|The Completely Unofficial Star Wars Encyclopedia|
Domain Pending Renewal
about 64,000 as of May 2009
- "This is just a fan site, created by a fan, for the fans."
The Completely Unofficial Star Wars Encyclopedia or CUSWE is an unofficial compilation of everything there is to know about Star Wars, from the thousands of planets to species and races, from weapons to ships, and from languages to creatures. It is available online as a searchable database, and since its creation in the early 1990s, it has been written and programmed almost exclusively by Bob Vitas. In March 2006, the Encyclopedia moved to its own site.
As discussed by Bob Vitas, the Encyclopedia's previous webhosts at TheForce.Net have retained a version of the site online subsequent to this move. The TF.N version retains design and content modifications which appeared in a revamp in December 2005, apparently abandoned at the new site.
The CUSWE is maintained in a back-end Access database, with ASP files handling the basic functions of the site. The entire database is somewhere around 38MB in size, while the coding for all the pages amounts to about 1MB.
The CUSWE is currently on its own site (cuswe.org), and experiences about 15,000 unique pages requests each week. The peak recently occurred during the first week in March 2007, when the site served over 57,000 unique requests. Oddly enough, the busiest day of the week is Thursday.
The first edition of each calendar year is given a new number (for 2007, it is on the Version 9 series), and subsequent updates are denoted in single increments (eg., 9.1, 9.2, etc.). Timing of each edition is based primarily on the release schedule of the major novels that are published, so that information gets out to the web in a timely fashion. Life sometimes intrudes on this schedule, so it's never cast in stone, and updates are provided on the main page. A complete history of the CUSWE and its versions can be found on the site's News page.
Background and pre-historyEdit
The vision for the CUSWE was to create a resource from all Lucasfilm-licensed sources of Star Wars information. It was created without regard for what is "canon" and what is not "canon" in the Star Wars universe. Mr. Vitas has spoken with several respected members of the Star Wars community, both officially and unofficially, and more than a few have grown to consider the Marvel tales as "myths and legends" within the Star Wars timeline. As such, they may or may not have happened exactly as retold in the Marvel comics. Think of it this way: when the United States Mens' Hockey Team won the Gold Medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, it was considered the "Miracle on Ice." The stories of the US players have been well-documented by the US press and the entertainment industry. Imagine, though, the stories of those hockey games as told through the eyes of the Russian players who lost to the USA in the semi-finals. They would tell a starkly different picture of the exact same events. Mr. Vitas has come to think of the Marvel comics as retellings of events which occurred during the Galactic Civil War, from the perspective of those individuals who were in the background while the action was taking place.
The CUSWE was first made available to friends in 1994, after about 2 ½ years of work. Originally, it was compiled in a few text files, since the only information Mr. Vitas wasn't yet aware of the West End Games material when Heir to the Empire came out. As the CUSWE grew when information from the WEG materials was added, Mr. Vitas realized that this was bigger than the text files he had started with, so he tried out WordPerfect. Once the text files were converted over, and work began on making the data presentable, the First Edition was printed out.
Work continued, especially on the West End Games material and the impact of Bantam Spectra's deal to produce new novels.
The early years on the webEdit
After seeing several Star Wars sites on the World Wide Web, Mr. Vitas got the HTML plug-in for WordPerfect and decided it was time to "go public." The first HTML converter took about 14 hours to complete the entire encyclopedia (which was about 2 Megabytes in size as a WP60 file). Since he was using an AOL account that could only handle about 15 letters of the alphabet, Mr. Vitas had to pick and choose what information to display. After trying a couple other converters in an effort to get that 14-hour time down, he gave up on WordPerfect and migrated to Word 97. The HTML code converted in about 10 minutes, from a set of files which was now about 5 Megabytes in total. All this meant that there was more time to figure out how to make the encyclopedia presentable.
Mr. Vitas then moved from AOL to Mindspring, and was able to get the full encyclopedia uploaded. However, he was limited to 450 Megabytes of transfer per month. But, as the prequels started getting headlines, the site would hit that mark every once in a while. When the prequels were about a year away, the site would hit it every month. It was at this time that MosEisley.com offered to host the CUSWE.
Soon after this move, the CUSWE began to get a lot of notes from readers asking to have files sent to them via e-mail. Apparently, the new server was handling the HTML code pretty well, but downloads were only completing about half the time. Also, the CUSWE continued to grow, so space started to become an issue. Thus, Mr. Vitas took a sabbatical from the CUSWE and started hunting for a new home. TheForce.Net agreed to supply a ton of space and technical help for getting improved response times. The CUSWE became part of one of the largest Star Wars sites on the Internet. TheForce.Net had already recognized the encyclopedia as a good site, and now it was on its way to becoming the main Star Wars encyclopedia on the Internet.
The big moveEdit
The CUSWE experienced more growing pains. One good thing that happened was the creation of the back-end Access database for storing the CUSWE. The database was crude at first, but kept getting better. Each change caused its own set of problems, not the least of which was the fact that a lot of information could be stored for a topic that might not even be displayed on a page. It was all kept in the database for future expansion, as many database-savvy readers suggested.
Around this time, the Wookieepedia came into existence. The two sites have grown tremendously since then, and together form the largest fan-maintained collection of information about the Star Wars universe second only to the official Holocron.
Site expansion on the CUSWE was curtailed in 2005, as the host site changed its format and went to a more center-column look, with the information in the CUSWE was restricted to only the center column. So, Mr. Vitas decided to set up the CUSWE on its own site: cuswe.org.
Always in motion is the futureEdit
Development on the next edition of the CUSWE continues. There are also plans to do some rework on the site layout, including a better way to put up images.
- The Completely Unofficial Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Star Wars Encyclopedia (old version, no longer updated) at TheForce.Net