Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Favorite Internet Relic?

[Sadiq Mohamed] posted this great list of light bulb jokes in our post about drones changing light bulbs. This favored relic used to exist on a Compuserve SIG, but fortunately a dedicated user had saved the list.

There have been virtual worlds long before our computers could render anything but potatoes with anime faces. Bulletin boards, mailing lists, and forums dominated and then fell, for the most part, to social media. In a way even the personal home page has gone to the wayside. (remember geocities?)

The internet has gone through many phases of development. We’ve experimented with lots of concepts and when they fail or go out of style, there are ghost towns of information left untouched.

However, we remember. I still think fondly of my old shell server. Some of it is even history worthy enough to be in the books. What’s your favorite piece of internet gone by or just plain internet obscura? An old joke? A book five layers deep in a file structure somewhere. Or maybe just the 1959 definition of the word, “hack,” in the Tech Model Railroad Club’s first edition dictionary.

112 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Favorite Internet Relic?

  1. What was that web site that did free hosting. Very basic hosting. A generation learnt HTML 1.0 because of that site.

    I started with Hotdog by Sausage Software and then learnt to manually code in the good old HTML 1.0 with the dreaded <marquee> tag and 16 color multi-frame GIFs.

  2. I miss RealPlayer, not!
    Honestly though, there was a sort of satisfaction that came when an MP3 that took 20 minutes to download actually worked and wasn’t yet another RickRoll!

  3. I enjoyed logging on to local BBS’s in 1992 via modem to play in an online RISK tournament. My wife wondered why I volunteered to take the 2AM feeding for our newborn. I could hold him and the bottle in my left arm while taking my RISK turns with my right! We both survived it successfully. 😀

    1. I used to run one of those BBS’s. Risk was always one of the favorite games. Started the BBS with a 2400 baud modem, and by the time I shut it down I was up to 19200 baud and two phone lines. Ah, the good old days.

        1. I won one month and so I qualified for my city’s “end of the year” BBS RISK tournament of 12 monthly champions. In the final tournament, I placed 3rd of 12 because the top two finishers were married, didn’t attack each other, and coordinated their attacks on all others. By the time the rest of us figured it out, it was too late.

          The group met (for the first time) at a local pizza parlor. I brought the wife and kids and this was one of her first exposures to “nerds” (except for me of course). On the drive home, she said “that was one strange group of people”!

          As Dougmsbbs said, “ahh, the good old days”!

  4. Bitnet Email (ca. 1987?). There was a parameter you could set that would return pings from each server it went through, so you could watch it bounce around the country until it was delivered.

    My first modem – 300 baud – that saved me a subzero march to the “computer center” (remember those?) to run my finite element homework.

  5. I miss bang paths for email. Somewhere in my piles o’ stuff I still have business cards from various ventures that have email addresses like unido!altger!username@uunet.UU.NET on them

  6. I remember being at school and installing “screenmates” they were like little assistants that animated on your desktop probably filled with horrible spyware but where else could you get yourself your very own 2 inch Bruce Lee

          1. You are right there, I run windows 10 and I have Linux machines. I don’t trust windows 10 whatsoever, I have disabled the spying they give you an opt out for (you need to find the opt outs) but I am pretty sure windows 10 is working against my interests.

    1. Yes that was great, free AOL trial disks were everywhere. Went at least a year without paying for internet. I fondly recall figuring out that you could manually configure the dialup login. This let me force it to connect to their 54k servers, as it normally would auto connect to 24k server. Also so I didn’t have to use the slow + crappy AOL browser

      1. AOL Browser was a travesty, Trying to lock your online experience in. I really hated them for that. I still used their disks though. I am sure I figured out a work around to not use their browser too.

    1. Now there’s a blast from the past!
      As a lifelong Douglas Adams fan I had the game when it came out. The first bit of it was fun to play, but it kept crashing whenever I tried to progress. I would have loved to have been able to play it through.

