Friday, May 21, 2010

I wonder if anyone still uses UUCP

Once upon a time, a dedicated connection to the internet was very expensive. You needed a serious military contract to afford it. So, universities and home users used something called UUCP to access the internet.

This was when the most commonly used services on the internet were e-mail and something called “Usenet”. Yeah, sure, there was other stuff like something called “IRC” (like MSN, but text-only and not as friendly), and, yeah, FTP, but the cool stuff on the internet happened via email or over Usenet. UUCP allowed you to cheaply access the internet, but only for e-mail and Usenet news.

UUCP was cheap because it allowed you to call up your internet provider and download, in one batch, all pending email and Usenet messages for you, while uploading any email you sent or Usenet articles you posted. If you didn’t subscribe to any high-traffic newsgroups, you could upload all of your email and Usenet “news” in a single five-minute or at most ten-minute daily modem session with your internet provider.

It was a simple way of accessing the internet, and until the explosion of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, gave a full internet experience.

Looking around on Google, it looks like a couple of internet providers might still provide UUCP access to the internet. This page looks promising, although I wonder how many active UUCP accounts they still have. There is also this listing, which is nearly a decade old, as well as this page, which, again, looks like an out of date webpage that probably needs to be purged.

I have made a number of references to UUCP over the years, including this blog posting or this recent posting to the MaraDNS mailing list. While I have never actually used UUCP for internet access (it was considered old-fashioned and out-of-date 16 years ago), I had something similar for a short while when I set up Leafnode to read Usenet offline in the early 2000s.