strangest systems I've sent email from

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Thu Apr 21 14:33:15 CDT 2016

On Thu, 21 Apr 2016, John Willis wrote:
> I loved being able to do finger @host and then use talk to chat with other
> people.

Me, too!  That was a great feature.  I'd finger '@' some server that my
classmates used and then use talk or ytalk to figure out how to do our
homework etc...  People who didn't want to participate could just turn off
talk requests.

> IMNSHO, the real promise of the Internet as envisioned by Cerf, Postel,
> et.  al.  was in the purity of the end-to-end networking connectivity,
> where your personal machine is a node equal in stature to minis, mid, and
> mainframes also participating:

Well said.  I feel the same way.  First class servers talking with other
first-class servers.  This has been lost, now.  If you want to "run a
server" your ISP hears a cash register opening and you'll need a "business"
account.  It's so far away from the vision you describe well.

> i.e., you have a real, meaningful address that can not only reach, but be
> reached.

It's so important.  Most people didn't feel the loss, but guys like you and
I won't let go of that vision so easily (for all the good it does us). 
However, they are *memories* now, and that's sad.  It's like remembering a
great oak circle in an old growth forest before they cut it down to put up
condos and a Starbucks.  Folks who live there love the Starbucks, and would
recoil in horror at the idea of letting it all go...  but we remember.

> Of course, the prevalence of dial-up connectivity in those days somewhat
> precluded this, but with a shell account, you could get close.

Yes, exactly.  "Back in the day" I felt like nothing would ever be "lost" on
the Internet.  As bandwidth and storage got cheap, I figured access would
increase, not decrease.  Now, I'm noticing that *plenty* of stuff is getting
lost.  I'll admit I even cringed when I saw Geocities dying.  Yeah it was a
cheesy service but, for example, I have a friend who is a master gunsmith
and put all kinds of excellent info on a site he made.  Now it's gone and
you can't find that some of that info via a search anymore at all.  That
phenomenon seems to be picking up speed.  It reminds me a bit of a book I
read called "The Media Monopoly" by Ben Bagdikian.  He talks about how even
small towns used to have 2-3 newspapers with local news.  Now they have none
and the regional big-city paper only spouts syndicated news.  So, I guess I
was naive.  More money and resources pouring into something don't mean
better access to the "consumer".

> Once broadband took off, with always-on connectivity, this should have
> been mitigated--but alas, IPv4 depletion and that demonic invention called
> NAT screwed it up all over again.

I've often thought the same thing, but now I wonder.  Is it NAT keeping
everyone suppressed behind dynamic translation or is it more that 80% of the
people on the net are just consuming media and since they don't clamor for
equal "real" IP access, the ISPs simply don't care about that. 

> Of course, if class A and B address blocks weren't handed out like candy
> to children in the early days, IPv4 might have lasted longer.  But that's
> a whole other discussion.

I still hate Network Solutions and all the NICs for that, too.  However, it
was bound to happen one way or another.  The math (internet population to
ipv4 availability) doesn't work.  So, I guess I should get over it.

> IPv6 _should_ fix this, but trusting the telcos and tier 1 providers to
> not screw up the transition is tantamount to an ardent belief in bigfoot,
> the Loch Ness monster, and cold fusion.

I used to give presentations on IPv6.  My talk was very skeptical of the
potential it promises and even more suspicious of all the QoS features that
look awfully like what corporates want to make sure "free" content is
basically slow and useless.  I used to have a healthy dose of fear that IPv6
would make the situation a bit worse because of how ISPs would use the
internal features.  

However, nowadays despite all kinds of pronouncements from Cisco and other
network "geniuses" that "we have to do it!  There is no choice!  It's coming
tomorrow.  It's already widespread!" If I had a BS flag I'd throw it.  The
proof of their consummate failure to get IPv6 into any kind of widespread use
is very evident to those who look. 

There is a discussion of this on Reddit that pretty well hits the mark. 
Even the pro-ipv6 folks say things like "Oh come on, I've been running it
for years [dual stack] and we have 25% of our users on it already!  It's not
a failure" Oh Ohhhhhkhay.

> IMO, bandwidth should be bandwidth: it's none of the ISP's business which
> direction it goes in or what I'm using it for (as long as it's legal). 

Remember the old cry of "Information wants to be free!" ?  It still rings
true....  in the wilderness.

> This is why I pay in excess of $300/month for a T1 line and a /27, as well
> as ADSL with a /28 (from a local provider that doesn't care if I run
> "servers" or not).

I'd do the same thing if I wasn't such a tightwad or didn't have friends
that did as you do who let me host with them.  It's definitely very
sub-optimal and expensive for no good reason.

> I actually run a small neighborhood ISP that provides such a service

Cool. Is it over wireless or how do you do it?

