[TUHS] UUCP History [was Re: Help request: uucp, mail on 4.2BSD]

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Wed Mar 8 13:26:18 AEST 2017

On Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 5:04 PM, Dave Horsfall <dave at horsfall.org> wrote:

> On Tue, 7 Mar 2017, Dan Cross wrote:
> > One or more microcomputer BBS (Bulletin Board System) platforms had UUCP
> > support to bridge their store-and-forward messaging networks to USENET
> > and send email, etc. The implementation I remember off the top of my
> > head was Waffle, written by Tom Dell. [...]
> Was this the UUCP that was available for CP/M?  I found it on the old
> Walnut Creek CD, moved it over to my CP/M box via SneakerNet (I ran CP/M
> for years, carefully avoiding DOS/WinDoze) and it worked; it was overlaid
> to hell and back hence really slow, but it worked.

Maybe? Though I tend to doubt it. It looks like Waffle originally ran on
the Apple II, but was fairly quickly ported to DOS and then Unix/Xenix. I
believe it was written in C, but the source code is not generally
available. More information on it is here:

As I mentioned before, the BBS thing was kind of interesting. What strikes
me, however, is how closely the timing lines up with developments in the
Unix world. As Jacob mentions earlier, UUCP was "published" in February
1978 and an improved version distributed with 7th Edition in October of
that year. The first BBS was announced via an article in the November 1978
edition of Byte magazine (available online, with some information here:

For those that don't know, the whole idea behind a BBS was that a person
with a computer (usually a microcomputer), a modem, and a POTS phone line
(usually into the person's house) would run software on the machine that
answered the phone when called (assumed the remote caller was using a
modem, of course) and presented the remote user with an interface for
interacting with the local machine: most often, this was menu based. Most
often, the BBS only had one phone line and the functionality was limited:
sending and receiving simple messages, uploading and downloading files
using protocols like x- y- and zmodem (or kermit!) and maybe playing
specially written games. However, some BBSs became quite sophisticated
supporting multiple lines, interactive chat, multiplayer games and so
forth. Early software was mostly homebrew (the Byte article talks about
software *and* hardware), but eventually packaged systems emerged. There
was even a commercial marketplace for BBS software.

Around 1984, they developed a messaging "network" called Fidonet for
routing email and sending files around; the goal was to minimize
long-distance telephone charges by relaying things through nodes in the
network that were geographically "close" to the next calling region and
transmitting things in batch. Think USENET (which predated it by several
years) but much smaller in scope.

The Internet killed it for the most part, of course, but these things
developed quite the following; some are even still running, though most are
now accessible via telnet/ssh. Somewhat confusingly, some of the operators
seem to think they are some kind of alternative to the "Internet" instead
of just another application of the net. It's sort of an odd viewpoint, but
I think it comes from not being altogether all that savvy: it was mostly a
hobbyist thing. But in the BBS heyday, there was something like 100,000 of
them in North America alone.

Sorry for the wall of text, but I think the parity between the rise of BBSs
and UUCP/USENET is interesting.

        - Dan C.
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