A Piece of Internet History

How does a gal from small town in Tennessee end up living in London and working with local government in England? It’s all down to Usenet, of course. And now it’s shutting down.

DURHAM, NC — This week marks the end of an era for one of the earliest pieces of Internet history, which got its start at Duke more than 30 years ago.

On May 20, Duke will shut down its Usenet server, which provides access to a worldwide electronic discussion network of newsgroups started in 1979 by two Duke graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis.

Life’s a funny old thing…You make one tiny decision and forever after you follow a different path in life. For me, joining Usenet discussions was one of those little divergences with a butterfly effect.

I met my husband, when he was a graduate student at Sheffield and I was a grad student at the University of Tennessee via a Usenet forum and Unix email. A quirk of the system meant a response to the forum was sent to my personal email. Online etiquette was touchy then…everyone was sensitive to flaming. I sent him a strongly worded email. We entered correspondence. We met up in person in Wales a few months later.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

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4 responses to “A Piece of Internet History

  1. Francis Newman

    Dear niece in law 🙂

    Duke University has a particular place in my personal internet history as well. I was on an Executive Development Course at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke in December 1994 when on the last day of the course we were introduced to Usenet – and probably more significantly, the World Wide Web.

    I was signed up online (initially for a few days with Compuserve while I tried to unravel the Unix code that Demon had sent me – no plug and play in those days) within 5 days of my return (it would have been quicker but Xmas intervened). It’s amazing what has happened in the intervening 15 years and that the web has only been around for about half the lifetime of Usenet

  2. I remember signing up to University of Sheffield computer services in September 1994, at the start of my PhD. This included Usenet and the WWW, using AIR Netscape, which even then was not functionally much different from modern web browsers.

  3. I was wondering how you met him. As you know, this Tennessee girl would like nothing better than to find a nice Brit online to marry and move to London with. Too bad there are no online dating sites that specialize in that.

  4. Dana – I just heard about such a site. But can’t remember the name. Read about it in the Evening Standard, I think.

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