History of the Usenet
Usenet was born approximately three decades ago, in 1979. It all began as a small communication network between a few universities in the United States used for the purposes of trading information, sharing news, discussing new and exciting developments, and collaborating on research results and projects. Usenet has grown from a simple design without an official structure, to a vast logical network linking millions of people and computers to over 110,000 different newsgroups filled with thousands of petabytes of articles. What began as two or three servers on a single network in 1979, expanded to 15 in 1980, to 150 in 1981, to 400 in 1982, and to millions in 2003. The Usenet got its name from the fact that all of the information on the network is created by its users – hence, the name Usenet.
Who Created Usenet
Two Duke University graduate students in North Carolina, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis came up with the idea of linking and networking computers together to exchange information with the UNIX community, which in the early days was mostly made up of computer science geeks and university professors. As this was the first real attempt to build a private institutional network, new software had to be developed to allow the servers to propagate information back and forth. The information being shared across the servers was called news. The first news software to run the servers was called 'A' News and was built by Steve Bellovin, another innovative and dare we say brilliant student at Duke University. As the popularity of the network grew, the news volume increased exponentially. Soon the demand on the servers become so great that the limited functionality of 'A' News was replaced by a newer version called 'B' News in 1981 developed by Mark Horton and Matt Glickman. As communication and information continued to grow and evolve on the network, it became necessary to create a more robust dynamic new and improved software version to drive the servers. This version was naturally called 'C' News. ‘C’ News was created by Geoff Collyer and Henry Spencer. Fast forward to present day, and there are numerous software packages available for news sever management. The popularity of the Usenet obviously stuck as the Usenet has now grown to millions of servers across the globe. Today users can access the Usenet newsgroups and join the discussions using a wide variety of dedicated Newsreader client applications.
Exchange of Ideas – It’s All Here
Early Usenet users had one thing in common - their passion to discuss a broad range of topics and ideas from politics, science and technology to philosophy, science fiction, literature, or music. People would meet in various newsgroups to freely voice their opinions, ask for advice, and interact with other users who share the same interests. This trend has not changed much, but the functionality and resourcefulness of Usenet has increased tremendously. Not only can people have meaningful discussions and find extensive answers to their questions today, but they can also share and express themselves in the form of home videos, homebrew software, books and much more. Usenet has become the place to find it all!
Freedom of Speech across International Borders
The very nature of Usenet has always been inter-human communication among a large group of users. In its simplest form, Usenet represents democracy, or the right to share almost everything that could be possibly shared from a computer. Most of the discussions and multimedia content on the Usenet are created by the same people who actively read Usenet. Thus, the Usenet audience chooses the content and subject matter to be thought about, presented, and debated. In this way, Usenet is a globally unrestricted forum for debate and informational exchange where many sides of an issue can be discussed. Rather than being force-fed topics by an uncontrollable power, the participants set the tone and emphasis for things they are talking about in the different newsgroups on the Usenet. Without the time and effort put in by its users, Usenet would not be the democratic and resourceful informational forum it is today.
Rumor has it that back in the early days all of the messages on the Usenet on any given day could be read in twenty minutes and the original design estimated a maximum traffic volume of two articles a day! Fortunately, Usenet has evolved exponentially over the years. Modern day Usenet is a never-ending collection of thousands of online discussion groups created by people from across the globe covering subjects ranging from Astrology to the latest iPhone. In addition to text based discussion groups, Usenet is also home to groups where people can create and explore their own creations in the form of video, sound, programs and books to name a few. These groups are known as binary newsgroups.
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