Were you using Gopher in '90s?

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Szczezuja.space

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Jun 5, 2022, 9:17:51 AMJun 5
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Hello,

Probably I am not the first, who did some research about Gopher origins.
It seems that there are many sources and archives. So I've gone through
Usenet archives, textfiles.com repositories, Gophersphere archive at
gopher://mozz.us:70/1/wayback, file repositories like
gopher://cyber.dabamos.de/1/gopher, indexes like Gopher Jewels, and so
on. I asked about it on bulletin board system of sdf.org, which seems to
gather the biggest Gopher users group. Finally, there are not to much
information about first years in the Gophersphere, when it was booming.
There are not many people who are writing about their beginnings in the
Gophersphere. How they were doing, and what they were doing there.

So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
were made.

You can also read my notes what I spotted by myself at
gopher://sdf.org:70/1/users/szczezuja/novice

Cheers!

--
.-=-. Szczezuja; on the small-net:
( S\ \ gemini://szczezuja.space/ - gemlog & tinylog
`--' / gopher://sdf.org:70/0/users/szczezuja/ - phlog

Ben Collver

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Jun 5, 2022, 10:31:56 AMJun 5
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On 2022-06-05, Szczezuja.space <szcz...@sdf.org> wrote:
> So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
> to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
> what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
> were made.

Hi!

I briefly used gopher in the 90's prior to the advent of the web. I
did not find gopher all that interesting. I did not habitually use
it. I did not "search" much with archie/veronica. I did not "surf"
at all, where later on the web i would go down "rabbit holes" for
hours on end. One thing i do recall is following links to other
Universities' gopher maps to find new FTP sites.

FTP and telnet were far more interesting to me. Through FTP i could
get new software (mostly games), and MOD music. I recall using NCSA
telnet from MS-DOS machines to doing most of my recreational
computing from commercial Unix servers. From there i could socialize
through IRC. I had friends who spent a lot of time socializing
online, either through MUDs or Usenet newsgroups. I could use FTP to
get the Usenet FAQs, which contained a treasure trove of knowledge,
similar to Wikipedia but less comprehensive.

Have fun!
-Ben

se...@conman.org

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Jun 8, 2022, 10:00:52 PMJun 8
to
It was thus said that the Great Szczezuja.space <szcz...@sdf.org> once stated:
> So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
> to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
> what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
> were made.

I was using gopher back in the 90s, about a year or so before I even heard
about the web. One thing I do recall back then was Time Magazine having a
gopher server. Other than that, I don't recall much else, and once a friend
showed me Mosaic, I don't think I viewed gopher all that much afterwards.

It didn't help that the UoM was trying to obtain royalties for both using
their software, *and* implementing the protocol itself.

-spc

j...@example.invalid

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Jun 9, 2022, 7:32:44 AMJun 9
to
Szczezuja.space <szcz...@sdf.org> wrote:
> So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
> to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
> what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
> were made.

I learned who Robert Lazaar was via gopher, and I learned who the BOFH
was via gopher too. I used it via a dial-up shell account.

My room mate at the time used it to learn about the kennedy
assasination.

Gopher was cool, but I also used LISTSERV for searching too. I kind of
preferred to run things in the background, to download for offline
reading because in those days, internet (and phone) was expensive.

The trick was to write shell scripts to do stuff while you downloaded
SOUP packets, then when you were done downloading you could download
whatever it was you were doing in the background. Gopher was
interactive, which made that not as attractive.

I didn't know back then that you could script gopher too, or I might
have figured out how to write an "offline gopher client" in the spirit
of SOUP packets.

I wonder if more people use gopher today than did back then, but it
doesn't seem so because the internet itself was quite a big smaller.

Dennis Boone

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Jun 9, 2022, 11:14:03 AMJun 9
to
> So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
> to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
> what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
> were made.

The summary here:

https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/7627

is reasonably decent. Background to the development of the Gopher
protocol and software is that (some of) McCahill's team (microcomputer
support group) were involved in a centralized effort at UMn to develop a
campus wide information system, a project which was developing a very
complex software/protocol structure. The team felt that something far
simpler would be a better approach, and proceeded to design and built
Gopher.

After a year or so of wildfire grass roots spread inside and outside of
UMn, my then boss helped organize the first Gophercon in at the CICnet
offices in Ann Arbor. The UMn team, a small collection of library
science folk, and a cross section of the Gopher community came together.
Those of us trying to organize gopher sites discussed our approaches to
menu / directory structure, the tools we'd built, the interface with our
information providers, campus administrative structure, etc. The
librarians bemoaned our "library school kindergarten" cluelessness. The
UMn team came with signs to hold up to indicate their thoughts on
various proposals, including one that had a big snarl of lines and the
word "hairball". If I recall correctly, the first public airing of the
Gopher+ protocol extension was at this first Gophercon. Jonesy talked
about Jughead. Foster and Barrie talked about Veronica. Larry Masinter
talked about some work integrating MUD/MOO type systems with Gopher.
Billy Barron from UNT talked about his work with journals in gopher.

I ran the official central MSU gopher server. We also ran a public
gopher client for most of the period where we had a gopher server. Both
services were based on the UMn software. We had a gopher front-end to
Usenet, first via NFS-mounted spool, and later when the Usenet admin
wanted to make NFS go away, via an NNTP gateway I wrote called Mercury.
(Original, huh?) The public client often had 30 or more users at a time
during the day.

I have the three-ring binder from the event with papers and such, I
should scan that and put it online at some point.

