The History of the Undernet

by Mandar Mirashi (Mmmm) -- (1992-1993)
-- Stacy Brown (BrightEye) -- (1993-2003)

Prologue

This file is an attempt on my behalf to record for all posterity, the times that the undernet has gone through. There have been the bad times and then there have been the good times. But the amazing tenacity of a few persons has kept this dream alive and rekindled the spirit of the Undernet. This article attempts to explore the history of the undernet right from the hazy beginnings through turbid times to what the Undernet has evolved to, today.

Since I have basically relied on _dl's archived mailing lists to assemble this information, I must remain deeply indebted to him for the wonderful work he's done in managing the wastelanders mailing list. The file still lacks details of events that occurred before February, and the first section will be updated after further research. If you have anything which may help me out in this quest, please feel free to mail me. Because this is a historical document, the author may be held guilty of bias, but wherever possible, an attempt at an impartial representation of the facts has been made.

A history of IRC

Any kind of a historical document about the Undernet would be incomplete without a mention of the history of IRC itself. To quote from Elizabeth Reid's Electropolis paper, which is essentially a thesis report on Communication and Community, in particular the Internet Relay Chat :

"Jarkko Oikarinen wrote the original IRC program at the University of Oulu, Finland, in 1988. He designed IRC as a 'client-server' program. The user runs a 'client' program from his or her local machine, which then connects, via the Internet, to a 'server' program which may not be running on that local machine. There are hundreds of IRC 'servers' over the world, all of which communicate with each other and pass information back to the client programs - and users - connected to them. IRC was first tested on a single machine with less than twenty users participating. IRC's networking capabilities were then tested on a suite of three machines in southern Finland. Once tested it was installed throughout the Finnish national network - FUNET - and then connected to NORDUNET, the Scandinavian branch of the Internet. By November of 1988, IRC had spread across the Internet. The latest listing of countries whose Internet branches host IRC include Australia, the United States, Italy, Israel and Korea."

The original Finnish net was often termed the "O-net". The first international link established was between Finland and Sweden. Switzerland, US, Canada, Norway, Poland (for a while), Netherlands, Australia, followed suit shortly afterwards. In the middle of 1989, there were about 40 servers and 10 users on most nights. IRC had yet to come of age. But in these quiet times as well, trouble arose in 1990.

In the beginning of 1990, a net for server development called the ChNet was formed. It consisted of about 25 servers and no users. It was used to develop the 2.7 version which can be found even now (1993) on the EFnet. However, this was soon dissolved after a period of 3-4 months, due to disagreements between the programmers. By this time, Avalon (Darren Reed) had been approved of by Jarkko amongst others to be the official releaser of ircd versions. However, certain GNU programmers at MIT wanted to release code for ircd as well (Mycroft@IRC in particular) which did not fit in very well with Avalon's plans, and so the ChNet was dissolved. Soon after, a more radical split was to occur on the actual IRC network itself.

To quote from Helen Trillian Rose's Networking documentation found alongwith the IRC server (updated in Oct. 1990):

""In August of 1990, IRC suffered a critical split in viewpoints of key people in the IRC heirarchy. The result was IRC split into two networks, EFnet (Eris Free network) and Anet (Anarchy network). This split continues today. There is some debate over whether IRC will ever reunite, however, neither side is willing to bend from their standpoint. Currently, there are about 95 servers on EFnet (and the same number of users) and 15 servers on Anet (and about half the number of users)."

The A-net proposed a central server called eris.berkeley.edu in the US that everyone connect to (with similar plans for such servers in Europe and the rest of the world), which had was "open connect" i.e., no passwords were required to connect to it, and there was no limit on the no. of servers. As a result of opposing ideologies (the EFnet believed in a backbone plan based on net routes, ping times, etc.), the eris server was the first server to be Q (quarantine) lined from IRC (Q lining a server causes any server which introduces a Q lined server, to be dropped as well). The other servers along with eris formed the A-net. As of today (Aug. 1993), the A-net is almost non existent, with the EFnet having expanded rapidly.

IRC gained international fame during the late Persian Gulf War, when updates from around the world came across the wire, and most people on IRC gathered on a single channel to hear these reports.

Another one of the splinter nets formed once IRC became popular was the TubNet. This was when EF-Net started falling apart. There were a number of attempts to form other networks. But because they were run by people who really only wanted to talk.. and not by people who wanted the systems to work well, they all fell off. TubNet was formed in June 1991. It was created for all the #hottub'ers who did not like the netsplits. TubNet at its height had 5 servers, and around 100 people. The servers were located in Caltech, Washington DC, Montreal, South Africa and UK. It lasted from June to September. The net dissolved because the admins at the other sites got angry at unofficial servers.

Finally in the January of 1993, the Undernet was born, when the local US net (started by Wildthang - Daniel Mitchell) merged with the servers in France and Canada run by _dl (Laurent Demailly) and Whizzard (Donnie Lambert) respectively. The Undernet has shown tremendous tenacity as compared to the other nets, and as this document goes on to display, it is the sheer enthusiasm on the behalf of opers that have helped to keep the net alive during hard times. Today (Aug. 1993) the Undernet has over 30 servers, all over the world, with at least around 500-1000 users having visited it, 200 of them more than once! The Undernet continues to grow and confound its disparagers, and this is a story of a net that was born out of the wilderness, and which didn't give in no matter what the others felt, to finally start becoming more popular.

