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Columbia University Ending the Kermit Project 146

An anonymous reader writes "Columbia University has announced that the Kermit Project will be ended in July 2011, after more than 30 years in existence. Open Kermit (C-Kermit) will remain available, but without any support or ongoing development. Kermit-95, which cannot be open-sourced, will remain available for license purchases but without support or maintenance."
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Columbia University Ending the Kermit Project

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  • Although I really only ever used kermit so i could download zmodem...

    • by Xyverz ( 144945 )

      Heh, I used kermit until zmodem became available. Yeah, I'm fairly saddened by this as well.

      • Re:somewhat sad... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Marillion ( 33728 ) <ericbardes@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:17PM (#35750536)
        I feel as if a movie star I hadn't watched in forever has just passed away. "I didn't know he was still alive?"
        • I remember using Kermit to download my first SLS distro, sometime around 1992 or 93 through my college internet connection.

          I feel old.


        • >>I feel as if a movie star I hadn't watched in forever has just passed away. "I didn't know he was still alive?"

          Yeah, seriously.

          Did people even use Kermit after Zmodem was available?

          • "Did people even use Kermit after Zmodem was available?"

            Kermit was designed and useful for incompatible systems and bad links. Think 7-bit links, mainframes, less-common minicomputers, non-ASCII systems, repurposed long-distance telecom data lines, odd filename restrictions or formats, OS-imposed file formats, brain damaged terminal systems, limited C compiler support, limited system libraries, etc. Kermit wasn't trying to be fast or sophisticated, it was trying to be portable and universal. Different goals.

            ZModem was tuned for the 8-bit microcomputer world,

      • I only used it to transfer files from my college unix account to my Apple //e
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      I only used it to transfer data between my HP 48SX and my PC at the time.

      • Same here! I always liked its name though..

        I'd suggest we start using that name for something else now.. maybe something a little bit more evil..
    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      I'm glad that my memory isn't totally shot. The first thing that came to mind was using kermit to transfer files. Zmodem was definitely the way to go though.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Ymodem-G baby. If your connection didn't suck it allowed substantially better throughput than even zmodem =)
      • Error correction? Y-Modem G all day! Come-on kids. You know you have to roll the U.S. Robotics Courier Dual-Standard if you want to get on any elite boards for warez. I think I "carded" my first one when I was 15!
    • When I worked in IT at a college in the 1990s, the Kermit protocol was the most readily available lingua franca for transferring files between our VAXen and PCs. I remember creating an icon of Kermie (kermit.ico) for running the Kermit terminal emulator for DOS under Windows 3.1, so people could log in to a VAX and offload copies of their mail onto floppies, or maybe up/download a WordPerfect document. Another bit of my youth, consigned to history.

      • Oh yeah, this takes me back ... except I was talking to an early Xenix box. Kermit was everywhere, THE standard, slow but ultra reliable.

    • Y-Modem G baby! Y-Modem G. ;-)
  • Did a lot of kermit scripting in my early years, mainly using it to script uploads of inventory to mainframes. I only know of one guy who still uses it in my area now, though.

  • by stillnotelf ( 1476907 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:05PM (#35750400)
    It's not easy needing green...
  • (bows head)

    Used Kermit from a 286 running MS-DOS 3.3, dialing 300 baud to our college's VAX. Ahhh, memories.

    • by SETIGuy ( 33768 )
      Wow, if you were going to splurge on a 286 why did you cripple yourself with 300 baud? I had a 1200 baud modem in my XT clone.
  • heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by sentientbeing ( 688713 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:08PM (#35750432)
    Poor Kermit. He was never the same after he got laid off from that theater group. He didnt like the managment choices. Said it was a puppet regime.
    • Stinky puns...wonderful...but, still stinky all the same.

      • by blair1q ( 305137 )

        "Kermit" and "stinky" leads to some Miss Piggy jokes you really don't want to hear.

        • What's long and green and smells like pig?
        • "Kermit" and "stinky" leads to some Miss Piggy jokes you really don't want to hear.