      I wonder if the text-based Hitchhiker’s game is available somewhere…

      1. I remember borrowing my brother’s C64 for a few weeks in 1985 and playing the text based “Adventure” game until 2am many days in a row with the neighbor who lived in the apartment above us. Annoyed our wives royally. 😀

  7. The WELL!
    Early 70’s the Whole Earth calalog. They had it all in a Sears Catalog sized tome. A young head’s way to the planet. A decade later it became Whole Earth Letric Link…

  8. Win95. Command and Conquer. Red Alert… home network… 7 computers… Single Dad. Tribe of 11 grade schoolers for LAN WAR sleepovers weekend after weekend…. ‘puters and games made GREAT glue to hold a group of kids together and cooperating… easy time teaching kids to cook AND do dishes for themselves… “cause access to the games” motivated them… but that wasn’t the point for this discussion… it lead to suffering at the hands of… the game they chose next… my most memorable…

    Planetarion. MMOG. Played 3 rounds (more than a year). Bought son and buddies planets, had our own galaxy. 1 tick an hour, one move per tick, ticks never stop, 24 hrs a day, never more than 8 ticks from obliteration, required IRC to communicate and rally the armada. At 6 months in it was pure suffering… But IRC was fun too so I wandered in between ticks. Met a lady online at 75 miles. She moved her tribe 2 blocks away, we been together 17 yrs now…

    Internet good. Dangerous, but good.

  9. I first got on the Internet in 1990, way before the World Wide Web. I mostly used email and I was on discussion lists that helped people solve problems with PC’s and viruses and things like that. There are still records of it, google for S89406316.

    I didn’t have access to FTP or Gopher until later but I knew how to download cool software via email: The Simtel archives (at White Sands Missile Range, no less) had a large amount of freeware and shareware, some of which was actually useful. That was easier than typing a program from PC Magazine into the computer. You could send one or more commands via email, and the server would reply with a list of files in a directory, or a UUEncoded version of the file, split up into small portions of course because most email servers wouldn’t deliver emails that were larger than 32KB or (if you were lucky) 64KB. So you had to manually save the emails to a file, use an editor to stich the UUEncoded pieces together, UUDecode it, and then the hard part: find a way to download the email from the mainframe onto a floppy disk that I could take home. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simtel

    There were also other things that were distributed via email or FTP back in the day, like the anarchists cookbook (I never tried any of it, but it was fascinating to read it and realize that the Internet was a great but dangerous place — back then anyway). Yes I know it’s much older than the Internet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anarchist_Cookbook

    Another thing was ASCII art. Long files with gibberish text that you could show on your terminal and if you squinted, it would turn into a picture of Mr. Spock or something. Or you could send it to a line printer and because it would print several lines of top of each other, each character position would turn into a pixel that was light or dark, and the entire (say) 18 page printout would turn into a big poster of a pinup girl that you could tape together (yay tractor feed paper!) and put in your bedroom. Or ASCII cows. http://baetzler.de/humor/ascii_cows.var

    In those days, DNS was pretty new. I remember someone setting up an adventure game (or something) that you could play through a DNS lookup program. I can’t find it right now but I think it was online for many years.

    I could go on…

    ===Jac

  10. I recall the first chat type program I ever used. It was called XYZ or “the con”, as in conference. It ran on the Dartmouth College timeshare network but could be accessed from other schools via what I can only guess was ARPANET at the time. This was 1987 or so. There were trolls even then, in the form of “scrollers” who pasted huge numbers of line returns which would make it impossible for anyone else to post a message.

  11. In my hometown, a small town in southwest Ohio, we had our own dialup provider. I’m pretty sure the rate was $10 a month, no bandwidth limits or timing or anything.
    Anyhow, due to a weird email issue where emails were being filtered as spam, my dad and I stopped at their office. They basically showed us around, because I was young and curious, and then within 5 minutes and a linux terminal, explained and solved our issue.
    They disbanded sometime around 2005 or so, but I’m assuming a lot of them work for the city-based internet utility now.

    If anyone from ITSI is reading this, you’re the best.

