Adam Engst of TidBITS spends some time talking about the retirement of the Info-Mac Network. I’ll pour a little on the ground for Info-Mac — it was one of the first internet services I ever used. Back when I was a freshman at university (1985) and started seriously using Macs for the first time, the Info-Mac mailing list was probably the first mailing list subscription I ever had. It was probably the closest thing to a worldwide Mac user group in existence at this time. About once a day, a mailing of Mac questions and answers was sent out, along with archive listings for various freeware programs (shareware didn’t exist yet. Neither did spam.)
At this time, I was mostly using lab computers around campus. These machines were networked to the campus network using “line drivers”, which were little serial dongles that tied back to an SCP (I think it stood for Secondary Communications Processor) in the lab’s wiring closet at a blazing 19200bps. Those SCPs tied into the campus network. What this meant is that you could attach to one of the campus mainframes, UM or UB, and do stuff in a VT100 emulator. You could download from the Info-Mac archive to your mainframe account using FTP. You'd then have to use Kermit in your terminal emulator to actually get it down from the mainframe to a local machine. At some point, they deployed a short-lived standard called SLFP that let you do TCP/IP over phone lines (1200 or 2400 bps) or over the faster “direct” connections in the labs. I remember using a program called Macnet SLFP to download files from Info-Mac. We were amazed at the blazing speeds of the downloads — at 19.2k, even the huge programs of the day (300-500 kb) came down in just a few minutes.
The majority of the software I used to use in those days came via Info-Mac (go sumex-aim.stanford.edu!), so it has a warm place in my heart.
“There is such a fine line between genius and stupidity.”
- David St. Hubbins, “Spinal Tap”