          (Didn't bother with memories of getting the Boss out of trouble with Kermit. Either Boss, and I've been with the company for longer than one loss and longer than Slashdot has existed. Longer than Netscape. Longer than HTML3, but not longer than HTML.
          Jayzus H. Kreist. ; aging oneself by protocol version numbers? Pass me the Zimmer frame.)

  • Being more of an Amiga BBS guy, I never got into Kermit over Zmodem and other similar protocols. I mean, I know Kermit is more than just a protocol, but in practice that's how I saw it used 99% of the time. I've only used Kermit once - uploading machine language to a 68HC11 in the 90s - and was genuinely surprised to see that it was still officially a live project until now.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Kermit was and may still be useful when your connection is terrible. I am willing to bet that today it is used more than zmodem or xmodem.

      • It's also much more tolerant of non-8bit-clean links, like Telnet by default.
      • Zmodem is superior to Kermit over a modem in every way when you are talking about transferring files and not trying to chat while transferring files or something. It will crank its window size down very, very far and thus still work on noisy lines. In my long history as a BBSer I used basically every transfer protocol invented including xmodem, ymodem, ymodem-z, zmodem, biturbo, hyperprotocol, and yes, kermit. Kermit's only real advantage today is that, as others have pointed out, it is tolerant of 7bit con

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          For downloading a file from a BBS to a computer you are correct. But Kermit is still being used on things like floating sensors and was used on the space station. It has to do with use cases.

          • I don't think it's being used because it's the best tool for transferring files, though. It's because it's a communications swiss army knife that covers all use cases for the given problem. If you want a single simple channel over which you can do both interactive communications and file transfers then there is probably no single package which will work in nearly all use cases which is simpler than kermit. What's the next step up, a complete Unixlike?

            • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

              But in those cases it becomes the best tool for the job and that is why it is being used to this day. Zmodem is a very optimized tool for doing one thing and it does it well. The problem is that problem that it solved is now extremely rare. Very few people use dial up modems to transfer files to and from BBSs and or from PC to PC. Now we use TCP/IP and SCP, sftp, maybe ftp, dropbox, NFS, and a number of other tools. Kermit solves a number of problems so it is still being used. But even those problems are ge

  • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:09PM (#35750438)
    Condolences to Miss Piggy. I bet she will be devastated by the news.
  • Aw. (Score:4, Funny)

    by djdanlib ( 732853 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:12PM (#35750474) Homepage

    Sad news indeed. Kermit has finally croaked.

  • The hours that Kermit saved me. I was able to hook up my modem and connect to the university mainframe from many different location. I did not have to go the computer lab or be inconvenienced when it was closed on holidays or all the terminals were taken. It was one of those things that had an incalculable effect on productivity, positive that is, unlike trade wars.
  • Nostalgia. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:21PM (#35750598)

    More than Duke Nukem or anything else I've heard referenced recently, none have blasted me back to my youth more than hearing the words "kermit" and "zmodem". Right around the same time that you could go down to the local Hacker Shack (later renamed, due to conflicts with Radio Shack) and thumb through thousands of 5.25" floppies organized like mini-albums and you'd pay a buck just for a floppy with a looping black and white video you could watch on your grainy CGA.

    God damn, I miss those days. I'm glad the internet is widespread and aiding tens of millions of people in their life on a daily basis, but there was something delightful about being part of a tiny group of weirdos connecting to each other with ATA commands and some guy's hobby board.

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      but there was something delightful about being part of a tiny group of weirdos connecting to each other with ATA commands and some guy's hobby board.

      There sure was. At one point it was a matter of pride for me to be able to type faster than the modem buffer could handle.

      • I never was at that point (first modem was 1200 baud), but I did connect to BBS's with ATDT1aaapppnnnn+
        yes, there was something awesome about all that.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      I used to be able to tell which user was about to sign into my board by listening to the connect tones from the modem.

