So I'm here in Cambridge at ROFLcon II
, a conference dedicated to Internet culture, memes, and geekery. They've invited me to be on a panel this afternoon about Usenet, a message board service that probably none
of the legions of MIT students in attendance at the con seem to have even heard of, but we obviously haven't spoken to them all.
Usenet was founded down at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in 1979/1980. I actually met, 15 years ago, one of the co-founders, Tom Truscott, who regarded my fanboyish awe at meeting the Creator of Usenet with ironic mirth, saying that, well, wasn't I
the celebrity now, and not him?
Jeez. Well, Tom had a point -- I was semi-legendary for my Usenet notoriety, spending way too much time on the message boards ("newsgroups", we called them) thanks to all the excess free time I had in those days of the early 1990s. And that's why I'm a guest here at ROFLcon this weekend.
Very few people use Usenet these days; die-hard dinosaurs still post via Google Groups (a glance at rec.sport.football.college
will show that there are certainly still people posting and reading Usenet messages) but otherwise, it's been replaced by more modern message boards on websites, Facebook, Chat Roulette, RSS feeds, and so on.
I'm not too
sad about the wind-down of Usenet, something that back in the day was
the Internet as far as most people were concerned. (Believe it or not, there was a Time Before The Web when EVERYTHING WAS TEXT-BASED, boys and girls.) I mean, I understand that you no longer have to demonstrate Morse Code competency to get a ham radio license these days, too. (Chorus: "What's a ham radio license?")
But I'm rambling, and my breakfast is getting cold. The point of this message: the first Usenet server (or one of the first handful), brought online at the very beginning, news.duke.edu, is being turned off this weekend, of all weekends. Yes, the university that co-created Usenet in the first place, is turning Usenet off as far as it's
concerned, citing its irrelevancy. Read more here