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I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked (vice.com) 180

An anonymous reader shares a report (condensed for space and clarity): For crate-diggers of all stripes, the internet is awesome for one reason: The crate never ends. There's always something new to find online, because people keep creating new things to throw into that crate. But that crate has a hole at the bottom. Stuff is falling out just as quickly, and pieces of history that would stick around in meatspace disappear in an instant online. So as a result, there aren't a lot of websites from 1995 that made it through to the present day. Gopher sites? Odds are low. Text files? Perhaps. The endless pace of linkrot has left books about the internet in a curious limbo -- they're dead trees about the dead-tree killer, after all. [...] Recently, I bought a book -- a reference book, the kind that you can still pick up at Barnes and Noble today. The book, titled Free $tuff From the Internet (Coriolis Group Books, 1994), promises to help you find free content online. And, crucially, it focuses less on the web, which was still quite young, than on many of the alternative protocols of the era. This book links to FTP sites, telnet servers, and Gopher destinations, and I've tried many of them in an effort to figure out whether something, anything in this book works in the present day. These FTP servers were often based at universities which have a vested interest in keeping information online for a long-term period -- think the University of North Carolina, or Kansas State University. But despite this, I could not get most of these servers to load -- they were long ago murdered by the World Wide Web.
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I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked

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  • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:03PM (#55011103) Homepage

    Try the Internet time machine with those links, it might work and that's its purpose.

    https://archive.org/web/ [archive.org]

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:14PM (#55011193)
      Yes... don't just try it, but support it - and fight copyright mongers who would try to keep it limited or non-existant. This is part of our history. Fast paced, but crucial.

      Even my crappy 1st attempt at a website is there... https://web.archive.org/web/19... [archive.org]

    • I didn't know it would work with ftp links.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Hey, your X-Files link is broken.

    • Would that have past internet features like Gopher, Archie, Veronica, et al?
  • Washington (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:06PM (#55011117)

    >These FTP servers were often based at universities which have a vested interest in keeping information online for a long-term period -- think the University of North Carolina, or Kansas State University.

    No love for wuarchive.wustl.edu?

    • >These FTP servers were often based at universities which have a vested interest in keeping information online for a long-term period -- think the University of North Carolina, or Kansas State University.

      No love for wuarchive.wustl.edu?

      +1, Nostaliga

      • I remember, ages ago, you could NFS mount wuarchive. Of course, do it soft, unless you loved reboots... but that ability was nice.

    • Oh definitely! The amount of Amiga stuff I downloaded from there... I also remember getting a good bit from rutgers.edu. Pirated Amiga discs and all. Don't guess anyone knew better in school administrations at the time of what was what. lol Just remember to set type to binary beforehand, or by the time you got your file downloaded (at 56k max), written to DS/DD discs, home to the Amiga, extracted via Disksmasher back to the actual disc images, you realize the hard way you downloaded in the default TEXT m

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        Don't guess anyone knew better in school administrations at the time of what was what

        Just like today with all those "hidden" caches of movies etc on corporate networks you'd probably find they had a list to exclude all that stuff from backups to save space but otherwise ignored it.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:06PM (#55011123)

    I could not get most of these servers to load -- they were long ago murdered by the World Wide Web.

    Try back 10 years ago in 2005, and you would likely find a LOT more of the 1994 stuff still working then.

    I noticed in the more recent 5 or 6 years, a TON of old stuff finally vanished for once and for all.

    This is the aging of the network though --- things go offline, and if the information didn't make it to Archive.org; I guess it's probably gone forever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spire3661 ( 1038968 )
      Its not aging, commercialism has pushed everything else out. Its a purposeful destroying of the past so only the present can be focused on (i.e. selling you shit)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Its not aging, commercialism has pushed everything else out. Its a purposeful destroying of the past so only the present can be focused on (i.e. selling you shit)

        I am inquiring where the best location for tin foil sales would be? Or, if you know how to make it at home, I would be happier with free range foil. Can you help a pal out?

        captch: slowdown

      • Never attribute to malice what can adequately be described by rational self-interest.

        Nobody wants those sites gone. They just worked on their own site so they could make money and everyone left.

      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:32PM (#55011407)

        Its not aging, commercialism has pushed everything else out.

        Sorry, but wrong. The creation of a commercial site somewhere on the web does not "push out" another site or server. It's not a zero sum game; one old site has to die when a new site is created. I've had a website online for most of that 23 years. I've never once gotten a notice from anyone that the space we needed by Amazon or any other commercial internet data provider. True, I no longer run a gopher or WAIS server, but that's because as the operating systems updated those servers were no longer part of the distributions.

