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Jeroen W. Pluimers on .NET, C#, Delphi, databases, and personal interests

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Ancient history – found back one of my earliest email messages dated in februari 1989!

Posted by jpluimers on 2009/10/12

I found back one of my earliest mail messages: it is dated back in februari 1989.

Wow – ain’t search engines nice!

Today, messages like those seem totally irrelevant.

But back then, getting in touch with other people through email could be a real challenge.

The internet was forming (out of UUNET, DECnet, BITNET, Usenet, EARN, ARPANET and others), and not everything was completely interconnected yet, let alone connected on-line 24/7.
For instance, newsgroups were limited to the usenet portion of the internet, and not available on the bitnet portion.

So, mail and mailing lists were the prevalent means of communication: LISTSERV was the first program facilitating mailing lists.

Routing mail could be a challenge as well.
There was not yet such a widespread thing as SMTP or POP3 as it is today.
So mail got relayed (in fact open mail relays were the standard configuration), and often you had to provide the routing instructions in your mail as well.

Hence the complicated mail addresses used in the message linked above.

Back then, on the for sending mail on the on the VAX/VMS I was working on, gMail (note the spelling) was a very good mail program that would magically do most of the routing for you.

BITNIC used to be a repository to download information and programs.

UUENCODE one of the early encoding schemes to send binaries over email (and still one of Microsoft’s email programs barfs when you put ‘begin 664’ at the beginning of a line).

BITNET Relay was one of the earliest chat programs (much like IRC now), and HEARN the mean node in The Netherlands.

History is fun!


9 Responses to “Ancient history – found back one of my earliest email messages dated in februari 1989!”

  1. […] I was part of it from the late 80s until the early 90s and vividly remember the chat rooms where at one time you could have smart people from all around the world participating: Asia, Middle East, Europe, North America and other regions. […]

  2. jpluimers said

    At I commented this:

    I found back some very early presence of myself a few years ago (see below). Similar history: Foundation instead of association. BBS, FidoNet, UUCP, IPX/SPX, 3Com, UUNET, DECnet, BITNET, Usenet, EARN, ARPANET, etc: I’ve seen it all happen. I remember a call from the Dutch Telekom around 1994: wether I understood that having a phone line open 24 hours a day was costly business. I did: it was one ISDN B channel to route a /29 network home via (who back then operated a Dutch branch). It was like EUR 800/month and worth every penny.
    I vividly remember the WWW coming up and thinking “like FTP, email and gopher, this will never rule the world as it’s way too modern for the masses.”. How wrong I was…
    Some details:

    The point: Times have changed quite a bit and are still at least as interesting and versatile as back then.

  3. […] already wrote about my early programming days where I learned Turbo Pascal at school around the age of 14. I admit that back then not all copies […]

  4. gabr said

    Oh, then I’m not the only VMS guy in the Delphi crowd :)

    I started on PDP-11, then got a Spectrum ZX-48, moved to VAX/VMS and only then started working on a PC (XT with 2 floppy drives and no hard drive).

    And my FidoNet address was 2:380/127.11 :)

    • jpluimers said

      Actually, quite a few Delphi people come from a VAX/VMS background, especially because it had an excellent Pascal implementation called DEC Pascal (the docs are still online).

      Many others started with UCSD Pascal (p-Code, wonder where Java got that idea from; units, wonder where Apple and Borland got that idea from).
      UCSD Pascal was available for PDP-11, Apple II and many other systems.

      At the university (I tried studying chemistry, but working in IT was much more fun), I operated on PDP-11 machines, but never programmed.
      At High School, I started with Apple II, first with Integer Basic and AppleSoft Basic, then with Apple Pascal (which was based on UCSD Pascal, but way too slow), and finally with Turbo Pascal 1.0 (after they installed a Microsoft Z-80 softcard in a few of the machines which allowed it to run CP/M).

      I still have fond memories of those early days.


  5. Berend de Boer said

    Yeah, the memories! But you forgot to mention fidonet!

    • jpluimers said

      Actually, I remember you from that time as well. And you were the author of the Turbo Vision FAQ too!

      FidoNet for me was about the same time as BITNET, but FidoNet/usenet gateways only became available for me in 1991, so there is not much found on the internet from my FidoNet early steps.

      I also had the subdomain which I hooked up to fidonet host 2:281/256 (the WhiteHouse). I actually was a hub, and member of the Dutch Fidonet Foundation.

      My fidonet setup was running two machines: a Novell NetWare 3.11 file server with a HP 1.3 gigabyte 5.25″ full height SCSI drive (mind you, in 1992, that drive alone costed a fortune!) with an Intel 386 CPU.

      The communication and processing machine ran also on an Intel 386 CPU, and used Microsoft DOS 6.22 with Quarterdeck DESQiew/386 to provide multi-tasking. That machine ran 3 tasks: 2 task each served a BBS/FidoNet phone line (so I had 2 lines in parallel), and one task performing all the mail processing. Everything was glued together with batch-files, including sophisticated locking and task prioritazion.
      The whole setup was so flexible that I could even distribute it across mutliple machines!

      The BBS Software was RemoteAccess, especially because it operated very well with the FrontDoor FidoNet software.
      The fidonet software I used was FrontDoor.
      The mail processor was GEcho.
      I read and answered mail using GoldED.
      And finally the file manager was FileMGR (ain’t good names simple ).

      Shortly after moving to Badhoevedorp, I refactored most of the batch files, and let everything run under Windows 95, which was much more network friendly than MS DOS + DESQview.

      I retired most of it when I moved to Amsterdam, and retired all of it when Novell 3.11 wasn’t supporting the Y2K, and the upgrade process was too cumbersome.
      Most of the hardware now is in my tiny computer museum :-)

      Oh BTW: I just found out that the gMail alias on the VAX/VMS was for GOLD MAIL.


      • Berend de Boer said

        Yeah, what times they were. When you had a 20MB hard disk and just couldn’t fill it up. Installed 1 320GB on my notebook last week…

        I started with just visiting BBSs I think, and joined fido after. TU Delft wasn’t so fond of letting their computer science students accessing this internet thing….

        My Fidonet stuff based upon Squish and TimEd. And besides spending on hard disks, you probably spend gold on modems as well. I’m still using my ZyXEL Elite 2864 actually (mainly as answering machine), and now email myself messages recorded in mp3.

        I’m lucky I escaped Windows 95! I think I never used DOS+DESQview, but I used DESQview/X (might still have had some DOS underneath it I suppose). I used that as my main desktop for years, well into 1995 or later perhaps. I never went past MS-Dos 5.

        After that I used Windows NT 3.51 for a while and NT4, but that was the last windows on my desktop. I had been quite fond of the rock solid NT 3.51, but NT4 was just less stable. I switched to Unix after a while (RedHat 6.x I think). I haven’t done Windows for years now, as all I do is Linux based (running Ubuntu 8.10 on my laptop).

        My server was already Unix for years, I started using FreeBSD in 1995, and it’s still my main server environment.

        A computer museum would have been a good idea! Mind you, my main server is still a Pentium II, so I’m actually running a computer museum :-)

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