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posted by janrinok on Monday March 12 2018, @03:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the full-of-300bps-goodness dept.

Professor Steve Bellovin at the computer science department at Columbia University in New York City writes in his blog about early design decisions for Usenet. In particular he addresses authentication and the factors taken into consideration given the technology available at the time. After considering the infeasiblity of many options at the time, they ultimately threw up their hands.

That left us with no good choices. The infrastructure for a cryptographic solution was lacking. The uux command rendered illusory any attempts at security via the Usenet programs themselves. We chose to do nothing. That is, we did not implement fake security that would give people the illusion of protection but not the reality.

For those unfamiliar with it, Usenet is a text-based, worldwide, decentralized, distributed discussion system. Basically it can be likened to a bulletin board system of sorts. Servers operate peer to peer while users connect to their preferred server using a regular client-server model. It was a key source of work-related discussion, as well as entertainment and regular news. Being uncensorable, it was a key source of news during several major political crises around the world during the 1980s and early 1990s. Being uncensorable, it has gained the ire of both large businesses and powerful politicians. It used to be an integral part of any ISP's offerings even 15 years ago. Lack of authentication has been both a strength and a weakness. Professor Bellovin sheds some light on how it came to be like that.

Despite weaknesses, Usenet gave rise to among many other things the now defunct Clarinet news, which is regarded to be the first exclusively online business.

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  • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Monday March 12 2018, @06:32PM (2 children)

    by captain normal (2205) on Monday March 12 2018, @06:32PM (#651466)

    " And 9600 Kbps dialup!"
    That was pretty wishful thinking in the '90s. Win 3.1 computers likely had a 32 kbps modem. Around 1994 you could get 56 kbps modems. 96 kbps modems first showed up about the same time as Win 95 (remember "plug and pray"?).

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  • (Score: 2) by toddestan on Wednesday March 14 2018, @02:14AM (1 child)

    by toddestan (4982) on Wednesday March 14 2018, @02:14AM (#652116)

    56 kbps was the maximum for analog phone lines. There was ISDN, which was either 64 kbps or 128 kbps (which was two 64 kbps lines bonded together). Never heard of a 96 kbps modem.

    Fun fact: ISDN is technically broadband.

    • (Score: 2) by Arik on Wednesday March 14 2018, @09:25PM

      by Arik (4543) on Wednesday March 14 2018, @09:25PM (#652607) Journal
      "Never heard of a 96 kbps modem."

      I believe it was a joking reference to a 9600 bps modem, which did exist. That's 9.6kbps.
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?