        What this nit is complaining about is that a 23 year old book on technology talks about technology that has been obsolete for a long time already. Does he expect to buy a book on analog TV transmission technology and expect to find a plethora of analog TV stations he can access?

        I have a book on early radio technology that I could sell him -- but he'd going to be very disappointed when he cannot find all the spark gap transmitters it talks about.

        • heh, i still had an old 5 meter satellite dish and receiver in my yard that we had since the 80s until a year ago before we finally got rid of it and before we did, i hooked up the receiver one last time and went through every location that was stored and found 1 satellite left... hosting 1 channel.... WGN It was sad as in the early 90s before direct tv, (cable wasnt an option where i was at the time) we had hundreds of channels (in blocks of 24 per sat with multi minute waits between sats)
          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Satellites are still out there.... All Encrypted and inaccessible these days, because
            big corps. worked out they can make people pay serious $$$ for limited access.

        • by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @06:08PM (#55012427) Homepage

          I haven't had to look anything up in a phone book in probably 20 years, but I wonder if I found one from '97 how many of the numbers would still be valid.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@NOSPAM.world3.net> on Monday August 14, 2017 @05:28PM (#55012013) Homepage Journal

        Not commercialism, bandwidth. Home internet connections got much faster. People running the FTP servers found their traffic rising fast, exponentially. They either had to pay for a lot more bandwidth or shut up shop.

      • For an awful lot of stuff it's more likely to be retirements than commercialism. Who's maintaining those old servers? Do they know they are? Is it part of someone's job to migrate them onto new servers as old ones get aged out (hardware updates, OS updates or EOLs, etc.)?

        If that system was up and running in the early 90's there's an excellent chance it was set up by someone on the computer science faculty who was probably in (statistically) his 30s or 40s at the time. 25 years later is that person still at
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by doconnor ( 134648 )

      In the last 5 or 6 years there has been a rising awareness of network security and a lot of these old services where probably significant liabilities that where little used and already had been largely replaced with web based versions.

      • What? Who modded this up? The core discussion here is about content, not services. There's no reason an FTP site or a HTTP server can't keep serving the same content without security risks, especially given that the timescale we are talking about pre-dates poorly written PHP and similar garbage.

        • If an FTP server only serves a couple of legitimate users per year, its generally not worth the effort to keep up to date.

          It doesn't have to be poorly written PHP to be garbage. Poorly written C, which would have been common back then, can be far more dangerous.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            It doesn't have to be poorly written PHP to be garbage. Poorly written C, which would have been common back then, can be far more dangerous.

            An FTP site is incredibly trivial to transfer to something running current software - "poorly written C" doesn't come into it. Username, password, get files - finished.

    • Yep, sounds about right. I lost interest in my website (a very obscure topic, but nonetheless some Wikipedia pages still quote it) in 2005 but paid for the web space for a few more years. Since 2009 the domain name is permanently for sale. The info is still on archive.org but I doubt anyone would bother - Wikipedia is much more informative nowadays than it used to be back then. The need for obscure websites on obscure topics is gone.

      • Wikipedia is much more informative nowadays than it used to be back then. The need for obscure websites on obscure topics is gone.

        Until a Wikipedia editor proposes deletion of the articles about said topics for lack of "notability", or coverage in sources that meet Wikipedia's vague definition of reliability.

    • Alot of this is due to the XP EOL.

      Just like the IT recession of 2000 started after Y2K was patched these same systems remain unaltered and strict budgets until XP and Server 2003 had to go. When that happened the budget was increased temporarily and everything else might as well be upgraded at the same time and out the legacy Unix Gopher and FTP sites went as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:14PM (#55011201)

    You can't just leave FTP servers and the like out there for the sake of nostalgia. All these resources require constant maintenance in order to keep them on-line, secure from vandals, etc. Perhaps most critically, it requires constant maintenance to keep them secure from delivering malicious content to people like the article writer.

    There is also a difference between keeping content online in perpetuity, and keeping it online in the exact same way. Content worth saving (and pretty much everything else) is still available via the Wayback Machine, search engines, etc. That's why we don't need books and why we don't have to maintain decrepit technologies.

    • You can't just leave FTP servers and the like out there for the sake of nostalgia. All these resources require constant maintenance in order to keep them on-line, secure from vandals, etc. Perhaps most critically, it requires constant maintenance to keep them secure from delivering malicious content to people like the article writer.

      There is also a difference between keeping content online in perpetuity, and keeping it online in the exact same way. Content worth saving (and pretty much everything else) is still available via the Wayback Machine, search engines, etc. That's why we don't need books and why we don't have to maintain decrepit technologies.

      Precisely. A book can sit on a shelf, pretty much until it disintegrates or gets eaten by bugs.

