Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rumors of Usenet's Death Not Exaggerated

Today, I received notice from my Internet Service Provider,, that they will no longer provide access to the Usenet service. This development saddens me and brings back memories of how incredibly useful Usenet was in the early days of the Internet (even pre-Web).

You could find kindred spirits of any interest available for text-based correspondence and enlightenment. I solved countless software problem (including both Windows and Linux) by searching through these groups. Who could forget groups like

  • comp.cad
  • comp.cad.cadence
  • comp.cad.synthesis
  • comp.lang.verilog
  • comp.lang.vhdl
  • comp.lsi.cad
  • sci.engr.semiconductors

Oh, and the flame wars! (I remember there was a character outraged over the Ottoman Empire who sought to cancel every post containing "turkey", which swept up Thanksgiving recipes, as well.)

The beginning of the end was when Web access took off, epitomized by "AOL newbies" pouring onto Usenet without regard to the collegial etiquette that previously existed. After AOL, there was overwhelming growth of users, which strained the scalability of worldwide discussion forums. Finally, the death knell: Spam. When I peek at Usenet groups today, they're full of the most crude and amateurish spam. It appears that posts are not run through filters as is all of our email, and this makes the noise/signal ratio unbearable.

R.I.P., Usenet. You were one of the forefathers of what we enjoy today through the Web, forums, IM, and social networking.


Grant Martin said...

usenet !!!! I remember it well........ There was an internal fight (debate, fight, .....) in Bell-Northern Research ......... late 1980's or very early 1990's) (my memory is getting as old as I am) about whether usenet would be allowed within the company, would be censored or filtered ("work-related groups only"), and if I recall correctly, eventually it was turned on. I too remember comp.cad.vlsi and other groups - quite a bit of interesting information for those of us working in VSLI design and CAD internally those days. When I left BNR in 1994 and moved to Cadence, early uses of the early web browsers (I remember NCSA Mosaic as a bit of a revelation) was just starting - and my interest in usenet died off so quickly that it has been years since I have thought about it.

A great nostalgic post.

John said...

I had no idea usenet still existed until a work acquaintance told me he downloaded movies from alt.somethingoranother - but I, like Grant, never looked back after Mosaic hit the scene.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


Sean Murphy said...

This post brought back some memories. You can still read newsgroups through the Google Groups functionality. Use and enter any of the groups you mentioned. I found the notice for the first DAC website we put up at

in 1995 for the 32nd DAC. We did one in 1994 but it was only accessible through the DACnet terminals in the convention hall.
It went out to these groups:

comp.cad.cadence, comp.cad.compass, comp.cad.synthesis, comp.sys.mentor, alt.sys.intergraph, sci.electronics.cad, comp.lsi, comp.lang.verilog, comp.lang.vhdl, sci.engr.semiconductors, comp.arch.fpga, ieee.announce