1. 26

  2. 8

    I guess this is one of those things that young people discover and are thrilled about but us (apparently) old people just think, “what’s the big deal, that’s been around for decades.”

    Shell providers like devio.us and sdf have been around forever and nearly every local ISP used to give out shells on their Unix machines to all of their customers. I’m sure most stopped when the average internet user no longer had any idea what Unix was, or maybe once it became just as easy to run Linux on your own computer at home that interested customers didn’t need to use the ISP’s server.

    The ISP I worked at had a Linux server that customers ran eggdrop and pine from and hosted small web pages (thus the tilde URLs). We also gave customers access to our OpenVMS cluster but I can’t remember ever seeing any non-staff logged in. We eventually had to decommission the Linux server but we had one blind customer that still used it. He would dial up to our Portmasters with his DOS terminal with screen reader attached, telnet to the Linux server, and use it to read e-mail with pine and browse the web with lynx. When we took the machine out of service, I removed all of the other user accounts and brought the server to his house to set it up for him so he could still use it. I made the Linux server connect with PPP from a simple shell alias and it would fetch all of his e-mail with fetchmail, so he could still use pine and lynx.

    1. 11

      I think Paul Ford is old enough to remember those days too - his twitter bio says “(1974-) …”

      To me, this seemed more nostalgic than anything else, really. The pages on tilde club are intentionally old-timey, with things like animated flames that follow your pointer, and starry backgrounds (and scrolling titles! I had no idea browsers still allowed that)

      It kind of reminds me of the rebuilt old-town Warsaw (from an episode of 99% invisible ) - a rebuilding of the charming past from memory, more real than real.

      1. 3

        I am going to start recasting the cases of my consumer electronics in Bakelite, remounting my AVR’s bare die in vacuum tubes and using a radio shack phone dialer with my cellphone.

        Actually a tube-duino would be pretty funny, esp if one mounted a big lens over the top and got Atmel to put some LEDs on the chip itself (bus, registers, etc)


        1. 3

          definitely nostalgic, but that’s not necessarily a bad or inauthentic thing. like the old-town warsaw, it serves to remind people of what was lost along the way, and consider whether any of it is worth reviving and reincorporating into today’s web.

          1. 2

            Oh, I agree! I’m generally a fan of nostalgia, even when it’s inaccurate. Seeing someone else’s reimagining of the past is a great way to see what they thought was important.

            And it’s especially nice to find an example of a nostalgic use of computers that still really works, unlike so much interesting hardware that predates the internet or are just too slow to use anymore.

        2. 8

          I am a user on tilde.club. I think the biggest difference is that “wall” is not disabled, and there is a ill-defined but strong sense of shared purpose. We are not customers, we are not using the system to accomplish other things, we’re there because the other people are there and we’re having fun making something that’s both new and old.

          It’s been around a week and is a novelty. We’ll see if it can sustain past a few weeks. If so, generally good things happen when happy people get creative together.

          1. 1

            I think the fascinating part is that unlike shell providers that you get because you want an eggdrop or something, this is straight-up “for entertainment”, and people have found all sorts of way to make websites that interact with the other users (this is a good example) and generally just remember the “good ol days” all together by making joke websites and even a webring. I’m pretty sure everyone with a tilde.club account doesn’t need it and has its own blog, server and everything, but it’s just seems like fun to get on a shared server and take part on the colletive sillyness.

          2. 7

            This article described the site being used as a “social network”, but it didn’t actually explain how a UNIX computer can be used like a social network. As a 23-year-old, I wasn’t aware that UNIX had so many social tools built-in. UNIX to me is just “the back-end of my computer” that I use to run local tools like git and grep, as well as occassionally the communication interface to production servers. I knew that university users used to connect to a shared server to do their work, but I didn’t know they could talk to each other too.

            From tilde.club/~sippey/ and elsewhere, I found that the following built-in commands, which I have never used, provide some of UNIX’s social features:

            • talk – copies lines from your terminal to that of another user
            • wall – write a message to the terminals of all logged-in users
            • who – show who is logged on
            • finger – user information lookup program
            • pine – Program for Internet News and Email; a screen-oriented message-handling tool
            • ircd – the server (daemon) program for the Internet Relay Chat Program
            • epic – Internet Relay Chat client

            Additionally, every user is given a public_html directory from which files are served. This I am more familiar with – even today, my university provides the same feature to all Computer Science students.

            Finally, the article had a “graph of the emerging tilde.club social network”, but I didn’t understand where the connections came from. Does UNIX have a “friends list” built-in? It turns out no, the links in that graph simply come from the HTML links in the publicly-served web pages of individual users.