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<   No. 15   2003-02-04   >

Comic #15

1 Me: {typing on keyboard}
2 Screen: %rn
2 Screen: ****** End of newsgroups -- what next? [npq]
2 Screen: g alt.fan.irregularwebcomic
3 Screen: %rn
3 Screen: ****** End of newsgroups -- what next? [npq]
3 Screen: g alt.fan.irregularwebcomic
3 Screen: Newsgroup alt.fan.irregularwebcomic does not exist!
4 Me: {starts crying}

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2011-11-16 Rerun commentary: Here's a gag that's severely dated. "rn" is a Unix command that runs a program called "read news", which was an early client used to access Usenet newsgroups. In the days before the World Wide Web, this was the standard way of communicating with other Internet users in interest groups - what we now do with the multitude of website forums that have largely superseded Usenet.

rn had a text-based command line interface, suitable for using on non-graphical CRT terminals (or even on the line-printer teletype terminals that preceded them). rn kept a history of what groups you were subscribed to, and what posts in those groups you had read. Upon start-up, it would display the list of subscribed groups with new posts and allow you to read through them. If you were up to date it would display the message "****** End of newsgroups -- what next? [npq]".

To look at a new group, you had to know its name, and type "g <groupname>". The creation of new groups was a process involving a formal proposal and vote. Groups were organised hierarchically under a system of top-level topical areas, such as "comp" for discussion related to computing, "sci" for science, "rec" for recreational activities, "soc" for social groups, and so on. One top-level group was "alt", for "alternative", which had much less strict rules about group creation and so tended to gather groups dedicated to smaller topics of interest to fewer people. Within the "alt" sector was "alt.fan" which contained hundreds of groups dedicated to fans of various works of fiction or non-fictional entities. To get a group in "alt.fan" meant that some people out there somewhere in the Internet liked whatever it was the group was about.

So (and I actually did this at the time), I checked to see if anyone had created the group "alt.fan.irregularwebcomic". This was of course only a month or so after I'd started the comic. The group did not exist. (Nor, to my knowledge, did it ever come into existence at any time later, either.)

Now of course, I host forums of my own and there's a lively group of readers who interact there. So, as with the vast majority of Usenet users, I don't need Usenet any more. I can stroke my own ego far more effectively than waiting for other people to do it for me.

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