> in that it's enthusiast-friendly, provides end-to-end connectivity,
> provides shell accounts, a gopher server, a (text-only) USENET feed, has
> finger and talk enabled on the various old servers (SunOS, HP-UX, Solaris,
> 4.2BSD, etc.).

Bless you sir.  I wish I lived in your hood, then.

> I also block video content, Facebook, and all the rather cancerous
> bandwidth drains of the modern commercial Internet.

Ha! Good! 

> I also miss: gopher, archie, veronica, and WAIS

Yes!  I used all those as well.  I wasn't a big gopher user but I logged 
many hours with archie and veronica.  I would mention ICB, but since IRC 
is still going strong, I certainly won't whine about that. I still 
celebrate the vitality of the current IRC nets.

> The downward spiral after the commercialization of the Internet was
> precipitous and alarmingly rapid: the vapidity of online exchanges quickly
> reached fever pitch as more and more blockheads flooded the network.

I agree, and it wasn't just individual blockheads, it was bad actors and 
corporations in a gold-rush mentality too.  There was more than just an 
economic crash in 1999 it also represented a crashing of what the Internet 
had represented up to that point.  It seems to be a process much like 
gentrification of a neighborhood.  The same stuff has happened to some 
unnamed OS projects, too. The leader talks about minimalism and technical 
community in 1993 then flips a b**** and presides over massive 
mega-daemons running systems with binary logs and gobbling up as many 
small-is-beautiful services as possible. Heresy. 

> Prior to that, the sense of community and mutual trust was astonishing. 

*nod* Especially when you compare it to the present state of the art.  I 
suppose if you were 19 you might point to social media and 
"interconnectedness" that comes from that.  However, I really don't feel 
it when the corporate overlords run the services with the NSA breathing 
down our necks. The idea was to have a truly "peer to peer" system where 
the peers are first class citizens with equal access.

> We didn't have to worry about security nearly as much, since most of us 
> were incredibly grateful to have access to such a resource in the first 
> place.

Remember the "Morris Worm" ? That's a good example.  Yeah, it was 
self-replicating code but it did....  nothing. Any negative side effect 
was just from the rapid spreading and system resources it took.  
Nowadays, folks create viruses that encrypt and/or destroy the target for 
ransom the minute they can write 3 lines of code in Visual Basic.  The 
level of malice and thuggery have gone way up.

> Yep.  And the programming manual would come with (gasp) BIOS source
> listings.

... and it opened up so many possibilities. Look at what that and a low 
price did for the C64. It's "scene" is still somewhat healthy with so many 
loyal fans.  I never owned one and don't know that much about them, but I 
respect those folks.

> kindergarten-level fold-out poster showing you where to plug in the
> keyboard.

... or nothing but a notecard saying "Go online to for documentation!" 

I love the excuse, too. "It's better for the environment!" Ugh. 

> Even serious programming tools have more text in the license agreement
> than they do in the printed docs.

That's great news if you are a blood sucking lawyer. However, it's not so 
good if you want to use your compiler without fear or stepping on a legal 
landmine buried on page 31, subsection 8, paragraph 4.

> Heh...  I dropped out of college because of this trend.  My so-called
> "data structures" course was in reality just "Modula-2 Programming 101".

I dropped out in my 4th year for the same reason.  I got sick of listening 
to incompetant failures (with a few exceptions) talking about failed ideas 
and failed languages while I watched my friends making 6x the income with 
no degree or training at all (late 90s). It was time to strike while the 
iron was hot. I work with people who had great academic experiences, but 
then again they went to good schools - some of the same ones I was 
accepted to but wasn't willing to rack up 250k in debt to attend. I don't 
talk to anyone over 50 about college/uni - most of them have no idea what 
it's like now and spout establishment BS. Only my younger friends and 
younger brothers understand this I talked my brothers out of philosophy 
and history majors into ChemE. They graduate next year and they may be the 
only ones amoung their classmates finding jobs, too (according to them, 
not me).

> I found that I was better served by buying old textbooks and studying on
> my own time, and getting mentored by seasoned veterans.

Same here.  I do some woodworking and when I go to classes, say to learn 
dovetailing, the #1 thing I come away glad to have learned was the tips 
and tricks from the guys who've already mastered it.  Plus, when you sit 
down and read a text book or manual, you aren't doing it to pass a test - 
you are doing it to master the material.  I found out to my sorrow that 
those aren't the same things. So, now I focus only on the latter.

> Very true.  Trumpet Winsock was an exercise in frustration: but I got
> turned on to UNIX very early on.

Fortunately, so did I.  I guess we do catch some breaks in life :-) Thank 
goodness for the BSDs, or I'd be even more cynical.  There is some good 
left on the net, but it's sadly not in the same places anymore, and I now 
know there is no guarantee anything will go on untarnished forever. That's 
just a process of maturing, I suppose.

Thanks for that post. Very cathartic. Glad I'm not the only one. :-)


More information about the cctalk mailing list