      The v.32bis Supra I had back then could be tweaked pretty severely. I remember setting the DTMF tone and inter-digit durations to be so short that they were just barely recognized by Ameritech's switch, with busy detection so short that it would trigger after just a few milliseconds. Redial delay was just long enough to reset the switch, and then it'd rinse and repeat until something answe

      • Re:Nostalgia. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by erice ( 13380 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @07:27PM (#35751730) Homepage

        I had more fun with computers back then. Nowadays, my quad-core desktop mostly sits idle unless I'm reading Slashdot, and I'm far less impressed with the speed of my 12Mbps VDSL circuit today than I was with v.32bis back in the day...

        In those days, getting online was an adventure. There was gold out there. You just had the figure out the right mix of technical and social engineering to get to it. I wrote layers of terminal and REXX scripts to automate the retrieval of freeware and Usenet articles and work around connection destroying misfeatures in the 7171 protocol converters. I used Kermit because nothing else could transfer through 7E1, even if it were available for EBCDIC machines. I wrote a DOS based terminal server to run on a friendly staff member's PC so I could get the sort of clean text interface Unix and VMS people took for granted.

        Nowadays, Internet connectivity is something that you buy and it mostly just works. It's a lot more useful but not nearly as much fun.

        • by Seumas ( 6865 )

          I've always been a bit turned off by how people treat technology, in the last decade.

          When I grew up (even in the 90s, which i know is later in the game to many of you), I had to figure out how to build a computer. How a modem worked. How to use a terminal. The difference between the different types of modem protocols. Then uncover awesome local boards. A short time later, I had to learn about the various BBS hosting software, telephony, semaphores and doorgames, some minor coding, FIDOnet and plenty of othe

        • by adolf ( 21054 )


          I borrowed a 9600 bps account on a local VAX/VMS machine for years before the Internet was popular enough for anyone to actually bother letting me buy access. I used that to connect to in Texas, who were selling FreeBSD shell accounts (with an awesome Netapps backend) and Usenet for $10/month.

          The VMS environment was pretty baren, and the combination was almost 8-bit clean. I had my share of fun keeping escape characters from ruining things.

          The only REXX scripting I've ever done was a nifty litt

        • by n7ytd ( 230708 )

          In those days, getting online was an adventure. There was gold out there. You just had the figure out the right mix of technical and social engineering to get to it.

          I remember the sense of awe connecting halfway across the country to banks and other businesses trying random ports after connecting to the local number of the Telenet (later Sprintnet) service...

    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      More than Duke Nukem or anything else I've heard referenced recently, none have blasted me back to my youth more than hearing the words "kermit" and "zmodem".

      Nostalgia? Maybe. All I remember is having no end of trouble as a casual user of BBS. Zmodem is synonymous in my memory with file corruption on large downloads that took forever. What I remember not so fondly is going back to Xmodem out of sheer desperation (and sometimes that worked). I don't doubt that I did not understand the intricacies of zmodem as well as some may argue I should have. I didn't particularly want to understand it. I just wanted to use it to download.

      The sad thing is even after decades r

      • "I didn't particularly want to understand it. I just wanted to use it to download."

        "And free services have found new and interesting ways to slow down downloads by splitting them up, imposing time limits and restrictions and trying to get you to pay for the privilege of having those restrictions removed."

        Based on your commentary above, you appear to be what we old-timey SysOps would call a "leech". You just want files for free. All this equipment and bandwidth costs money. That's where there are things like download limits, upload ratios, pay avenues, etc.

    • I still use Zmodem with sz and rz commands in Linux and SecureCRT and PuTTY's Zmodem (rz.exe and sz.exe; [] ). Much faster and easier than scp and sftp IMO.

    • Amen. There was something exciting and exploratory about finding new BBSes, finding freeware and shareware, and messaging.

      Now, you can still do all that on teh interwebs, but it just seems...mundane. Give me ANSI graphics and my old copy of Procomm Plus...

  • I remember I got the C-Kermit source code from college back in 1988. I had to do crazy things to upload the code to a Dual S100 Unix computer at work. I had dial into work via modem and upload each source file using "cat filename" on the remote system and doing ASCII uploads from home. It took me several days but the code compiled and worked so I had Kermit at work now.

