retro computer

Reflecting on legacy Internet protocols

In this post, we will be reflecting on legacy Internet protocols. Some of these protocols are now completely deprecated and have become obsolete, while others continue to survive and are regarded as retro-style Internet services. This type of information belongs to what is widely referred to as retrocomputing. For any users out there who have had an early engagement with the Internet as hobbyists, this summary serves as a nice memoir of the non-graphical terminal-based Internet times.

Let’s summarize the most prominent Internet protocols, as documented by the World Wide Web consortium (w3.org).

Legacy internet protocols

The below list is not inclusive of all possible protocols of the Internet but rather includes these legacy protocols which became the defacto standards of their times and gained momentum amongst Internet users and administrators.

Usenet/NNTP The main news service and public discussion forum, uses the NNTP protocol.

Mailing lists Also called Listservers, after an often used program. Discussions among a limited number of people. Makes use of E-mail.

BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) A bulletin board system or BBS (also called Computer Bulletin Board Service, CBBS) is a computer server running software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program.

Gopher An easy-to-use file retrieval program, based on hierarchical, distributed menus. See also Veronica. Gopher used to be the prominent text-based Web before the graphical WWW web came out. Gopher is still active and some gopher proxy communities offer free gopher accounts, called gopher holes. You can reach out to http://gopherproject.org/ for a list of gopher proxies and to https://sdf.org to apply for a free gopher account. Instructoins on how to create and organize Gopher content can be found at: https://davebucklin.com/play/2018/03/31/how-to-gopher.html.

FTP File Transfer Protocol, a protocol for copying files to and from remote machines

Archie A database of locations for all files that are publicly available through FTP. Uses the Prospero protocol.

World Wide Web/HTTP A distributed hypermedia system, uses the HTTP protocol.

IRC A real time text-based communication system with multiple channels and users.

WAIS/Z39.50 A full text indexing system, works both stand-alone and over a network, in the latter case it uses the Z39.50 protocol.

E-mail The electronic equivalent of the postal service. Several protocols are in use (SMTP, UUCP, POP, etc.)

Telnet, rlogin Protocols that allows people to `log in’ to remote machines

rcp, NFS, AFS Rcp is `remote copy’, a sort of one-shot FTP. NFS and AFS are systems for `mounting’ the file system of a remote machine as if it were a local hard disk.

Hyper-G A distributed hypermedia system, that supports multiple navigation models.

DEC VTX An early hypermedia system by Digital Equipment Corporation, described as a `Videotex’ system.

Prospero A `virtual file system’; offers multiple views of a distributed file system.

CLI-based Web browsers

Since the World Wide Web service was invented in 1995 by Tim Burner’s Lee, all other services started to fade away, as the WWW gradually incorporated the functionality of these services and penetrated a large segment of daily personal and business applications.

Despite of the handful of graphical WWW clients, also known as Web browsers, there are still a few notable text-based browsers out there, which remind us of the old legendary times when we had our first interactions with the Web. The most well known and still actively maintained Web browser projects are:

Sources

https://www.w3.org/People/Bos/PROSA/rep-protocols.html

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Usenet

https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Tim_Berners-Lee

https://home.cern/science/computing/birth-web

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