The late nineties and early noughties saw the internet gradually arriving in people's homes, including ours. Getting on-line in 1999 quite literally opened things up to a whole world of possibilities - something my children cannot really understand!
One of the things I came across early on when looking for a screensaver was Fractal Art, something I'd never even heard of before, let alone seen for real. For some reason I found it fascinating, these weird psychedelic abstract shapes and spirals jumping out of my screen at me, so I sought out some free programs and had a go myself.
The first software I used was mostly written by Stephen Ferguson - free programs like Tierazon, Sterlingware and a few others I can't even remember the names of now.
These programs were relatively unsophisticated, allowing the use and combination of only a limited number of formulae and just a single layer. Computers themselves also lacked the power we are used to twenty years later, and the pixel size of the fractal images tended to be on the small size - not really big enough for any type of printing.
So, while these programs were interesting to use for a while, the artistic value of the fractals created was low.
If you are interested in trying these early programs, and many others, too, they are available for download here: The Fractal Programs Paradise
You may need a utility to open the *.rar files - this one is handy and free: RAR File Open Knife 7.00
It wasn't too long before I started looking for other programs to try. I came across Ultra Fractal, software written by Frederik Slijkerman, which is based on the earlier open source program, Fractint. Ultra Fractal was a windows-based program which is now also available for Macs, that allows for multiple layers and much more powerful rendering capabilities, giving the user far greater artistic control.
Over the years Frederik has further developed the complexity of the software, with the help of a core number of well-known formula writers. It is probably the most widely used fractal-generating software today, and the one I still use now. It is available to try for free here: Ultra Fractal