  • by KDN ( 3283 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:23PM (#35750624)

    Wow, in my college and post college days I used that protocol in so many places and so many ways I can't even begin to count. That was a very conservative protocol that was able to go through almost anything. One time I had it go from a portable computer over a modem connection to an Equinox data switch to an AT&T 3b5 Unix, to a cu back to the Equinox (to change the speed from 300 baud to 9600 baud) to an IBM 7171 protocol converter to an IBM 4361. And it could actually transfer files. Another time I had to stress test a DECNET terminal simulator on a Sun (the old version would fail in the middle of the day on the busiest of days) So I used kermit to connect to host1, then to host 2, back to host 1, back to host 2, I think something like 40 times. Then I did a file transfer through all the connections. It worked.

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      I heard a story once (apocryphal, probably) about some military guys who rigged a connection that ran Kermit over a length of barbed wire, when that was all they had.

      • I heard that about an X.25 barbed wire network. Might be the same story.

      • Kermit, maybe. I've heard the barbed wire story. The link layer was Arcnet as I recall. I always think of it as the spark-gap-generator of LAN technology.

    • Back when I was doing freelance contracting in the early 90s I relied on it. Unix, Xenix, DOS, compiled it on a bunch of things. I could use it to talk to anything, I reckon with the right parameters it could talk to a broken toaster. It may not have been the fastest protocol around but it WORKED. I was sorry to see it closed up, and I'm sorry to see it go.
  • by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:25PM (#35750638) Homepage Journal
    Kermit was my first foray into the advantages of Open Source, even if it was not Free Software.

    The company where I worked in college (Digital Techniques Inc. who made a line of touchscreen computers in the early 80s) had an MS-DOS machine that ran on STD-Bus, non-PC compatible... and with the source-code from Columbia (on 9-track tape!) I was able to write a communication driver for the 2661 DUART (same as in the Zenith Z-100, and as compared to the IBM-PC's 8250 UART). Finally we could zap files up to the VAX at a blazing 19,200 baud! Never could iron out all the interrupt issues for even-higher speeds.

    A few years later when this Linux thing came along I said, Aha! ... thanks Kermit for being Open before Open was cool.

  • From the Columbia's web site
    "On or before June 30, 2011, there will be Open Source versions of C-Kermit, E-Kermit, and Kermit 95. "

    Unless the anonymous reader has some inside information...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >> "Briefly, over the next months Kermit software source code will be published with an Open Source license except for a few Kermit 95 source modules to which Columbia does not have publication rights. C-Kermit 9.0 will have an Open Source license, and E-Kermit will also be converted to Open Source. Kermit 95 executables and install packages will not be distributed in a free and open manner because they include strong encryption, whose export is controlled by the United States Government. "

      • That's still true? I thought export controls on encryption went away during the Clinton administration.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

    Man i feel old now.. And it sad to see part of our history 'die'.

  • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:43PM (#35750788)

    I miss Kermit like I miss my old Kreidler motobike, found memories but I'd probable wouldn't really like it if I would need it again...

    But what I would really appreciate from columbia would be a clear and detailled explanation of what parts or "kind of parts" of kermit-95 and why ? cannot be open sourced ?
    Are there pieces of code written by Open Source adverse copyright holders ?
    Or "lost coypright holders" that have rights but cannot be located
    Or legally "challenged" copyright holders (childs who are too young to "agree" to anything but are the sole heir of some copyrights ? for example ?)
    Backdoors mandated by some three letters authority that cannot be released under an open source licences :-)
    code that implement something patented and the patent holders do not authorise the inclusion in open source code ..
    Or contracts with former clients prohibiting "unfair compétition"...
    or, or, ....

    I know that the value of an Open Source Kermit-95 would be very law, it might be better on Windows than C-Kermit for some values of "better"...
    but it's unlikelly that any futur use would be better served with an update of K95 rather than a modificiation of CK.

    But the lesson on "freeing" code would be very interesting, and after all Columbia as a quite proheminent law school... so it would be interesting...

