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The History of Usenet and FidoNet (technicshistory.com)
121 points by cfmcdonald 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments





I remember dialing up to a local BBS that was a FidoNet node. The discussion forums/mailing lists had the same sense of urgency and intensity as today's Twitter hashtags or subreddits.

The amount of misinformation was about equal, too. I learned a lot of outright bullshit stated as fact reading those as a 12-year old. The difference is there's now zero limit to that nonsense being spread...


This was when a 14.4k modem was the last word in speed, and you were literally paying your phone company by the minute for a connection. Public access to Usenet required access through an ISP, who would also charge - separately - by the minute.

Modems were very optional, because not everyone had that kind of money.

At 14.4k it takes maybe 10 seconds to download a JPEG, and tens of minutes to hours to download a low-res video clip.

Neither Usenet nor Fidonet had anything like a browser. Files had to be converted to ASCII for upload, often in parts, and then glued back together and converted to the original format manually using various helper applications.

It was still exciting and fun though.


2400 baud was the gold standard. 9600 and then 14.4k came latter. I stuck on 300 baud for a while and rejoyced when I got a 1200 baud modem for a birthday - then lightning took it out...

Usenet was reading was free via the local university unsecured dial-in (not ppp just a terminal that would telnet into any computer you knew of) , but without an email address you couldn't do much so I didn't spend much time there. Fido and the other local bbs systems provides free accounts that made the whole thing useful.

Then the web hit and you could find useful things on the internet. It was all downhill from there for Usenet.


I’m starting to work on microcontrollers and born in the 90s. Upload at like 115200 i believe and just like dang we’ve come a long way.

Remember when yEnc showed up, and discovered that most NNTP servers could actually deal with mostly 8-bit bodies, and it made transferring files that much more efficient?

Good times, indeed!


It's still used in binary groups to this day. It's too bad that it never really was used in email and most email clients didn't support it.

IIRC, NNTP, SMTP, and I believe IMAP servers do not treat any character as significant from a protocol standpoint other than ascii NULL (0x00), CR (0x0D), LF (0x0A), and . (0X2E) (the last only when at the beginning of a line). Those are the only 4 characters that yEnc escapes for encoding purposes.


There was also quite a lot of hijacking of military, corporate, and university bandwidth at the time for Usenet. Dump to floppies and take it home. Often faster than a modem from beginning to end.

There was also quite a lot of hijacking of military, corporate, and university bandwidth for Doom. Doom had very chatty, unoptimized netcode (which Quake would later improve upon) and networked Doom was banned outright at many sites for starving legitimate users of bandwidth.

As it happens, the Digital Antiquarian just covered the launch of Doom and the doom it spelled for many networks due to the LAN mode being so inefficient: https://www.filfre.net/2020/06/the-shareware-scene-part-4-do...

I think I was still using Fidonet and Usenet even when I had 33.6K in mid 90s and also 56K, although at 56K by the end of 90s I already switched to internet paid per hour, but Usenet groups were for me really internet thing already, good predecessor of Reddit and various PHP forums.

Fidonet was practical - possible to download all groups/messages at once for lot of offline reading and responding saving lot of money for lot of content.


Ditto with usenet, you can set up SLRN like that.

The article completely fails to mention that in Eastern Europe FidoNet existed and was popular well until mid-00's, and that a rather small community in Russia still exists to this day.

Usenet too, at least for programmers and IF/Nethack players.

And yet none speak for punternet. Even wikipedia doesn't mention it here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Punter

Yet, in the 300 baud days, before PC clones became numerous, when the C64 was the most sold PC on the planet, PunterBBS, and PunterNET was worldwide.

I ran such a BBS, on a C64 with two of these:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_1571

At the time, punternet offered everything fidonet did. But... time passes....


I miss BlueWave offline mail reader...

nn just didn't compare when I got to University. irc was and still is fantastic.


Right? Such a fantastic way to read mail. Just keyboard and the text.

Although exiting, IRC was/is a whole different world! :)

Fossil driver, QWK reader and tosser and you're set :-)

uucp, uucico, tin and you are set. ;)

rz@skyrocket:~ % man uucico

No manual entry for uucico

rz@skyrocket:~ % uname -a

FreeBSD skyrocket 9.3-RELEASE FreeBSD 9.3-RELEASE #1: Fri Nov 27 20:28:19 UTC 2015 root@skyrocket:/usr/obj/usr/src/sys/SKYROCKET amd64

Hopefully cu is till there.


BlueWave was fantastic. I miss it too.

Some Chinese tech entrepreneurs were FidoNet users in 1990s, e.g.,Ma Huateng (Tecnent Founder & CEO), Ding Lei (NetEase Founder & CEO), Lei Jun (Xiaomi Founder & CEO)...

ex 2:5077/7 here.

Almost any tech guy in early 90s was a Fidonet or Usenet user. That was the only mean of communication and source of technical information available worldwide, an informational Klondike for programmers, electronics engineers, for all kind of hobbyists. Personally, I can say that Fidonet had a significant impact on my career and on whole my life. I was a node running multiline BBS somewhere in the middle of Siberia in 90th. It was a technical challenge, it tought me to deal with and solve many technical and organisational issues. I learnt and studied TCP/IP by reading Fidonet echos (aka Usenet groups) and tought myself to deploy IP networks (including DNS) not having IP access because there was not any in my place at that time. I learnt to use OS/2, then FreeBSD. And there was no Google to ask. Participating in echos gave me a good warm feeling of the big world at my fingertips.


I remember using UUCP to link the half-dozen or so nodes of our little local net back 1991 (or thereabouts).

One of our members shared an excited piece of information: "Hey, wow! I just heard there's a whole million nodes on the Net."

The Net back then was Usenet, email, and (sometimes) ftp.

That new-fangled WWW thing was just a strange curiosity. It would never take off anyway, how would you know what websites were around? And anyway, hour-long long-distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive.


> And anyway, hour-long long-distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive.

I firmly believe Always On made more difference than the Broadband bandwidth most users got at the same time.

My first student household had 24/7 Internet access at modem speeds, 56kbps (at best) shared between half a dozen people. But even though that's scarcely any bandwidth (my last student house was 2Mbps DSL shared between two people for comparison) the fact it's always there changed how we used it compared to people with conventional dial-up.


When I first got Always On, it still took me several weeks before I wasn't twitchy enough to actually leave it on. Those years of 30 hours of monthly connection quotas died hard.

It was a bit of a shock to the system again, when in 2011 I spent 8 months travelling in France with 2gig/month (60mb/day) quotas again.


There is a Gopher server with a Fidonet mirror, I can't find it.

EDIT: gopher://synchro.net


I hope this isn't off topic. I've been interested in perusing Usenet groups from the 80s like rec.music -- I swear ten years ago this was possible. I can't figure out how to do it now. Did the massive load of binaries kill off archival efforts? I can't find a search engine for Usenet anywhere. I'm just interested in plan text conversations.

Google still has an archive, e.g. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/rec.music.misc

I believe it's based on the data they bought from Deja back in 2001 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Groups)


The Internet Archive has a usenet collection [0], and whilst I didn't see rec.music there, I did see usenet-music [1].

The archive seems to use mbox for everything, so you'll probably need an email client to read it, but that's it.

[0] https://archive.org/details/usenet

[1] https://archive.org/details/usenet-music


Also, I forgot:

Run XTerm with the 10x20 fixed font, then:

          TERM=ansi telnet cvs.synchro.net
Enjoy.




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