Digital Archeology

For those fascinated by Internet history, there’s a nice little article in Salon about the successful salvaging of most of the early Usenet archives, with a lot of emphasis and quotes from the ubiquituous (at least to those of us in both the Internet and space communities) Henry Spencer.

Thanks to these packrats, Google now estimates that 95 percent of the posts ever made to Usenet are now searchable from the site. But Spencer, for one, can’t help thinking of all that’s still been lost — not just of the other 5 percent of Usenet, but also of the other early history of online communication.

Think of the Arpanet mailing lists that were the precursors to Usenet. Spencer points out that while most of the mailing lists kept archives, a significant number of them have been lost over time. “The first flame war, things like that, most certainly dates before Usenet,” he says. “And I would bet that a lot of that material is gone, because at some point, nobody thought it was worth saving.”