    • by ogrizzo ( 23524 )

      But what I would really appreciate from columbia would be a clear and detailled explanation of what parts or "kind of parts" of kermit-95 and why ? cannot be open sourced ?

      Just read TFA and follow links:
      Regular Kermit 95 binaries can not be made openly available because they include cryptography functions whose distribution is restricted by United States export law. Kermit 95 binaries that include encryption (SSH, SSL/TLS, and Kerberos) will have to be purchased and licensed, as before. Single copies can be purchased from,, and other retailers. If the stock of shrinkwrapped copies runs out, Kermit 95 will continue to be available from

      • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:32PM (#35751248)

        Well that cannot be the real reason since as show on the C-Kermit site:
        Due to relaxations in USA export law, secure versions of C-Kermit are available in source-code form, supporting Kerberos IV, Kerberos V, SSL/TLS, and SRP. and from the C-Kermit man page it can also make SSH connections through your external SSH client application.

        So conceivably an open source Kermit-95 with just the SSH ripped out (if really necessary) could be made avaiable, if that would be all...

        Alternativelly a legitimate message could be: C-Kermit is better and allready BSD so it's better in the long run even if Kermit-95 has some adventage in dying old machines ... so we do not bother ..
        Or out contracts with Amazon, E-Academy, etc ... prohibits us...

        But "we can't", well why ? of course they have no obligation even no "moral" obligation after all they paid for the developpment and it helped lots of people...

        But on an other hand it is unlickely that they made any real revenue out of it even over 30 years, so as an historical and econonical case study it would be interesting to see what the motivations for the old licences where, and what the motivations for keeping K95 close are ...

        • it's possible that columbia just doesn't want to make a mistake or get tangled up in red tape over a nonprofitable move; crypto still technically needs to be submitted to the government for approval; it's just a rubberstamp for open source projects.

          or it could be standard market segmentation tricks. allow a practically-identical version for the technically-proficient hoi polloi with less liability, while using FUD to sell the Official Version to conservative firms and large companies to whom the cost is neg

  • I see (thanks google) that in 1985 I contributed c64boot to the Kermit project to get files onto a Commodore 64 ... and at the other end of the scale I was wondering about C-Kermit for UTS (Amdahl's port of Unix to 370-architecture mainframes.) There was actually a connection (uh, sorry) there, both related to the project I was working on at the time.

    (And when was the last time you saw an email addy like "ACDMAYER%UOGUELPH.BITNET@WISCVM" ?)

    (ob. "All you kids get off my lawn!")

  • That and my speedy VIC-Modem (yes, the one you had to dial using the telephone, slide the switch to data and hang up the receiver)

    I'm pretty sure it wasn't even 300 baud

    Funny thing, I still have that thing...

    • by gyrf ( 530771 )
      The VIC-1600 VICMODEM was 300 baud. But it was the first modem under $100, came with $200 worth of subscription time for CompuServe, The Source, and Dow Jones. Sold over a million units, and got a lot of us connected to other fellow geeks via local BBSes from our basement bedrooms. I used mine well after I had a C64, until I finally could afford the 1200 baud VIC-1670 to run my own BBS. I hear it even came with a Commodore-branded phone in Canada, because it was designed to plug in to the handset jack of a
  • First, the story about Commodore trying to revive the 64 line, and now this. It was the two of them together, that enabled me to wreck my last year of college beyond all hope of repair.

    I had gotten a 300 baud modem for my C=64, but to get something "real" I had to type in a Kermit transfer program in Commodore BASIC, then use that program to download a Kermit program with built-in VT52 emulation. That transfer took over 3 hours, but oh boy was it worth it. I wasted many nights, dialed in to the campus VA
  • The ISS and the Arkansas Primary & Secondary Computing Network still use kermit, today.

  • I know this is going to sound sappy, but when I was around 12, my Mom went back to school to change careers from teaching to computer science. I don't know how she could have done it without a tool like Kermit, which allowed her do much of her coursework from home, around her family, instead of having to spend late nights in the school labs.

