Digging up our history

So fluid, so rapidly changing is the Internet, it seems to operate in a continual state of here and now. We're so caught up in where the technology is going, we easily forget that it has a past. Much of the information on the Internet is discarded as soon as a disk fills up or it is deemed outdated. We still have copies of the first books printed with movable type; is there still a copy of the first World Wide Web page? This month, we're going backwards in time, to dig up a few of the roots, near and far, of our electronic community.

Let's start close to home. Chebucto Community Network's collective memory is found in the archives of the various committee mailing lists. If you are using the text-only Lynx browser you can access these lists using the shortcut "g lists" (without the quotes). Or, no matter how you are connecting, you can access the mailing list archive via this link. The Metro*CAN Network Prototype Archives contain archived messages dating back to the fall of 1993. The archives' messages are a mix of debate, administrivia and brainstorming, and while not every message may be particularly illuminating, here's where you'll find the first steps toward CCN.

Of even more practical value, perhaps, is the archive of users' questions and answers maintained by the Help Desk. Here you'll find the collected wisdom of other users, in the hundreds of archived questions and answers. It's always a good idea to skim over some of the topics; you may find just the information you are looking for. There is also a manually-maintained list of Frequently Asked Questions maintained on the Help Desk.

But what of the world beyond Chebucto? The Internet's roots go back over 30 years, a long time since digital computers are only a little over 50 years old. But to find out about where the Internet has been, you have to do a little digging.

The best place to start is probably Hobbes' Internet Timeline. It gives you a quick overview of the history of the Internet, and the systems and research which preceded it. You'll also find some interesting statistics and graphs. For Lynx users: Press the * key on your keyboard; this will allow you to select images for downloading and viewing with graphics viewing software on your own computer.

For a concise history lesson, A Short History of the Internet by acclaimed author Bruce Sterling is very good, albeit a little dated (c. 1993). You can also read the documents at the Internet Society's gopher site <gopher://> dealing with the roots of the 'Net. While the Internet Society does not "run" the Internet, per se, it is the closest thing there is to an official overseeing body and keeper of records. Another great resource, if you're looking for a mix of history and 'Net current events, is the locally-developed Understanding the Internet, the companion site to a series that airs on the Discovery Channel. Here you'll find a rich set of links to other 'Net history resources.

Another source of archived material is the lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which are compilations of the questions most often posed in Usenet news groups. FAQs are a repository for much of the most authoritative information on the 'Net. While these FAQs are often posted to their respective newsgroups, they can also be found archived in a number of different formats. Best starting point? Check out the links at Yahoo to various search engines and FAQ archives.

And what about this publication? Although it is only our third issue, we will be archiving all issues of Chebucto Connections. Who knows? Some future historian may find it an interesting insight on the first, exciting years of the World Wide Web.


Chebucto Connections FEATURE OF THE MONTH
is edited by Robert E. Currie
who is happy to receive Questions, Comments or Suggestions.
If your browser does not support mail, write to Rob later at aa019@ccn·cs·dal·ca.

Last Month: September 1995 Next Month: November 1995