A Brief History of File Distribution in FidoNet
No doubt you are familiar with Fidonet's life-blood, the message echo which allows you to converse with people from all over the world.  Along with the echomail bundles you pick up daily, most likely you have the opportunity to also pick up  'file echos'.   This 'cousin' of echomail makes shareware and freeware files from all over the world available daily through the IFDC FileGate Project .
This page  provides a history of file distribution for the curious, that is, the sysop who wants to make these files available on his BBS for end users.
  •  A Brief History of File Distribution
  • Back

    Copyright 2003 by Janis Kracht All rights reserved.

    In the beginning ....
    (disclaimer: or far back as I can remember, corrections welcome )

    By Janis Kracht,  from an article published in FidoNews.

    In the late 80's-early 90's, Barry Geller wrote a neat tool to allow file archives to be distributed in much the same way as message echos, i.e., to go from one system to another.   His original TICK program took care of the receiving and forwarding of new files, while a companion program that Barry included in the TICK archive named HATCH,  allowed bbs sysops to release new files into the file stream. Thus the fidonet "FILEBONE" was born.

    In Barry's word's:

    " Tick is a program which does for files what echo mail does for messages. It was largely inspired by the program "Flea", by Ron Bemis."

    Before Barry developed TICK,  file distribution was pretty much limited to file requests, or limited distribution to specific sites.  Someone would collect files of interest to a specific audience and have some people pick up new files, etc. Using this exciting new toy, TICK, a number of people began send out files they'd collected, or wrote themselves in  file distribution networks (FDNs). One-Stop-Shopping became the phrase of the day as coordinators were linked into FidoNet Star systems either directly, or through HUBs.

    Some of the pioneers of the day and their FDNs included: Larry Mundy's Win*Net,  Eric Van Riper's PDN (Programmers Distribution Network),  Peter Stern's DVNet,  Al Davenport's DDS (Al lived about 15 minutes from the Mid Hudson NY city where I lived),  Lee Laird's Ham fdn,  Ray Kaliss' SDN, Tom Hendricks' SDS,  Kevin's ANSI Club FDN, and Jerry Seward's  Util*Net - apologies to any I've forgotten to include here .  The Fidonet Stars then included George Peace,  John Souvestre and Dave James.   When George Peace wrote a neat utility named RAID that worked with TICK to announce files, I'd bet that just about everything seemed perfect.

    I was a new sysop in 1990, and had recently joined the network at my son's insistence.  I'd had a programmer's bbs running for about a year before joining FidoNet, and I found the idea of organized file distribution intersesting.   Erik  Van Riper and I started working together sharing some ideas and files and at the time, he tried to convince me to be come a file distribution site myself, carrying a large load of files on to other systems.  While I didn't take him up on that idea, when Erik decided to retire from coordinating the PDN, I agreed to take on that job in  April of 1992.

    In the heyday of file echos, coordinators sought files everywhere they could, released them, new fdns were born to seek out yet more types of files, and out went the files to the masses in Fidonet...

    Eventually this incredible growth began to put strains on our pockets, our drives, and most importantly, our file tossing software.   Tick was unable to handle the huge numbers of links and file echo tags and so work was begun on software like FileManager, AllFix, and OS/2 native software.

    Along the time of modem/node number frenzy of the mid-90's when fidonet saw an incredible amount of growth, file distribution had become an expensive hobby, forcing a good number of folks to shrink their FDNs or reconsider the release of the latest titles.

    To remedy this, a group of FDN Coordinators and interested overseas people approached U.S.Robotics Corporation's Adam Strack, who at the time was the manager of the Online Communications department.     I'd worked with Adam beforehand, helping him a bit to get a FidoNet compatible mailer running for the Corporate BBS that USRobotics hoped would provide support and sales in the FidoNet Community.   The IFDC FileGate Project (service mark) was born when Adam agreed to use the Online Communications Dept.'s phone lines, modems,  and systems to move our FDN files to sites located on 6 of the 7 major continents.

    Ray Kaliss convinced Adam to talk to me,  and Adam and I hit it off right from the start.. I'd be the one helping him to manage all the routings, and software configs, often giving him day by day updates of new FDNs, new file echos, and new contacts across the world.  We set up his PCBoard Software  to dial one site on each continent, where USRobotics would deliver an excess of 40 megabytes of shareware and freeware files each day.

    For the next 6 or 7 years, the FileGate FDNs placed a U.S.Robotics banner on archives as they were hatched as a thank you to U.S.Robotics.   The FileGate Project continues now with it's own archive comment which indicates where one can find out more about the project.   File distribution is  now helped immensely since we're using the internet.
    =Finding Out What's Available=
    File echo distribution is documented in the Filegate.zxx file.  Filegate.zxx is the FileGate's list of currently active FDNs on the IFDC FileGate, with details about contacting the coordinators of each FDN, how the FDN connects to the main Filegate system, and a list of Filegate Supersites/HUBs worldwide.
    Any file echo originating on the filegate is delivered to the FileGate HUBs listed in FileGate.zxx.   I edit the Filegate.zxx file and release a new one  each Sunday evening.   The FileGate.zxx file uses the same notation, first published by Kevfun (Kevin Snively) of the ANSI Club FDN.   Kevin was the creator of the first Filebone.na file, and was the first one to think of putting together such a list of file echos.  The format of the old Filebone.na file and the FileGate.zxx file are essentially the same one originally published then, and uses the notation from George Peace's RAID program.
    = What if I want to Start an FDN =
    If you have thought of an FDN collection that will not duplicate the services of an existing FDN,  the FileGate would be happy to distribute your files. Take a look at the FileGate.zxx file to see if there is already an FDN distributing the types of files you are interested in hatching.   Then,  if you would like to get this new FDN going, contact me at jmklou@gmail.com and I'll be happy to help you out :)
    = The FileGate Archive =
    The FileGate Archive is located on my system in NY,  at filegate.net.
    Other mirrors include ftp.bayhaus.dtdns.net.   We're always looking for new sites who would like to mirror the main archive at filegate.net, so if you are willing to open your system up to anonymous ftp users, let me know :)