Responses by Marie Otsuka, designer/web developer
Background: This website is a solar-powered, self-hosted version of Low-Tech Magazine, an online publication that highlights historical technology to inspire sustainable practices in contemporary society. A collaboration between Kris De Decker, writer of Low-Tech Magazine, Roel Roscam Abbing, artist and researcher, and myself, the site has been designed to radically reduce the energy-use associated with accessing the magazine’s content and explore what a sustainable website can be. It reimagines the platform into something that aligns with the principles of Low-Tech Magazine. The target audience includes readers interested in alternate and obsolete forms of technology, ranging from academics in sustainability to DIY builders.
Highlights: The website is a statement on internet sustainability. Its core feature is its off-grid solar-powered server and a design approach that uses the least amount of energy—a radical minimalism. This is achieved by using browser default fonts and heavily compressed dithered images in the front-end, as well as a static-site generator on the backend. The server is a mini-computer running on energy from a solar panel in Barcelona. In order to emphasize our dependency on natural resources, it is intended to go offline during long periods of bad weather.
Favorite details: The average page size of this website is 0.77 MB—roughly a fifth of the average page size of the original website. Dithered images minimize file sizes but also serve as a unique aesthetic that emphasizes image compression. The background of the website is a battery meter, designed to always display the relationship of the energy powering the website and the user traffic consuming it.
Technical features: Markdown content and the theme code were prepared in Sublime Text. The CMS is Pelican, a python-based static site generator used to compile the website, which uses Jinja2 templating. The server is an Olimex Olinuxino A20 Lime 2 single board computer. A large part of the development efforts also involved optimizing server activity, such as minimizing HTTP requests.