Oakley first started making YouTube videos in August 2006, when the site was still in its infancy. He chose to use the platform to talk about life from the perspective of an old man–a radical departure from the relatively youthful YouTube community. His first video has received nearly three million views to date, and for a one-month period in 2006, his channel was the most-subscribed on YouTube.
More recently, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, but he continued to post to his channel. His final video, released 39 days before his death, concludes his recap of his long, full life, which included military service during World War II and a gig as a member of British rock band The Zimmers.
Since Oakley’s death, the YouTube community has come forward to offer its condolences. “Peter Oakley was such an important figure in the early days of YouTube despite being pretty much the exact opposite of what you’d expect,” said Hank Green over email. “His talent and innovation, I think, should inspire us to defy the expectations society puts on us…but more importantly to use the tools we are given to share ourselves, be open, and make powerful connections the way he did.”
William Hyde, who made YouTube videos as TheWillOfDC, offered a eulogy of his own:
“I never got the honor of meeting Peter although I will always remember him as Geriatric1927. The first video I ever watched on YouTube back in 2006 was a Smosh video but I would guess Geriatric would’ve been in my top 10 as I remember subscribing to him shortly after. I found him because even back then I was obsessed with who was most subscribed/viewed and he was at the top of those lists…back in the day.
Before MCN’s, before even the monetization of YouTube, Geriatric1927 was there as one of the first & most supportive YouTube community members. He didn’t make videos for any specific demographic or money or fame. his videos were so personally his, sharing his life, knowledge and experiences with a world that he had witnessed change in unbelievable ways. While it is very fitting that he is known as the granddad of the internet he was also very accessible and never acted like an ‘elder’ above all the kids. he was a peer to all YouTubers and back when YouTube started was just another early adopter figuring out what it all meant and how YouTube was going to be used.
With so many creators now, and so much content being uploaded, I hope YouTube makes a Hall of Fame and puts him on it as his videos are as good today as they were when he first uploaded. As a true testament to his giving nature, he continued uploading right till before his passing. There is so much to be learned from him, I hope current/new YouTubers don’t pass up the opportunity.”
We at Tubefilter would also like to extend our condolences to Peter’s family. And we hope he’s in front of the camera Telling It All from wherever he is now.