.org, this time to the author's personal Web space under Apple Computer's dot-Mac service.  That service was later transformed into the MobileMe service, but in 2011 Apple announced that it would be terminated at the end of June 2012.  This set the stage for yet another rehosting.

Phase 3 - Relocation and merger
The final step in this long journey came in March 2012, when the Board of Directors of the Guild terminated the author's volunteered support of the Guild Website.  That necessitated relocation of the technical information which had been attached to that Website since its beginning. 

The serendipity of these two relocation requirements prompted merger of the two formerly separate Web publications into one.  Since commercial Web hosting has become relatively inexpensive, one such service was selected to provide what was hoped would be a permanent home for this online publication.  Since the site data pages are produced from the same database, it took very little effort to combine the two sets of information onto one Website.  Considerable reworking of some of the general text pages was done immediately following the merger, in order to integrate the two sections more fully.  Some additional work remained to be done in that direction, and was accomplished on an incremental basis.

Phase 4 - Relocation yet again
In January 2015, the Website was relocated to a different hosting company (HostMySite), where it remains.  See the news for 2015 for details.

Phase 5 - Radical revision of the maintenance process
In June 2021, a major change in the process of maintaining the pages for this Website took place, and is described on a new page about maintenance.  But there was no change of hosting company.


Footnote on database history
As indicated in the Background above, this Website depends heavily on an underlying database, which was initially developed from non-computerized information.  Most characteristics of the first computerized version, developed in the late 1960s, are still recognizable in today's version, but there have been additions along the way.  One of the first additions, in July 1975, was to record the date when a new instrument was added to the database.  Analysis of this information yields the following graph showing how the number of sites in the database increased over time. graph of sites in the database The most notable increase occurred in 1992, following receipt of a large amount of data on American chimes, which had been collected by Frank Della Penna, plus an Eijsbouts listing of all of their carillons and chimes up to 1991. 

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to produce a similar graph of the number of sites from the data base which had pages on the the GCNA and TowerBells Websites.  However, a few markers along the way can be reported, based on entries from historial What's New pages:


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This page was created on 2012/04/25 and last revised on 2022/07/12.

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