    1. To be honest, no matter how many times I watch it, it still does not makes sense to me.

      A more interesting video is perhaps the video below. Not a commercial but a “review” that leaves you with the same experience…

      Personally I was attracted to this article of Gerrit C. because the picture shows a VIC-20. And therefore I thought that this article was somehow related to the computer shown. Therefore I was slightly disappointed. But that’s a whole different story.

      1. I enjoyed that video immensely when it came out, but his whole argument relies on him not understanding that the Macintosh came out because it was clear that the 6502 architecture was in it’s death throes at that time; the WD65C816 was commissioned by Apple specifically to go into the IIgs. The Macintosh computer had so many design wins going for it; did you know that the reason why there was only one monochrome video mode on the original models was because it was designed to be the same DPI as printers of the time? There is a reason why publishers almost exclusively used Macs when they were new.

  12. Bitnet RELAY was a very dear friend of mine. I spent likely thousands of hours into lurking throughout the very early internet using BITNET, playing MUD, writing REXX programs on the University of North Dakota computer center’s VM/370. Wow, thanks for reminding me of this.

  13. ASCII Art Porn. PC Pursuit, for dialing distant BBSs without paying Long Distance.

    Back in the day, there was a service in St. Louis that had two Apple ][e computers. Six of the slots on each system had modems, and the 7th had a card that connected the two systems together. 14 phone lines. It loaded the software off tape when necessary. It was the very first multiple user chat system, naturally named “CompuChat”, I ever experienced. Occasionally, the operators would take one modem offline and dial another similar setup in another city, and we’d have chat with strangers in who-knows-where.

    But I digress – the topic was *Internet* relics. I’d have to go with the Usenet Oracle, still available at https://internetoracle.org/
    Very close runner up, the ASCII Star Wars you can watch by telnetting to towel.blinkenlights.nl

  14. Unreal Tournament and Lag.
    Seriously, it had a razor blade gun and when the games were trolled or suffering from campers, most of us would collect up the razor blade guns and fire them all at the same time.
    Sitting there for 30 mins while the connections struggled to handle the massive amounts of obstacles and kills caused so much lag that a person could go and have dinner while listening to the computer shouting M-M-M-Monster Kill!

  15. It may be the canonical LBJ list, but of course there are other (equally offensive) ones e.g.

    From: caasi%ucselx@sdsu.edu (Richard Caasi)
    Date: Wed, 4 Apr 1990 10:30:10 GMT
    Subject: An AI Light Bulb

    How many AI people does it take to change a lightbulb?
    At least 55:
    The problem space group (5):
    One to define the goal state.
    One to define the operators.
    One to describe the universal problem solver.
    One to hack the production system.
    One to indicate about how it is a model of human lightbulb changing
    behaviour.
    The logical formalism group (16):
    One to figure out how to describe lightbulb changing in first order logic.
    One to figure out how to describe lightbulb changing in second order logic.
    One to show the adequacy of FOL.
    One to show the inadequacy of FOL.
    One to show that lightbulb logic is non-monotonic.
    One to show that it isn’t non-monotonic.
    One to show how non-monotonic logic is incorporated in FOL.
    One to determine the bindings for the variables.
    One to show the completeness of the solution.
    One to show the consistency of the solution.
    One to show that the two just above are incoherent.
    One to hack a theorem prover for lightbulb resolution.
    One to suggest a parallel theory of lightbulb logic theorem proving.
    One to show that the parallel theory isn’t complete. …ad infinitum (or absurdum, as you will). …
    One to indicate how it is a description of human lightbulb changing behaviour.
    One to call the electrician.
    The robotics group (10):
    One to build a vision system to recognize the dead bulb.
    One to build a vision system to locate a new bulb.
    One to figure out how to grasp the lightbulb without breaking it.
    One to figure out how to make a universal joint that will permit the hand to rotate 360+ degrees.
    One to figure out how to make the universal joint go the other way.
    One to figure out the arm solutions that will get the arm to the socket.
    One to organize the construction teams.
    One to hack the planning system.
    One to get Westinghouse to sponsor the research.
    One to indicate about how the robot mimics human motor behaviour in lightbulb changing.
    The knowledge engineering group (6):
    One to study electricians’ changing lightbulbs.
    One to arrange for the purchase of the lisp machines.
    One to assure the customer that this is a hard problem and that great accomplishments in theory will come from his support of this effort (The same one can arrange for the fleecing.)
    One to study related research.
    One to indicate about how it is a description of human lightbulb changing behaviour.
    One to call the lisp hackers.
    The Lisp hackers (13):
    One to bring up the chaos net.
    One to adjust the microcode to properly reflect the group’s political beliefs.
    One to fix the compiler.
    One to make incompatible changes to the primitives.
    One to provide the Coke.
    One to rehack the Lisp editor/debugger.
    One to rehack the window package.
    Another to fix the compiler.
    One to convert code to the non-upward compatible Lisp dialect.
    Another to rehack the window package properly.
    One to flame on BUG-LISPM.
    Another to fix the microcode.
    One to write the fifteen lines of code required to change the lightbulb.
    The Psychological group (5):
    One to build an apparatus which will time lightbulb changing performance.
    One to gather and run subjects.
    One to mathematically model the behaviour.
    One to call the expert systems group.
    One to adjust the resulting system, so that it drops the right number of bulbs.

