The human eed to communicate and share has advanced our computer technology to where we are today. It’s confusing today to listen to sales-people from the 70’s trying to explain how their technology worked and equally obtuse as to the benefits to any who had nothing to move in that limited knowledge economy.
BBSs or Computer Bulletin Boards hailed the Bit onslaught, and was where I first discovered the joy of spending 2 days to download Doom and tying up my family phone line all day and night, often getting cut off and spending hours trying to reconnect. (Late night Trade-Wars and Pimp-Wars gaming as well…). I was hooked, but still not quite there for things like MS Office that came in something like 40 diskettes… Windows 3.11 was incredibly annoying when trying to work with TCP/IP and was quite the solution to preventing , uh, inappropriate communications.
The world changed when i went to Carleton University in 1991 where, as an Arts student, I found myself all night in the graduate student computer lounge hunting Telnet ports through the orange vt100 screens offering up Inter-University internet communication known as Gopher-net and something named Kermit.
I was still banging away on BBS systems with the crazy messaging system of Fido-Net, where i hooked up with a lovely lady (who knew! I thought it was all geeks at that time!) from a body modification thread. Later on I met yet another fantastic woman, who is a friend to this day, whom I met while.. gaming on a MUD, and had traveled to Michigan for a crazy trip through Kentucky.. but that is another story and not really file-sharing. I digress.
The internet was changing, as Mosaic was recently released, and most of the tech savvy people were using Freenet (mine was/is? email@example.com, still in the early a level!), some with The Well email addresses, with whom I ran sneaker-nets, that is to say copying floppy disks and hand trading them. This was where I first discovered IRC (Inter-relay chat) which didn’t offer the DCC (Direct Client to Client) file sharing service, but that i would later access in the wild and DCC download many low rez movies, pictures of questionable content, and 128kbps mp3 files. I still remember server crashes called net-splits that were always incredible fun back in the day when IRC was hopping with massive numbers of immature freaky kids (who later clearly moved on to World of Warcraft servers…)
Around the same time i was hitting up FTP sites that were popping up, hosted by other college and university students. The first and most memorable was the list built by Blex’s Fine FTP site which wasn’t exactly offering up specific tunes, but was part of the fun, going to see what music people had and what they were sharing. All in the sense of adventure while wrangling my brand new awesome 14,400 modem that truly had no real academic value (well none that contributed to better grades, quite the opposite).
Don’t get the impression i support wholesale music scamming, The whole time i was grabbing digital sounds, i was also buying early 1990’s electronic music on vinyl, where I hosted a weekly 5 hour programme Planet Rave, pulling news from list-servs (email broadcast networks). Radio to this day could be considered legal file sharing, but that’s another philosophical argument/line of reasoning best not extrapolated here. I got to share my collection with tens of hundreds of people through-out Ottawa, Quebec and Upper State NY!
I never honestly used Napster all that much, I did use eDonkey for a brief time well after leaving University and getting some useless certifications (MCSE, and A+ Hardware when learning IRQs was very important stuff). Peer to Peer software seemed almost way too easy, but i found the mechanics fascinating as i had started researching knowledge organization which has lead me to the project i am working towards today. My personal favourite is Soulseek, which is still in operation today, as its community offers much more obscure and on point music.
Present day we have the Torrent generation, which seems to me to be the final iteration of file-sharing before social media community economy takes hold and balance shifts back to rewarding creative content artisans who ARE the community. The systems have become so advanced that coming soon is another of those meeting points of technology where something totally new appears as people feel the need to share and communicate at the next level.
Communication should always be a fun social event, giving people information they need, and pushing the boundaries. The deeper we get with integrating information technology, the more opportunities we have to progress. I only hope that University will still be as fascinating and fun for those who pursue the universe of knowledge as it was for me.