Stargate History

The online community of the early 1980s was made up of several separate topological networks. The ARPANET had military grants and elite connectivity, providing e-mail and mailing lists at high speeds and quality. BITNET provided connectivity for IBM systems. CSNET connected Computer Science departments that did not have ARPANET access. The UUCP net connected organizations that could not get on the ARPANET. FIDONET connected hobby bulletin board systems. The ARPANET had user@host e-mail syntax, which had become user@host.ARPA for the ARPANET. Other networks used local routing technologies. The UUCP net routed mail with bang paths: host!next!host!user.

In January 1985, on the day the Challenger blew up, a meeting of representatives from the ARPANET, BITNET, CSNET, and UUCP net agreed to permit all four networks to register domains in the COM, EDU, GOV, MIL, NET, and ORG domains. This was the organizational foundation of the current Internet domain naming system.

The UUCP Project

Prior to 1984, several people announced that they were going to build a UUCP map, and that everyone should send their connectivity data in. They were each buried under a huge pile of data and never heard from again.

In January 1984, a birds-of-a-feather session at the USENIX conference in Washington DC enlisted over 30 volunteers to build and maintain a UUCP map. A system was put into place to distributed this map on Usenet in the newsgroup comp.mail.maps. This group adopted the name "The UUCP Project" and received initial funding from USENIX. The project continued on a volunteer basis after the funding ran out. The UUCP Project was run by Mark Horton with significant contributions by Mel Pleasant, Tim Thompson, Berry Kercheval, and Steve Morenberg and a cast of hundreds of regional volunteer coordinators. Domains were registered for $150, generating an outcry that has not been repeated since the INTERNIC began charging for domains.

The UUCP Project continues today under the capable direction of Stan Barber at www.uucp.org.

The Stargate Project

One of the most expensive parts of Usenet was the telephone bills to send Netnews around the world. A few companies, notably AT&T, DEC, and Philips, accumulated huge telephone bills, largely because their system administrators set up the links first and asked forgiveness later.

In 1985, Lauren Weinstein conceived of an idea to broadcast Netnews via satellite. He worked a deal with Tempo Television, the company that uplinked WTBS-TV to satellite and national cable TV distribution, to include Netnews in the vertical interval of WTBS, so that anyone with the proper decoding box could collect the Netnews and feed it into their system. A 4800 baud link was set up, feeding all moderated newsgroups (mod.*) through the satellite.

A Joint Venture

For economy of scale, the UUCP Project and the Stargate Project joined forces to form Stargate Information Systems. Both projects succeeded in their goals. Stargate registered the second UUCP Internet domains as stargate.com. (The first was att.com, Mark Horton's employer.) Stargate Information Systems continued to provide community service until 1988. Neither activity was intended to generate a profit.

The Stargate project terminated for business reasons when WTBS changed their uplink carrier to a company with ideas for a competing technology. The UUCP project continued until 1988 when UUNET offered to take on its work at a lower cost to registered domains. Eventually, the cost of Internet technology became low enough that UUCP was replaced with TCP/IP, SMTP, and NNTP, and everyone had access to ARPANET-class Internet service.



This site Copyright (c) 1998 by Stargate Information Services.  All rights reserved.