The History of Usenet

Zen and the Art of the Internet

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The History of Usenet (The ABCs)
 
In the beginning, there were conversations, and they were good.  Then
came Usenet in 1979, shortly after the release of V7 Unix with UUCP;
and it was better.  Two Duke University grad students in North
Carolina, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, thought of hooking computers
together to exchange information with the Unix community.  Steve
Bellovin, a grad student at the University of North Carolina, put
together the first version of the news software using shell scripts
and installed it on the first two sites: unc and duke. At the
beginning of 1980 the network consisted of those two sites and phs
(another machine at Duke), and was described at the January 1980
Usenix conference in Boulder, CO. {The Usenix conferences are
semi-annual meetings where members  of the Usenix Association, a
group of Unix enthusiasts, meet and trade notes.} Steve Bellovin
later rewrote the scripts into C programs, but they were never
released beyond unc and duke.  Shortly thereafter, Steve Daniel did
another implementation in the C programming language for public
distribution.  Tom Truscott made further modifications, and this
became the ``A'' news release.
 
In 1981 at the University of California at Berkeley, grad student Mark
Horton and high school student Matt Glickman rewrote the news software
to add functionality and to cope with the ever increasing volume of
news---``A'' news was intended for only a few articles per group per
day.  This rewrite was the ``B'' news version.  The first public
release was version 2.1 in 1982; all versions before 2.1 were
considered in beta test.  As The Net grew, the news software was
expanded and modified.  The last version maintained and released
primarily by Mark was 2.10.1.
 
Rick Adams, then at the Center for Seismic Studies, took over
coordination of the maintenance and enhancement of the news software
with the 2.10.2 release in 1984.  By this time, the increasing volume
of news was becoming a concern, and the mechanism for moderated groups
was added to the software at 2.10.2.  Moderated groups were inspired
by ARPA mailing lists and experience with other bulletin board
systems.  In late 1986, version 2.11 of news was released, including a
number of changes to support a new naming structure for newsgroups,
enhanced batching and compression, enhanced ihave/sendme control
messages, and other features.  The current release of news is 2.11,
patchlevel 19.
 
A new version of news, becoming known as ``C'' news, has been
developed at the University of Toronto by Geoff Collyer and Henry
Spencer.  This version is a rewrite of the lowest levels of news to
increase article processing speed, decrease article expiration
processing and improve the reliability of the news system through
better locking, etc.  The package was released to The Net in the
autumn of 1987.  For more information, see the paper News Need Not Be
Slow, published in the Winter 1987 Usenix Technical Conference
proceedings.
 
Usenet software has also been ported to a number of platforms, from
the Amiga and IBM PCs all the way to minicomputers and mainframes.