      A book does not need maintenance, hosting fees, and domain fees. And it doesn't need to be defended from suddenly containing porn or committing mail fraud.

  • I used to know my way around some ftp servers. I knew (and still know) the exact path and filenames to linux kernels and slackware floppies. I could type wget and get exactly what I wanted before any search engines.

    Now I google up files and get a hundred sites; all suspicious and the files download as .exe files.

    ftp.cdrom.com was one ftp server that should not have been killed.
  • I remembered the Internet Yellow Pages (dead tree version) back in the mid-1990's when I was going to college. Back then it made sense because search engines were still a few years off. I'm surprised that the last edition still listed on Amazon was 2007 [amzn.to].
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:25PM (#55011325)

    I'm surprised you even found your way back online to report the fact that your internet reference books from a quarter century ago had dead links.

    Get with the times doesn't even begin to describe the problem of failing to understand that not everything is timeless in this world.

    • Some references change over time. Some don't. I bought a on 3D programming in the late 1990s. The algorithms in the book don't change with time, so the author and publisher had the presence of mind to include the sample code both via a website, and on a CD included with the book.
      • and on a CD included with the book.

        Good luck finding a CD drive on your current laptop.

        • Good luck finding a CD drive on your current laptop.

          As long as they haven't cost-reduced away the two adjacent USB2 (or later) ports, I can plug one in. Out of my four antique netbooks, only one of them is missing this feature.

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:27PM (#55011349) Journal
    This does not surprise me. It would be like opening the White Pages to a random listing, and seeing if the number is still active and reaches the same person. Things on the Internet are, and always have been, much more fluid.

    I'll agree that Universities have a vested interest in the preservation of knowledge, and so should do better. On the other hand, there are plenty of other changes to this or that university that have happened out in meatspace in the prior 25 years or so. Most of the buildings of my alma mater are still where they used to be, but their function (e.g., the departments that live in them) are not all the same. And certainly a lot of those physical spaces have received renovations over the years, resulting in walls that have been added, moved, or eliminated; outlets and network ports that aren't the same.

    I'd wager a bunch of the content of that book is still out there, somewhere. And a lot of it is probably still at whatever custodian institution used to have it. Good luck finding it, though.
    • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:35PM (#55011451)

      I'll agree that Universities have a vested interest in the preservation of knowledge, and so should do better.

      That does not mean that they should try to maintain FTP or Gopher servers to access information, just that the information should still be online. The fact that a 23 year old book lists "broken links" is, well, yawn, and the fact that someone complains about it is a hoot.

  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:29PM (#55011375)

    This is a consequence of one of the best design decisions Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues made. For decades some of the brightest people in the world had been struggling to perfect a distributed hyperinformation system suitable for general everyday use - but no one had succeeded. Then along came the CERN crew, and pulled it off almost immediately. Their secret? Leaving stuff out!

    As a result, the Web has no standard mechanisms for cleaning up. We get broken links. We get cobweb sites that haven't changed for years, and - much worse IMHO - we get valuable pages that vanish because the funding dried up, the maintainer moved to a new post, or for a thousand other reasons.

    Early versions of Netscape Communicator had two options for emailing a Web page: send just the URL, or send the whole page. After a while the second option was discontinued - presumably on legal grounds, as it was a tragedy on practical grounds. There are still add-ons that include the whole page, but presumably that's sufficiently arms-length that no one with any serious money is exposed to lawsuits. Or you could write your own. If you really need to refer back to material years or decades later, you just have to keep a copy of your own.

    • I use Scrapbook+ on Firefox to capture web pages, which it does quite well — it does a good job of capturing the rendered content, anyway. You often have to manually scroll down the page to get all the assets to load.

  • We are talking about a 23 year old book. This was back when there were only 4 states of matter, typical modem connection speed was 14.4kbaud, 28.8k is you were lucky.

    Would you expect a 23 year old address directory be accurate today? Or a 23 year old telephone book?

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      This was back when...typical modem connection speed was 14.4kbaud, 28.8k is you were lucky.

      Oh, you mean like today's Comcast on Sundays.
         

    • Even in 1984, Egon Spengler noted that "Print is Dead", and Janine Melnitz found that fact "Fascinating".
  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:36PM (#55011457) Homepage

    Glad to know my all time favorite web site is still around and kickin it all these years later!

    http://www.something.com/ [something.com]

  • ...and you are trying to fix a problem traced to a specific line of source code:

    foo.ajax.fluxinator500(zerg, blund); // see stackoverflow.com/issues/472373

    You could be thinking, "stackoverflow? That site died 10 years ago. I'm SOL!"

