[ih] Fw: sf-lovers

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Wed Mar 7 22:05:25 PST 2012


    > From: Alex McKenzie <amckenzie3 at yahoo.com>

    > I received this request, but I know nothing at all about the sf-lovers
    > mailing list. If any of you can help please reply directly to
    > Christopher Leslie.

Well, I'm not an _authoritative_ source on SF-LOVERS, but I have a few useful
bits for Dr. Leslie - and with those to start with, I found a great deal more.
(I'm CC'ing the list, however, both in case this trips any memories for
someone else, and to put the results of my researches online.)


    > From: Christopher Leslie <cleslie at poly.edu>

    > I am trying to find out a little bit about the ARPANET mailing list
    > sf-lovers

SF-Lovers was apparently originally hosted on the timesharing computer at MIT
named MIT-AI (a PDP-10 running the Incompatible Timesharing System); and at
some point (possibly?) on the similar MIT-MC machine.

I say this because while looking around for online data I found a (possibly
complete?) archive of early SF-Lovers list traffic at:

  http://keithlynch.net/sfl/

starting in September, 1979. The earliest messages in the archive clearly
indicate the list was at MIT-AI at that point.

However, I also have a copy of the mailing alias database from the MIT-ML ITS
machine from sometime considerably later (I think, as it mentions Symbolics
3600 Lisp Machines - it does not have an exact date, alas), which indicates
that mail for "SF-Lovers" on that machine is to be sent to "SF-Lovers at MIT-MC".

But... The archive maintained by Mr. Lynch indicates that in November, 1981
it moved to SU-SCORE (a machine at Stanford), and then later to Rutgers.
However, as of the last message in that archive (December, 1988) it was still
at Rutgers. So I'm not sure what the "SF-Lovers at MIT-MC" was all about.
Possibly later still it moved there?

Note that the early archive is not necessarily complete; it may just contain a
few odd messages that people had saved, and were found and corralled into the
arvhive. But it might be all of them - I just don't know.

Those early machines were very short on disk space. (The MIT-AI machine had 8
50MB hard drives, for a total of 400MB - shared between roughly a hundred
users!) So, we weren't able to archive a lot of what went on - although those
os us interested in the history now sure wish we had been able to!


    > I cannot get a hard date on when sf-lovers started, and which college
    > it originated from, but in asking around I have heard that 1976 might
    > be the right date.

According to this message:

  Date: 14 JAN 1980 0451-EST
  From: DUFFEY at MIT-AI (Roger D. Duffey, II)
  Subject: Here I am, and here I remain
  To: SF-LOVERS-AI at MIT-AI, sf-lovers-dm at MIT-DMS
  To: sf-lovers-ml at MIT-ML, sf-lovers-mc at MIT-MC

  SF-LOVERS has exhibited a phenomenal growth in both the number of
  subscribers and the volume of mail handled since it began in September.

from the first archive:

  http://keithlynch.net/sfl/sflv1

it seems to have been started in September 1979 (which is also the date on
the earliest messages in that archive). Given that this is a contemporaneous
record, I'm inclined to believe it, unless some strong proof (e.g. an earlier
message) can be found.

There is also some dicussion of SF-Lovers here:

  http://memex.org/community-memory.html

and this message:

  From: Richard Brodie 
  Subject: CM> Mailing lists: SF-LOVERS.
  Date: Fri, 28 Jun 1996 23:29:32 -0700

  I started the SF-LOVERS mailing list in September 1979 by telneting from my
  Alto at Xerox my first week on the job. It started as a public list on the
  MIT-ITS systems

in this archive:

  http://memex.org/cm-archive4.html

also gives September, 1979. So I'd say that's pretty definitive.. :-)


    > Can you describe how similar sf-lovers was to what we think of a
    > mailing list today?

It was exactly like a mailing list today, except that when digesting came in,
it was done manually (as was all the subscription maintainence, etc).

The archive maintained by Mr. Lynch seems to indicate that in January 1980,
the traffic volume was so high it was changed from a direct distribution list
to a digest (see message of 14 JAN 1980).


    > I have also heard that using ARPANET came under scrutiny from Congress
    > because of sf-lovers, and for a while the message group was banned.
    > ... I cannot find any news reports, and I also contacted holders of
    > Senator Proxmire's papers to see if ARPANET was given one of his
    > infamous awards, but I am coming upq empty. Do you have any details
    > about this incident?

I can't say for sure, but perhaps this message:

  Date: Fri, 1 Apr 88 08:59:51 EST
  From: sfl at elbereth.rutgers.edu (SF-LOVERS)
  Subject: LAST ISSUE

  Well folks, as Ralph Kramden has often said: "I've got a BIIIIIIIG MOUTH!!"
  It seems that in the last year, there has been so much media attention in
  magazines like Omni, Locus, IEEE Potentials, ACM Communications, Time,
  Newsweek and others about SF-LOVERS, that it has attracted the attention of
  "The Powers that Be" in Washington.

which can be found in this archive:

  http://keithlynch.net/sfl/sflv13

is the source of this? Note the date....

I do recall these were some problems with an early non-technical mailing list
(wine lovers, I think?), but someone else will have to look into this issue -
I've used my quota of time on this!


    > There is quite a bit of information about sf-lovers when it is ported
    > over to Usenet, but I am more interested in this early part of the story.

You're quite lucky to have this much!

Not only was a lot not saved (as I explained above), but much of what was
saved has suffered 'bit rot' in the years since.

At one point, the ITS machines' file systems were online (at its.os.org), but
they don't seem to be there anymore. I started out tonight by looking high and
low on the network for them (since I was pretty sure SF-Lovers started on an
ITS machine, and I expected I'd be able to find a lot by looking on them), but
I couldn't find any remnants. It was pure luck that I stumbled over the copy
of the SF-Lovers archive at Keith Lynch's site.

Alas, a lot of the time when we look for early material, it's just not there
any more... :-(


    > If you have any information, or if you could direct me to someone who
    > might know, I would greatly appreciate it.

Hope this was useful.

If you read the complete archive, it should prove a rich mine (both for the
SF-related content, and the administrivia about how the list was run, etc,
etc).

You can also try doing web searches for the string '"SF-Lovers" "MIT-AI"' -
that's how I turned up the archives above, but there might be more I didn't
get to.

And you might want to make a copy of the archive, and make it available on
your website, just in case the copy maintained by Mr. Lynch goes away - it
seems to be the only copy around at this point.

	Noel



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