My first excusrion into usenet was back somewhere around 1985 when I first got access to the nascent ‘internet’ in the UK via JANET but it was several years later after working my way through various incarnations of the software I finally began to work out what the hell it was all about. This was remember way before the advent of the ‘World Wide Web’. At that time *all* communication was via text… even the ‘art’ had to be drawn in ASCII characters. 🙂
My first taster was with CompuServe which was a sideshoot of the usenet format. It was a private concern created out of multiple ‘forums’ made for specific interest groups to be able to discuss issues they had in common. Alongside this a system of forma land informal ‘newsgroups’ grew and this is what later became known as ‘usenet. Usenet is accessed by dedicated servers, usually carried by the ISP, though there are ‘independent’ servers that you can pay to access if you’ve a mind. For example again I subscribe to the Forte server.
A newsgroup is similar in use to an electronic message or notice board. Messages are electronically ‘pinned’ to the board and can be read, or responded to, by any one who reads it.. and has access to software that can post the message. Personally i prefer dedicated software such as Agent available in free or paid for versions from Forte Inc but you can get a taster easily enough by going to Google Groups which many of the newer users find easier to handle.Â I’m not going into the finer details of usenet, it’s easy to sort out online if you have a will, and you can always mail me for extra info if need be 🙂
Currently there are in the region of 30,000 ‘groups’ out on usenet covering a vast array of wild and wonderful subjects ranging from religion, through sexual fetishes to philosophy…. and everything in between. I subscribe (free of course) to several of these groups and drop in from time to time to check up on what’s happening. One as I’ve mentioned before is alt.fan.harry-potter but there others I belong to that have more going for them than just text chats.
An early development was the creation of what are known as ‘binary groups’. In these people can transfer files to one another… files only being and extension of text after all. The result was an explosion of legal and illegal electronic goods. In the binary groups (which I’m not sure Google Groups carry) you can find all sorts of ‘interesting’ gear. For a start until recently it was been one of *the* prime areas for the exchange of kiddie porn by perverts and has only recently been stamped on by the owners of the servers that carry these groups and make them available to subscribers.
Other things you can find are what have become known as e-books. Most of these are illegal scans of books in print so are a little ‘dodgy’ to say the least. Within hours of the Harry Potter books being published for example there was an electronic version online ready to be downloaded are read by anyone who could access the usenet… and of course this version was totally free!!
Last night the wife was asking me if I could look for sheet music for her so I dropped a message into one of the ‘e-book- groups asking for assistance and this morning discovered after 20+ years in usenet… that there is a group dedicated to sheet music ‘alt.binaries.sheet-music’. I added it to my subscribed list… and discovered there were nearly 10,000 titles available for me to look through. I think I’ll leave that to the wife… she wants ‘Baker Street’ but it wasn’t there so she’ll have to look see if there’s anything else she fancies.
Much as computers drive me crazy, sometimes they have uses that are a little let us say ‘lateral’ 😀