RootPrompt.org: The Once and Future M-Net – It’s Ugly and Complicated, We Love It

[ Thanks to Noel
for this link. ]

“James Howard has written about his online home M-Net, the first
public access Unix system. M-Net’s history has seen the passing
of several eras and milestones in the history of computing. It was
there before the Internet was big. It was there long before the
advent of the World Wide Web.”

“M-Net is a small, user-supported BBS hailing from the early
1980s and struggling to survive at the end of the millennium. It
exists and is primarily used through a text-only environment
supported through telnet. While a web interface for some features
is supported, most users shy away from it. The BBS, called YAPP, is
known as a conferencing system. It allows users to post message and
then watch the responses roll in. The message and response
combination is called an item. Further, items live in groups called
conferences. Conferences are set up by the conference
administrator, called a fair witness, and they are usually grouped
according to topic. M-Net has conferences dedicated to music,
poetry, programming, gossip, and dozens of other topics. In
addition, there is a catch-all conference called “general” which is
restarted on the first of each month and several conferences
dedicated to discussion of system policies, including conference

“M-Net’s history is nearly as complicated as its interface. In
1983, Mike Myers of Ann Arbor, Michigan purchased a $30,000 Altos
68000 single board computer running System III Unix. Before long,
Marcus Watts, also of Ann Arbor began writing software for the new
system including a program allowing users to automatically create
accounts, a real time chat system called party, and a conferencing
system known as PicoSpan. And in the middle of June, 1983, M-Net
went online with one dialin line. Before long, other conferencing
sites including The Well and Chinet were using Watts’s