    I actually have a WROX book that says to see a stackoverflow link for details.

    • It's dead? Bizarre, I just posted some technical questions on it recently and got them answered...that particular page is gone, and the site has radically changed over the last decade, but it's still a useful site.
    • Stack Exchange makes data dumps [archive.org] of Stack Overflow and its other Q&A sites available through the Internet Archive.

  • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @04:38PM (#55011481) Homepage

    A similar thing happened to me. I found a telephone book from 1990 and none of the phone numbers were accurate either.

    Also, I rediscovered a stash of business cards I received from colleagues and business associates back in the 80s and not only were the phone numbers wrong, so were most of the mailing addresses (and NONE of the fax numbers worked!)

    Why is this news? Contact information changes. Is it because "it's on a computer" that it is suddenly noteworthy?

    (That said, I really miss the days of logging in anonymously to FTP sites to see if there was new stuff to download. There was always an aura of mystery and surprise that is missing from modern archives which very dutifully have change logs telling you what's been added and removed. And no nasty SysOp telling you that you've exceeded your download quota either.).

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      A similar thing happened to me. I found a telephone book from 1990 and none of the phone numbers were accurate either.

      My parents lived in the same house since the 1970's, and I imagine many others have also. I would expect roughly 20% would still be valid, at least in terms of a relative or descendant answering.

      • I've had the same landline number since I moved out of my mom's basement in 1989. My address has changed, but my phone hasn't.

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          I'm still in my mom's basement and the pizza number still works. Haven't had to leave.

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          That seems exceptionally stable. Since '89 I've lived in 4 different states, and experienced at least two area code split-offs. I may be pretty flighty, but I'd say the average in 27 years is at least one change for most people.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      And no nasty SysOp telling you that you've exceeded your download quota either.

      Download quotas are still around. File-sending services impose quotas on non-paying users, and ISPs impose them even on paying users.

  • Headline says: I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and ***None*** of the Links Worked [enphasis mine]

    Summary says: But despite this, I could not get ***most*** of these servers to load [enphasis mine]

    Way to go, slashdot editor!

    I am certain that a Link to www.yahoo.com is in the book, and Still works. Unless you are trying to use the Mosaic Browser that was in the 5.1/4" 1,2Mbyte Disk that came with the book.

    • > Unless you are trying to use the Mosaic Browser that was in the 5.1/4" 1,2Mbyte Disk that came with the book.

      Hey, I paid good money for that browser.

      • Talk about crap company. Are they even supporting that version 25 years later and can the browser run on todays operating systems? I think not. You got ripped off.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday August 14, 2017 @05:02PM (#55011761) Journal
    Did you buy in half price books or some flea market? Or at a new book store, a recent reprinting?
  • >>But that crate has a hole at the bottom. Stuff is falling out just as quickly, and pieces of history that would stick around in meatspace disappear in an instant online.

    I call shenanigans! I have been told for years anything I put on the web is there for ever. Is this suddenly not the case?! Ugh.. Wait.. I can work in this confines. If only my tasteful junk pictures are free to loaf around for an eternity then I just need to paper clip them to any work, link, or site so THEY stay around as long

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I found an old 1985 guide book for massage parlors in New York. I went to an address and asked a costumed woman dressed as a princess for a Vietnamese sandwich and a happy ending, Turned out the place is now a Disney Store. Whoops. Awkward!

  • Things that are not relevant anymore are gonna be scrapped, things that might have some use will be preserved... that is, while the organizations behind preservation efforts still live.

    On a brighter tone, I was plenty pleased to see most of the games I played as a kid and teen back in the 80s-90s were mostly preserved with DosBox and other emulators efforts.

    I think I also have a bunch of Flash stuff stored somewhere just in case. Most of the animations got converted to video and are still on YouTube, but I'

  • It's almost as if print isn't the best media for cataloging the Internet. I'm getting on the phone with my publishers right now and pulling my printed copy of DNS records from shelves.
  • But also game servers, for example old versions of Phantasy Star Online [sylverant.net] which have gone dark.

    Someone should create a series of DNS servers that each captures a moment in time and seamlessly directs queries to modern equivalents or Wayback [archive.org] archives. Just pick the year you want, select the appropriate DNS server, and off you go, surfing or gaming as if it were 1997 again.

  • > I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked

    That sounds like a geek equivalent to a blonde joke. Like "I bought a coupon book at a garage sale but all the coupons had expired".

  • Did you check with the shop if you can get a refund on the book?

  • I bought a map of America from 1842 and it was ALL WRONG!
  • This guy's name is Ernie, but he's writing a story as if he's like 15 and never knew about the good ol' days. Either his parents hate him, or he was targeting a younger crowd.

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