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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.(7) 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. invisible.xbm

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.

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