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Long, long ago, when transport was hard, and communication primitive, when SlashDot, blogs, wikis, facebook, and all that malarkey were not even dreamed of, there was Usenet...

Ah, Usenet! The flame wars, Godwin's law, newgroup battles, propagation delays, trn, C news, INN... And an enormous amount of extremely useful discussion and information that could be found nowhere else. I learnt a great deal from Usenet.

Of course, Usenet still exists, it's in Google Groups, among other places. But I don't read it any more. I do read reddit. Usenet was a lot like reddit, but with fewer kittens.

In passing, I have to mention the comp.lang.c FAQ, maintained by Steve Summit, and one of the best collaboratively produced documents I have ever come across. Eventually Steve published it as a book ("C Programming FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions", Addison-Wesley 1996, ISBN 0-201-84519-9), and I was delighted to find my own name in the acknowledgements list, along with Dennis Ritchie, Andrew Koenig, Bjarne Stroustrup, and other luminaries. (My contribution to the FAQ was small to the point of vanishing: I corrected a misplaced "either". So I didn't really deserve to be there, but still...)

I've grouped my postings together, mainly by the group they were originally posted to, but - for example - postings about qmail to are collected here with the other comp.mail.* postings.


This was a general discussion group for people connected to Cambridge (the one in Cambridgeshire, UK), and remarkably high quality it was too. Read my contributions to cam.misc for musings on vegetarianism, intelligence, and genetically modified crops. And some dodgy science.


My favourite newsgroup: high quality writing, low levels of flamage, and at least lurked in by some very important people. I once posted some incorrect information about K&R, and received a reply from dmr himself!

I've already mentioned the excellent FAQ; many of my postings to the group simply pointed people to the appropriate FAQ. But here are some more interesting articles.

Comp.lang.functional & Comp.lang.misc

I was never very active on either of these groups, so I've combined them.

Comp.lang.perl & Comp.lang.perl.misc

Another great news group, frequented by Larry Wall (the author of Perl), and some other fine programmers / writers, including my colleague and friend Ian Phillips. Here are my contributions.


Through my work with first UKnet, and then PIPEX, I became something of an email guru, and regularly posted authoritatively (if sometimes a touch arrogantly!) to the various comp.mail groups. At one time I maintained the comp.mail.mime FAQ.

I was also a DNS guru: here are some postings from the snappily named


I have always been fascinated by clocks and calendars, and remain so to this day. So it is no surprise that I took a keen interest in the Network Time Protocol for synchronizing clocks over the Internet to (ultimately) atomic clock time sources. I posted a few articles to comp.protocols.time.ntp.


Unix is, of course, the best operating system in the world. I contributed to various groups in the comp.unix hierarchy, but I seem to have lost those articles at the moment, sorry.

Another of my favourite haunts, with some more great regular posters. I particularly relished the contributions of Barry Margolin and Ken Pizzini, and the occasional posting from Andy Walker, whom I once met. As the maintainer of the rc shell, I appear to have felt obliged to mention its superior syntax in at least one post in three! Sorry. :-)

News.groups &

The hub of it all, news.groups was where the creation, renaming, and removal of groups in the "official" hierarchies was discussed. I followed this group, but only made a couple of contributions. I was more active in, the analogue for the uk hierarchy. Here are both together.


A completely general discussion group for people in the United Kingdom, which had the advantage that I'd met in person at least a few of the people on the group. My postings ranged over a variety of topics.

A time slice from the early 1990s, when the commercial Internet was just springing up in the UK.


Lots of articles here, mainly concerning the legalization (or otherwise!) of cannabis.


These postings didn't really seem to fit anywhere else.