    Looking over my Mom's shoulder, Kermit gave me my first glimpse of email, my first experience with vi (her preferred email editor), and indirectly I guess, put me on

  • I actually wrote an implementation of the Kermit protocol in Basic Plus for the DEC PDP 11/70 back in about 1983. Used to bring the whole system to its knees transferring a file.

    • Back in ~1994 the place I was working had a mail system for PCs and servers that the IT department had cobbled together out of Kermit and airplane glue. If you had more than 200KB of mail it would crash your computer and die in ugly ways. It was really annoying, after having been on Unix mail systems since the late 70s, and having used Kermit successfully to do real work as well. Worse than IBM PROFS, worse than Prodigy over 300 baud, much less capable than Fidonet or most 1980s BBS systems. And the IT

  • Notice that those posting their memories have UID's under 10000. You could probably filter out anyone who even knows that Kermit exists by their UID's alone.
    And yes my UID is in the 20k's but only because I forgot to get a /. account the first day.

    The frog is dead. Long live the frog.

    • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

      Notice that those posting their memories have UID's under 10000.

      Don't know that I arrived here when I could've still gotten a 4-digit uid (signed up in '98, lurked for maybe a year before that).

      Kermit saw occasional use on my IIe starting in 1989 or so. Kermit-65 provided a decent free VT100 emulation as well as file-transfer capabilities. It wasn't too long before someone slipped me a copy of ProTERM, though (and not too long after that that I forked over the $100 asking price for was worth it).

  • I wrote the computervision cgos kermit many moons ago.
  • One of the programmers on the original Kermit project at Columbia University was a grad student who had a 2 yro daughter. We lived on the same street and also had a 2 yro daughter. The two girls played together a lot at the neighborhood playground in Riverside Park near Columbia, and we got to know the family pretty well.

    The grad student's daughter loved the Muppets and especially Kermit. He named the program he was working on for her favorite Muppet.

  • I remember an old Perkin Elmer minicomputer that was used at a laboratory testing oil samples.

    The only way to get anything in or out of the thing was kermit over async serial line.

    At the time I wasn't quite as UNIX headed .. I thought it very funny that the day that we installed brand new HP high volume / high capacity laser printers was the day I was asked if it had a serial interface available (why they didn't just do LPD I'll never know).

  • Ahh, Kermit.

    Kermit was more or less the swiss-army knife of terminal and file transfer. You could move pretty much any file over any link between any two systems with it. If the link was questionable, just use the native kermit file transfer protocol. It was slow, but if you needed a file moved over a link that had unknown escape characters, noise, and so on, it was the way to go.

    Heck, we used it on the DOS/Windows 3.1 based computers at the FIU computer lab to telnet into the VAX and UNIX systems from DOS.

  • Wow. In the early 90s, I was responsible to connect the first Rumanian universities (Bucharest, in particular) to the Internet. Since we couldn't get IP going for various technical reasons, we decided to get them email in the mean time, at least.

    The first try was with uucp, but they couldn't handle its operations on the Bucharest side. Phone lines weren't stable enough, then. So, for the 1st 6 months, email was sent to Bucharest by Kermit file transfer, triggered by a hodge-podge of MDA scripts, invoked b

  • I don't miss those days at all. Sure Kermit was useful in its day - but for almost all of us that day is long gone. FWIW I don't miss Gopher, modem initialization strings, nor any of the arcana we used to have to invoke to accomplish what now are simple, mindless tasks.

    Feel free to mourn Kermit, but I'll be happily dancing at its wake. The world has moved on.

  • I worked at a computer manufacturer once, and their process for supplying components to manufacturers was:

    1 - print out stock list from the VAX
    2 - type all of it into a spreadsheet (2 people working for a week)
    3 - prepare stock despatch orders

    As stock levels changed in the week they were entered (not to mention that traditional "1 in 300 keystrokes is an error" problem) it was a never ending battle - every month. That's when I wandered in after having fixed a problem with Paradox elsewhere. Management was

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?