De

meff

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Jun 11, 2022, 2:56:56 AMJun 11
to
On 2022-06-09, Dennis Boone <d...@ihatespam.msu.edu> wrote:
> I ran the official central MSU gopher server. We also ran a public
> gopher client for most of the period where we had a gopher server. Both
> services were based on the UMn software. We had a gopher front-end to
> Usenet, first via NFS-mounted spool, and later when the Usenet admin
> wanted to make NFS go away, via an NNTP gateway I wrote called Mercury.
> (Original, huh?) The public client often had 30 or more users at a time
> during the day.
>
> I have the three-ring binder from the event with papers and such, I
> should scan that and put it online at some point.

I think this would be fantastic, and a great win for computing history!

Szczezuja.space

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Jun 11, 2022, 8:42:58 AMJun 11
to
On 2022-06-09, Dennis Boone <d...@ihatespam.msu.edu> wrote:
> The summary here:
> https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/7627
>
> is reasonably decent. Background to the development of the Gopher
> protocol and software is that (some of) McCahill's team (microcomputer
> support group) were involved in a centralized effort at UMn to develop a
> campus wide information system,

There is interesting article of Bob Alberti, which is describing the
situation from the inside. But that overall situation is documented
quite well. I'm seeking any personal thoughts like you have written
below.

> I ran the official central MSU gopher server. We also ran a public
> gopher client for most of the period where we had a gopher server. Both
> services were based on the UMn software. We had a gopher front-end to
> Usenet, first via NFS-mounted spool, and later when the Usenet admin
> wanted to make NFS go away, via an NNTP gateway I wrote called Mercury.
> (Original, huh?) The public client often had 30 or more users at a time
> during the day.
>
> I have the three-ring binder from the event with papers and such, I
> should scan that and put it online at some point.

For sure it could be very interesting to look at your papers.

John Goerzen

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Jun 14, 2022, 11:31:36 PMJun 14
to
On 2022-06-05, Szczezuja.space <szcz...@sdf.org> wrote:
> So if you were using Gopher in the '90s, I'd love to read what you have
> to say. How was the Gophersphere browsing different from WWW. Especially
> what kind of Gopher holes disappeared before any indexes or archives
> were made.

I was using Gopher in the 90s, before WWW was really a thing, or at least a
thing accessible to me.

I grew up in a very rural part of Kansas. There were zero services of any type
that were a local call for me. BBSs, CompuServe, AOL, everything was
long-distance, and expensive at that. So to further my hobby, I had to be
resourceful.

I remember being on a trip to the DC area when I would have been about 13. I
took some floppies with me. I remember finding computer labs, I think at the
University of Maryland, where I could download things off the Internet. One of
them was a NeXT lab and I had never seen a NeXT and had no idea how to do
anything with it at the time, sadly. This would have been shortly before I
discovered FreeBSD and Linux.

Eventually I wound up with various ways to get terminal access to the Internet.
To cut a very long story shorter, basically before Gopher, I had:

- FTP
- email
- finger
- archie

yeah, that was about it. archie was a search engine for finding things on FTP
sites. FTP was clunky back then; you would have to download something and then
switch out of FTP to read it. You'd have to disconnect from a server and
connect to another to hop between boxes. You can still experience this with the
command-line "ftp" program in various Unices. Don't run it in a graphical
environment though, because we usually couldn't back then anyhow.

So Gopher was a nice innovation. Menus, cross-server links made easy, document
viewing without separate downloading, etc. I remember having access to a system
that had Pine for email, ftp, and gopher. I often used the UMN gopher home and
went out from there. It definitely didn't displace FTP; it augmented it.

PPP became available in my area in the mid- to late 90s, and then I also the web
available when I went to college. Web browsers at the time supported gopher,
HTTP, and FTP, so Netscape was a decent gopher browser.

However, particularly once web search engines started to become decent, my usage
of Gopher declined, until I picked up the interest in it again maybe 5-7 years
later and wrote pygopherd.

UMN was rather stingy about the licensing around Gopher - though it should be
noted the same applies to the licensing around Netscape and Pine. It was not
entirely appreciated in the Free Software community at the time for that reason.
I am grateful that they eventually opened it up.

- John

Kévin

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Jul 9, 2022, 9:08:09 AMJul 9
to
When I was first online in the kind of early 90s I didn't
really know too much about it and by the time I did in the
late 90s it was pretty much already on the way out (if not
already pretty much gone).

Not that much of an interesting reply, but I'm starting to
get more into what people are creating nowadays with Gopher.

Jason Nemrow

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Jul 20, 2022, 2:53:06 PMJul 20
to
I was using Gopher in 1992 when I was working at an alternative high school that got a telnet account from the local university. While everyone else was getting excited about IRC, I was happier wandering around gopher menus that sent me to many servers that were becoming available. Compared to the WWW at the time, Gopher had all the *serious* content that was actually useful - WWW was mostly for college students that were fooling around with the newest technology. I actually didn't really like the unstructured nature of WWW - Gopher in its purest form enforces a hierarchical structure that can make navigation very easy. Over time, Gopher started trying hard to emulate WWW and became a victim of trying to be shoe-horned into functionality upon which it was not designed. Of course, WWW is basically not a thing anymore - http is just everyone's favorite transport protocol now and WWW is barely used except to simplify web app transfer for a return to increasingly fatter clients built on browser languages. Gopher continues to be the easiest networked client to build, though that really doesn't matter anymore. Gopher was really a menu-based file and protocol directory, more in common with modern search engines than anything else, and when it is used that way, it is a wonderfully lightweight client-server pair. Beyond anything else, it was the best directory for telnet connections and the natural successor of anonymous ftp. I still run a gopher server at quix.us.
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