Jay Robert Hauben on Sun, 4 Jan 1998 02:03:50 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Book Review by Usenet Pioneer

[forwarded from 'netzforum']


Mark Horton was a very important early Usenet pioneer. He co-authored the
software called B-News. He was an advocate of the early democratic governance
of Usenet and has often been callled Mr. Usenet. He recently posted a review
of the book Netizens to some Usenet newsgroups. I think members of NetzForum
will value his review and the book he has reviewed because they capture some
of the best of the culture and principles of the Net. His review follows:
Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet
by Michael and Ronda Hauben
Published by the IEEE Computer Society
Review by Mark Horton

Netizens describes the history of the Internet, focusing especially
on the formation of the Usenet bulletin board system.  For me it was
a trip down memory lane.  The social and political implications of
opening up communication among a group of academic philosophers was
groundbreaking, and Netizens is there to give us the play-by-play.

The book includes interviews with the founders of Usenet and with the
pioneers who contributed to its character and growth.  The story of how
Tom Truscott's summer job at Bell Labs, volleyball, chess, and "rising
at the crack of noon" turned into the seed of Usenet is inspiring,
especially in this age of cost-cutting and disposable computer software.
The authors make good use of an archive of the first few years of Usenet
postings.  Those of us who were there remember much, but the archive is
like putting history on videotape.  Quotes from the formative days remind
us of the issues of the time, such as the unwillingness of the ARPANET to
talk to Usenet; censorship; and how the high cost of getting Usenet to Europe
was overcome.

Chapters of the book tell the history of many of the building blocks of
the Internet.  The early days of the ARPANET are chronicled, from the
selection of the first four sites in 1968 to the people involved and how
they solved the early problems of the net.  Netizens also tells the story
of the UNIX operating system, how it came about, the key contributors,
even how the grep command got its name.

Photos from the 1950s showing computer center machine rooms with IBM 704
components taking up the entire room, key researchers at places like MIT,
computer chess tournaments, and the founders of Usenet add to the sense
of history.

This is an excellent book.  The academic style means you'll have to think to
read it.  This book is a vital element in any Internet historian's library.

Jay Hauben
P.S. Netizens is avialable online at http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/
other reviews are availabale at 

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