OldUse.Net: historical recreation of Usenet as it was 30 years ago

OldUse.Net is a historical, realtime re-creation of the Usenet experience, as it was in the heroic green-on-black era of the Internet. That is, it is a command-line-driven interface to Usenet posts, synchronized with Usenet 30 years ago, and every day that passes here in 2011 sees another day's worth of posts from 1981 added to the archive ("unless I run out of inodes again," notes the creator). There's also an NNTP interface, nntp.olduse.net, for those of you with newfangled newsreaders.
To be on usenet before 1993, you had to be in some way special or lucky. This was before the September that never ended. You were aware of this Usenet or Internet thing that most of the world had not heard of, and went to some lengths to get on it. If we could gather together many of the people who were on the net at a past point in time, that would be interesting company to be in.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." -- L.P. Hartley

Visiting foreign countries is a neat thing to do. Mostly to meet and interact with different people, but partly just to be there and see how things are done differently.

The foreign country of internet past is archived away in various places, from the Wayback machine to Google's usenet archive. But we can't visit those archives in the same sense we can visit the current internet today. It takes effort to find things; "new" posts are not popping up to be read; there is little serendipity. In contrast, Olduse.net provides a way to visit this foreign land.

OldUse.Net (via Making Light)


  1. As it has not been mentioned in Cory’s post, the creator is Joey Hess, author of ikiwiki and long-time Debian Developer

    1. You can play Adventure (aka Colossal Cave) online here: http://www.astrodragon.com/zplet/advent.html (javascript) or here: http://www.web-adventures.org/cgi-bin/webfrotz?s=Adventure (web)

  2. I fondly remember dialing up into a friend’s machine, using UUCP to connect my Amiga to the Usenet.  It was really futuristic and had all these wonderful people and the promise of a world without limits.  Man, that was a different time.


  3. Character cell is great for usability. 2011 and my email client is still mutt (+ procmail + getmail + nbsmtp).

    Back when I still used USENET (gave it up a few years ago) my client of choice was slrn.

    People assume that character-cell clients are old, but some still undergo active development and are quite nice.

    And xterm is a GUI!

    1. Proud member of Kibo’s Secret Club ’91!

      Yay! I’m proud anyone still remembers who I am!My first Usenet access was through college, circa 1987 or so.  The first time I paid for Usenet access was when I opened my world.std.com account in 1990.  That account’s been open 21 years.I used to occasionally dig those 1981-ish articles out of online archives and post replies to them:http://groups.google.com/group…(I don’t appear to have bothered putting in a “References:” header for that followup — either I was being sloppy, or the archived version I was using didn’t have its original “Message-ID”.)

      1. How could we not remember you?

        I still boast about having a Kibo number of 1.

        Of course, I then have to explain what a Kibo number is…

        1. Of course, I then have to explain what a Kibo number is…

          Just say, “It’s like the ‘K’ part of the Geek Code without all that geeky stuff around it.”

  4. 1991 user, here.  I’ve forgotten, now, how I got online, but it had something to do with an NCSA server in Champaign-Urbana.  Only used the access for playing MUDs.  Didn’t do any real posting to USENET.  It was all FIDOnet and BBSing for me in those days.

  5. Kibo, once net famous, always net famous. Especially if your name has verbed.

    People occasionally post replies to messages on olduse.net. I love reading them, but can’t post them anywhere for 30 years.

  6. I am an old Wildcat! sysop, and I did NOT like the internet in the 90’s which was “ruining” networking.

    To this day, I still have my Wildcat! 4 system on standby for when the net goes down, for those who still have modems in their computers, and who like secure networking.  There is nothing obsolete or “dead” about DOS…  I treasure my TCIP endowed multi-tasking Digital Research DOS 7.8.

    There are still alternative networks up and running, and there are still people developing DOS and DOS platform applications for the 21st century.  The mainstream is misguided and over-rated.

    Privately owned and FIDONET interconnected BBS style networking was an awesome phenomena for global networking without the internet, and was immune to corporate takeover and consolidation of traffic flows, and did not turn one’s personal computer into a semi-public one like the internet does.The internet took networking out of the hands of the public and placed it in the control of large corporations and governments and imposed an inherently insecure and ancient networking technology in place of modern and secure BBS style networking technology which in the early 90’s was already developing browser-based internet style networking…  Microsoft was set to move forward with BBS style networking with the original Microsoft Network, but the U.S. Military rammed the internet down everyone’s throats to prevent Microsoft from privately creating the world’s biggest BBS technology based private network.

    Imagine the kind of global networking we would have if the internet had not been forced upon the public, and privately run interconnected independent networks had continued to flourish in their superior technology!

  7. The newsreader is apparently too newschool for the experience. I wasn’t there at the time, but AFAIK the readers readers prior to rn (1984) had cryptic, minimalistic command-line interfaces (like that in the original UNIX “mail” program).

    1. the readers readers prior to rn (1984) had cryptic, minimalistic command-line interfaces (like that in the original UNIX “mail” program)

      I believe the idea was that Usenet messages would be infrequent, and would simply be displayed in chronological order, as they probably represented actual important “news” about your local site. The “readnews” program was actually just a front-end for “msgs” or “mail” (your choice). If you were at 300 baud or less, there was a “readnews -h” option to suppress many of the messages’ headers (of course, these days displaying the massive wad of headers by default is unthinkable, given how they’ve grown.)
      I realize the idea of using a mail client to read Usenet is weird, but… hang on, I gotta go check my RSS feeds in Apple Mail.

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