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Netnews Server History


Steve
Bellovin

Netnews, or
Usenet as it is more commonly called, is a message sharing system that exchanges
messages electronically around the world in a standard format.

RFC 1580; Guide to
Network Resource Tools
; EARN Staff; FYI: 23; March 1994.

Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott conceived of the Usenet concept, and Steve
Bellovin
wrote the first program, well before the Internet became widely popular.

In the 1950’s, the Bell Telephone
company established the standards for the first modems with the Bell-100 series
of modems. The Bell Dataphone 103, released in 1958, was the first modem
to transfer digital data over telephone lines, with a top speed of 300 bits
or 30 characters a second. By the 1970’s, modems were in relatively common use by businesses and
universities, making a powerful wide-area networking capability available to any
organization with a few hundred dollars and access to a telephone.

In 1979,
Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott, computer science graduate students at Duke University,
were familiar with the first mailing lists on
the ARPANET and wanted to make similar capabilities
available to universities that weren’t doing research
with DARPA. To provide the most basic
capability
to share communications, they conceived of a simple program
to automate the transfer of files between any two computers using telephone
modems.

Ellis
and Truscott called a meeting to discuss their idea, which was attended by Steve
Bellovin, a computer science graduate student at the University
of North Carolina
. Bellovin then wrote the first Netnews program in three
pages of the Unix Bourne
shell
language to transfer
files between two computers over a telephone modem connection, using
the UUCPutility distributed free with the popular Unixoperating system. He later rewrote the program in the
more efficient C programming language.

The first version of
netnews was simple and efficient. It periodically checked the “last saved”
time-stamp of each file in a specified directory, and then sent any file updated
since the last check to another computer using UUCP across a modem connection.
The first implementation was set up between the University of North California
and Duke University Departments of Computer Science. The Duke University
Medical Center Department of Physiology was added in 1980.

Version A. Ellis
and Truscott announced the Netnews idea design at the January 1980 Usenix conference
in Boulder, Colorado. Tom Truscott and Steve Daniel (also a graduate student
at Duke) then rewrote the program to create what was called Netnews Version A.

Since Netnews was designed for Unix at a university, it
was automatically categorized as public domain software under the conditions of
the Unix license, which greatly facilitated its subsequent use and adoption. Duke
University then invited other sites to join the network, which was made much easier
since the software was free,
starting the first great Usenet expansion. The network soon spread to
universities across North America, quickly establishing a critical mass of useful information,
which made it even more popular again.

Version B. In 1982, Netnews Version B was created
by Matt Glickman and Mark Horton to increase its efficiency so it could cope with the increasing loads of the growing network.
In 1984, Rick Adams
at the Center for Seismic Studies took over maintenance of Version B.

Version C. In 1989, Netnews Version C was developed by Henry Spencer and Geoff Collyer at the
University of Toronto to increase its efficiency even more.