First official announcement of USENET

Below is the official announcement of Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis (who first coined the term USENET) gathered to announce the creation of USENET. The press release reveals that while both had an idea that it could be something big, neither could have imagined that it would explode to the extent that it has over the years. For over 30 years, USENET newsgroups quickly outgrown its purpose of serving only as a channel of communication between universities. Home to thousands of communities, USENET remains an active destination and resource for many to share, interact and collaborate.

Invitation to a network * General UNIX access

Tom Truscott , Duke University

Invitation for first offical announcement of usenet

Invitation

A group of UNIX systems at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have established a uucp-based computer network for communication. Admission to the network is open to all UNIX holders. In addition to providing the ‘uu’ services available in the Seventh Edition of UNIX (remote mail, file transfer, job execution), it will provide a network news service. A prospective node must have an establishment call, installation call, or other means of communication with another UNIX net system. The node must have, or be able to legitimately obtain, uucp and related software.

Systems that do not net out should be questioned occasionally. We poll any system that requests it, and Bill the poll system for phone charges. Phone charges should be $ 10-20 / month. Application requests should be sent to

James Ellis
Department of Computer Science
Duke University
Durham, NC 27706

Services

The most important service will first be to provide a quick access newsletter. Any node can submit an article, which will in due course be propagated to all nodes. A ‘news’ program has been designed, which can perform this service. The first few articles are likely to be about bug fixes, trouble reports, and generally calls for help. Certain categories of news, such as ‘want’ articles, can become popular enough to warrant separate newsgroups. (The news program mentioned above supports newsgroups.)

Electronic ordering offers a convenient way to respond to intriguing articles. Typically, small groups of users with common interests will use messaging to communicate. If the group size grows enough, they would probably start a other new group.

Complete programs and other machine-readable text are not suitable for transmission via (ordinary) news. On the other hand, if a news contributor announces a new version of ‘XC’, he might be inundated with requests such as « Please dodimum mail a copy of xc To avoid this he could make his copy of xc directly accessible to anyone through the uucp file copy program. In order to reduce uucp traffic, copies could be made at the more central nodes of the net. Traffic will be reduced further by expanding news in support of ‘news on demand.’ Xc would be submitted to a newsgroup (eg ‘NET.bulk’ ‘) to which no one subscribes. Any node could then request the item by name, which would generate a sequence of new requests on the path of the requesting party for the contributory system. Fortunately, only a few requests would locate a copy of xc ‘News on Demand’, it will require a network routing card at each node, but this is desirable anyway.

It is hoped that USENIX will play an active (indeed central) role in the network. There is the problem of members not on the net, so material newsletters are to remain the standard method of communication. However, using the net for the preparation of newsletters seems to be a good idea.

Implementation

The hardware and software configuration for a system to join the network have been mentioned above. The uucp system has been adapted to run on the sixth edition of UNIX, so both the sixth and seventh edition systems can join. Each node must have a unique name, so that all names must be approved by the network administration. Duke will perform the initial administrative functions, and also provide software for network news to operate.

Although we can provide a news program, some sites prefer to adapt their existing programs. This assumes the ability to print and receive articles in the news transfer format. The format used to transmit an article between systems is given below. The first character of the file identifies the format and will be used to simplify inevitable changes in article formats. The rest of the first line is a unique name for the entire system, which also identifies the original node. The name of the article is used to prevent unlimited duplication of news articles that might otherwise occur. It has another advantage of simplifying the implementation of a ‘news on demand’ facility. Support for focus groups (line 2) is required. All newsgroups have the ‘NET’ network prefix. Support for contributor name (line 3) and contribution date (line 4) are recommended. « Date deleted » is not supported, it is up to each node to delete old news. Line 5 is the title of the article (alphabetical).

 Format Article News
Line Example Description
1 Aunc. 173 Articles start with the character ‘A’, the original system is ‘UNC’, which gave the article the unique name ‘unc.173’
2 NET.sys NET.nit Newsgroups to which this article belongs.
3 duke! unc! smb The net trajectory with the contributor. This changes the row that the article goes from system to system.
4 Thu Jan 24 01:39:20 EST 1980 The date of the article was submitted for news to the original system.
5 cron The title of the article.
6 Delete line 221 from cron.c:
7 * cp ++ =  »;
8 Not necessary. He confuses ps.
Newsgroup names and articles are limited to 14 characters or less.

Questions answers

  1. Is this cheap?
    Not at all. Night time phone costs are maybe $ 0.50 / 3 minutes time, in which uucp transfer time could maybe 3000 bytes of data (300 baud). Daily voting would then be $ 15.00 / month, which is half of what Duke only pays for a desk phone.
  2. Could Duke really handle all the phone calls?
    Sure. We have two call-out lines: at five minutes / call, we can handle 24 calls / hour. Other nodes can also volunteer to perform the call-out function.
  3. What does the Duke get out of this situation?
    We avoid the phone charges ourselves, and we’ll hear from anyone else.
  4. What about network abuse?
    In general, it will be easy to detect when the violence occurred and who did it. The uucp system, UNIX link, is not designed to prevent overuse abuse. Experience will show what the uses of the net are in fact abuses, and what should be done about them.
  5. Who would be responsible if something goes wrong?
    Not us! And we don’t intend that any innocent bystander can be held responsible either. We are studying this issue. Suggestions are solicited.
  6. This is a botched proposition. Let’s start from a committee.
    No thanks! Yes, there are issues. Several amateurs collaborated in this plan. But we’ll start right now. Once the net is in place, we can start a committee. And they’re actually going to use the net, so they know what the real problems are.
  7. Okay the systems so a few get the net started. And after?

Below is a copy of the original fax that was distributed to the world’s first announced USENET

 

Continue reading more about the History of USENET

 

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