John S Quarterman jsqmobile at gmail.com
Mon Apr 3 11:58:03 AEST 2017

Rick was not on the USENIX board at that time. I had to explain who he was
to some board members. -jsq

On Mar 30, 2017 15:44, "Steve Johnson" <scj at yaccman.com> wrote:

> I had some private email from a couple of this list's members, asking
> about the relationship between UUNET and Usenix.  I presume some
> questions arose because Rick Adams was on the Usenix board, and, although
> we on the Usenix board tried to be open about things it's been
> a while, and apparently some people remain suspicious about what
> happened.  They urged me to share this history with the list:
> I'm happy to share my memories of how UUNET came to be associated with,
> and later disassociated from Usenix.
> At the time, newsgroups were growing in popularity.  To get a usegroup
> delivered, you had to talk with someone who got the newsgroups and get them
> to agree to call your computer and deliver it -- all communication was
> through modems and phone calls.  The traffic was growing rapidly and it was
> clear that we were heading for a brick wall.   Some universities and
> private companies found themselves with computer phone bills of $10,000 a
> month or higher, and some critical nodes lived in daily fear that somebody
> was going to notice this and shut it down.   Because the network was made
> up of individually negotiated links, this was likely to lead to a snowball
> effect if it got started,
> Also, at the time Usenix had a lot of cash.   We were budgeting
> conferences to have 1000 attendees and getting 2500.  We decided as a board
> to offer to help people who could propose a plan to prevent this Usenet
> collapse, and sent out a fairly broad plea to our members for project
> proposals.   We received two.  The first was Lauren Weinstein's, to use
> cable to distribute netnews, and we agreed to help him purchase some
> equipment to upload digital signals to be sent in the "screen refresh"
> signal time (that sounds so dated today!) from a satellite to cable TV.
> He was able to run a successful experiment, but the cable companies and
> Lauren never managed to get together to carry it further.
> The other proposal was Rick Adams.  He had already formed a company (to my
> knowledge, the first of what would be called ISPs) and he proposed an
> agreement to distribute netnews at a low cost if we could help him upgrade
> his computer equipment to handle the increased load.  We sought legal help
> to make sure we were not messing up our nonprofit status, and settled on
> the following:  Usenix would guarantee a loan (I recall the amount was
> roughly $250,000) that he would get from a bank, and he would distribute
> netnews at a low cost.  I was treasurer at the time, and went with Rick to
> talk to the bank.   We agreed to open a savings account at the bank and put
> $250,000 into it for the duration of the loan -- since we had a lot of
> cash, this was no problem for us.  In the event that Rick failed, we would
> pay any balance of the loan.  And we asked Rick for regular financial
> statements for the duration of the loan.
> As everyone knows now, RIck was extremely successful (he had about 5 years
> of growth at about 15% per month(!) as I recall).  After several years,
> Rick's budget was several times the size of Usenix's, and we mutually
> agreed to dissolve the agreement.  Rick paid off the loan, and the netnews
> disaster never happened.
> Looking back on this, there is not a thing I would have done differently
> (except perhaps to buy some stock in uunet!).
> Steve
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