    Newsgroups: alt.humor.best-of-usenet
    Date: 21 Aug 1994 15:37:35 GMT
    Organization: best of usenet humor
    Originator: doug@unix1.cc.ysu.edu
    From: clevelan@teleport.com
    Newsgroups: alt.satanism
    Subject: xtian Joke: How many xtians does it take. . .
    Here’s one for us Pagans.
    Question: How many xtians does it take to save a lightbulb?
    Answer:
    200!!!
    100 to sit in church and pray long sonorous prayers for it to see the
    light again.
    10 to stand on street corners and point out to others how that if they
    don’t accept (except) what they’re being told, their light might go out as
    well.
    3 to try and exorcise the demon of darkness out of the lightbulb.
    2 to gather together in “the name of the lord” because where two or more
    are gathered together in “his” name. . .
    10 to write to the alt.satanism newsgroup to inform them that one of their
    own lights is having trouble paying the electric bill. (As if that’ll
    convince us all to change our beliefs.)
    74 to try and convince it to publicly “admit” it’s sins so the lord can
    make it bright again.
    1 true idiot telling the lightbulb that if it really wants to be saved
    that all it has to do is accept some paper god and pledge it 10% of it’s
    income and at least 1 day a week of time and at least insult and generally
    bug 5+ people a day recounting how “I used to be a satanist” (no, really –
    gasp) and now I’ve found the light. Yes, do all of this – and the light
    will just, by the will of god, come back on – unless god is just “testing”
    the lightbulb, then it may stay dark forever.

  16. My favorite relic is the dot-matrix printed NOS manual by KA9Q, my very first TCP/IP server during the late 80’s. First test on an Hauppauge dual 80386. (my second one was a Xenix 2.3.2 on this very same machine. Half of the trafic was using UUCP)

    1. We should revive UUCP with mail, news and file transfer. It is doable over internet and it will work over other technology if needed and I have the strong feeling, we will need something like this one day.

      Sure, there still is FidoNet, but as much as I like it, it has it’s own standards, sometimes making interaction with *nixens ugly.

      In the age of sub $10 Linux computers, everyone can connect a UUCP leaf or node to her phone or modulated laser beam or car2car communication invention or whatsoever… or run it directly on some (old?) phone… fun for the whole family! ;-)

      Someone with the superpower of holding together a community should give a starting shot for this…

      …noone will stop anyone from making clickycolourfrontends for this robust workhorse… as long as it strictly stays optional.

      1. Sometimes I think an ESP8266 may be a bit tight for this…but an ESP32 probably will be capable enough.

        …but starting with the cheapest RPIs, OPIs, C.H.I.P.s or OOmegas will be lots easier.

  17. Newcastle infoserver for software, mono BBS, alt.folklore.computers, being able to temporarily (an hour or so…) free up local disc space by emailing uue’d files back to yourself via multiple forced hops across the globe.

    And it wasn’t September.

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