A new star is born - Christmas '92

As far ago as the October of 1992, people had already started feeling the effects of user overload on EFnet, not to mention many other factors. In an effort to strike out new territory in cyberspace, many "groups" of individuals had relentlessly attempted to sustain the onslaught of the forbidding isolation, and start up a server of their own. Many failed in their ventures, many just got bored of it and many just got shut down forcibly by paranoid system admins. Through the scattered outposts of the mysterious vaccum emerged 2 groups of entrepreneurs. The undernet in itself has two different tales to tell. Yes...the tale of two nets. One in the US, one in Europe-Canada.

The US undernet started off way back in Oct 92, when Wildthang put up essex.ecn.uoknor.edu (and linked it to underworld [skywarrior]) to start up a local test net. It started off as a playground to test bots at first, but quickly, the idea of a net hidden from the main net and a "friends and their friends" network grew more appealing. In mid November, Munchie (Andrew Daniels) joined Wildthang and set up the first US link essex->blackfoot.ucs.indiana.edu. Soone after Xney joined them with his server ux4.cso.uiuc.edu. By Christmas time, Wildthang linked the US net to the servers run by WHIZZARD and _dl.

A mention must also be made of the "visitor servers" which linked to the Undernet to soon proceed to the EFnet. One of these was the server run by Lightning (Edward Poffenbarger) who had troubles compiling it initially on a NeXt, but with the help of his sys. admin eventually managed to compile it, and later migrated to the EFnet. Another server which was temporarily linked to the undernet was one run by SpUr (Mushfiqur Rahman) from Uni. of Texas, (on port 6669) but was soon brought down due to pessimism expressed on behalf of the co-admin (Rodder) and the lack of time to maintain it. lonestar. utsa.edu (Longy) and inga1.acc.stolaf.edu (Dannyboy) joined in soon afterwards. There were then also pace2.mts.edu which ran only parttime, and one at chip.ucdavis.edu which was run without admin approval, and almost resulted in the revokal of the IRC admin's account. Another old timer was TempT who linked in CRUX1.cit.cornell.edu.

On the European side, _dl had already set up his server - hplyot.obspm. circe.fr, and in early December linked *.fr to *.ca. The Canadian venture was headed by WHIZZARD in the guise of taurus.ccs.tuns.ca. Taurus was originally set up in November 92, and linked to *.ariel.yorku.ca on the EFnet. Kangaman and Wildmage were WHIZZARD's uplinks on EFnet. However the uplink of *.ariel.yorku.ca - Nevster, got Whizzard's link on the EFnet revoked. Finally, Whizzard had a talk with _dl, and set up the Canada-France link. The *.ariel.yorku.ca server soon followed suit and linked to the Undernet as well. On the French side, _dl had originally set up a net to test the 2.8 series of servers along with dp (P. Ducrot) as well. Later on, after the dissolution of the test net, he linked to WHIZZARD's server in December. dp joined him on the Undernet soon afterwards, with his server ismra.ismra.fr.

In the last week of December '92, the 2 nets merged and formed what came to be called later on as the "Undernet". A mailing list was founded by _dl on Feb 5th, 1993, to start the ball rolling! A channel called #wasteland was proposed by WHIZZARD and accepted by others, as the channel for opers, and a bot called Wastedump was set up to "guard" the bleak landscape.

Ever since, a wide variety of servers have appeared and dissappeared from the face of the Undernet, but the ones that have clung on have always carried forth the spirit. In the face of all odds, against an almost non-existent userbase, they have clung on to one another, each oper giving encouragement to the other, trying to lighten up those gloomy days spent when there were hardly any users, and not a single soul ventured to enter the underworld. The reasons for servers dropping off have been many - accounts no longer active, sys admin dissapproval, disheartment at the lack of userbase, and so on. Nevertheless, the Undernet lived on.....

As a piece of antiquity, here's the first ever e-mail message to the wastelanders mailing list.

5th Feb 1993: The First Wastelanders E-Mail Message:

From: Laurent Demailly To: wastelanders@hplyot.obspm.circe.fr Subject: New Mailing List ! Date: Fri, 5 Feb 93 16:25:06 +0100           Hi wastelanders ;) !

I've setup a begin of mailing list for our //Irc Net :

***** wastelanders@hplyot.obspm.circe.fr *****
please mail me or *wastelanders-request@hplyot.obspm.circe.fr*, to
complete the list...

currently the list is [5 feb 3pm gmt]:
wastelanders:
dl,fpl1@CRUX1.cit.cornell.edu,lamberdc@newton.ccs.tuns.ca,
ssmagals@gold.ucs.indiana.edu,jonesk@newton.ccs.tuns.edu,
ez030724@chip.ucdavis.edu,irc@ariel.yorku.ca,neuger@inga1.acc.stolaf.edu,
dehall@midway.ecn.uoknor.edu,dvmitche@midway.ecn.uoknor.edu

          Friendly,
          _dl@irc

Of these admins, WHIZZARD, _dl, Dannyboy, Wildthang and Daveman still run servers on the Undernet. The rest of them dropped off at some period of time during the arduous history of the Undernet.

The remainder of this document describes events in a chronological order.

February 1993 - the shaky beginning

March 1993 - link me not!

April 1993 - L-lines and bots!

May 1993 - timestamps and mass posts

June 1993 - new servers and timestamps

July 1993 - mass kills and jupes

August 1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003


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