BITNET was a co-operative U.S. university computer network founded in 1981 by Ira Fuchs at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Greydon Freeman at Yale University.[1] The first network link was between CUNY and Yale.

The name BITNET originally meant "Because It's There Network", but it eventually came to mean "Because It's Time Network". [2]

A college or university wishing to join BITNET was required to lease a data circuit (phone line) from a site to an existing BITNET node, buy modems for each end of the data circuit, sending one to the connecting point site, and allow other institutions to connect to its site free of charge.

Technical details

Bitnet's NJE (Network Job Entry) network protocols, called RSCS, were used for the huge IBM internal network known as VNET. BITNET links originally ran at 9600 baud. The BITNET protocols were eventually ported to non-IBM mainframe operating systems, and became particularly widely implemented under VAX/VMS, in addition to DECnet.

BITNET featured email and LISTSERV software, but predated the World Wide Web, the common use of FTP, and Gopher. Gateways for the lists made them available on Usenet.[3] BITNET also supported interactive transmission of files and messages to other users. A gateway service called TRICKLE enabled users to request files from Internet FTP servers in 64 Kb UUencoded chunks. The Interchat Relay Network, popularly known as Bitnet Relay, was the network's instant messaging feature.

BITNET differed from the Internet in that it was a point-to-point "store and forward" network. That is, email messages and files were transmitted in their entirety from one server to the next until reaching their destination. From this perspective, BITNET was more like UUCPNET.

BITNET’s first electronic magazine, VM/COM, began as a University of Maine newsletter and circulated broadly in early 1984. Two email newsletters that began as Bitnet newsletters in the fall of 1987 are known to still be transmitting. They are the Electronic Air and SCUP Email News (formerly SCUP Bitnet News).

BITNET's eligibility requirements limited exchange with commercial entities, including IBM itself, which made technical assistance and bug fixes difficult. This became a particular problem when trying to communicate on heterogeneous networks with graphical workstation vendors such as Silicon Graphics.


At its zenith around 1991, BITNET extended to almost 500 organizations and 3,000 nodes, all educational institutions. It spanned North America (in Canada it was known as NetNorth), Europe (as EARN), Israel (as ISRAEARN),[4] India (VIDYANET)[5] and some Persian Gulf states (as GulfNet). BITNET was also very popular in other parts of the world, especially in South America, where about 200 nodes were implemented and heavily used in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With the rapid growth of TCP/IP systems and the Internet in the early 1990s, and the rapid abandonment of the base IBM mainframe platform for academic purposes, BITNET's popularity and use diminished quickly.


In 1984, a text-based BITNET game called MAD became the first global Multi-User Dungeon (MUD). Players connected from the United States, Europe or Israel to a single server running in France.

In 1996, CREN ended their support for BITNET. The individual nodes were free to keep their phone lines up as long as they wished, but as nodes dropped out, the network splintered into parts that were inaccessible from each other. As of 2007, BITNET has essentially ceased operation. However, a successor, BITNET II, which transmits information via the Internet using BITNET protocols, still has some users.

See also


  1. ^ "A Brief History of """. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  2. ^ Cailliau, Robert; Gillies, James (1 January 2000). How the Web Was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web. San Val, Incorporated. pp. 74, 75. ISBN 978-0-613-92163-3.
  3. ^ Hura, Gurdeep (28 March 2001). Data and Computer Communications: Networking and Internetworking. CRC Press. p. 779. ISBN 9780849309281.
  4. ^ "Humanist Archives Vol. 4 : 4.1144 Bitnet in Israel (1/69)". 1991-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
  5. ^ "As emails turn 40, scientists recall India arrival | NDTV". 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2017-03-07.

External links


.bitnet was a pseudo-domain-style suffix used in the late 1980s when identifying a hostname not connected directly to the Internet but possibly reachable through inter-network gateways. In this case, it indicated that the hostname preceding it was reachable via the BITNET network. This was one of several apparent "top-level domains" that were not actually in the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) root, but were sometimes used in addresses during the time when non-Internet networks remained in wide use.


BITNET Relay, also known as the Inter Chat Relay Network, was a chat network setup over BITNET nodes. It predated Internet Relay Chat and other online chat systems. The program that made the network possible was called "Relay" and was developed by Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1985 using the REXX programming language.This system drew its name from "relay race" which shares a comparable behavior, where messages travel hop-by-hop along the network of Relay servers until they reached their destination. Messages sent within the United States would take a few seconds to reach their destinations, but communication times varied in other countries or internationally. If one or more network links were down, BITNET would store and forward the messages when the network links recovered, minutes or even hours later.

Christmas Tree EXEC

Christmas Tree EXEC was the first widely disruptive computer worm, which paralyzed several international computer networks in December 1987.Written by a student at the Clausthal University of Technology in the REXX scripting language, it drew a crude Christmas tree as text graphics, then sent itself to each entry in the target's email contacts file. In this way it spread onto the European Academic Research Network (EARN), BITNET, and IBM's worldwide VNET. On all of these systems it caused massive disruption.

The core mechanism of the ILOVEYOU worm of 2000 was essentially the same as Christmas Tree, although it ran on PCs rather than mainframes, was spread over a different network, and was scripted using VBScript rather than REXX.

The name was actually "CHRISTMA EXEC" because the IBM VM systems originally required file names to be formatted as 8+space+8 characters. Additionally, IBM required REXX script files to have a file type of "EXEC". The name is sometimes written as "CHRISTMAS EXEC" (adding a 9th character) to make the name more readable. The user was prompted to: "...just type CHRISTMAS..."—and this in fact launched the "worm".

It displays this message when the program is run and then forwards itself to mailbox addresses contained in the user's address file.







************* A


*********** VERY


******************* HAPPY


*************** CHRISTMAS


*********************** AND MY


******************* BEST WISHES


*************************** FOR THE NEXT


****** YEAR


Communication software

Communication software is used to provide remote access to systems and exchange files and messages in text, audio and/or video formats between different computers or users. This includes terminal emulators, file transfer programs, chat and instant messaging programs, as well as similar functionality integrated within MUDs. The term is also applied to software operating a bulletin board system, but seldom to that operating a computer network or Stored Program Control exchange.

Corporation for Research and Educational Networking

The Corporation for Research and Educational Networking better known as CREN was a non-profit corporation originally composed of the higher education and research organizations participating in BITNET and CSNET. Its corporate name was adopted at the time of the merging of these two networks in 1989. CREN corporation had existed prior to that as a purely Bitnet body, and this would continue to be its dominant identity. (It discontinued CSNET services in 1991.) CREN supported the email-based services and applications that are a prominent feature of BITNET, and latterly a Public Key Infrastructure for Higher Education. In 2003, active CREN services were transitioned to other organizations and the corporation dissolved itself.


DargonZine is a periodically published ezine or online magazine. Formerly called FSFnet (Fantasy and Science Fiction on the Internet), DargonZine caters to readers of fantasy and science fiction literature and was first published in December 1984 on the co-operative university network BITNET. It releases 4-10 issues a year, and its International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is 1080-9910.

European Academic and Research Network

The European Academic and Research Network (EARN) was a computer network connecting universities and research institutions across Europe, and was connected in 1983 via transatlantic circuits and a gateway funded by IBM to BITNET, its peer in the United States.

Services available on EARN/BITNET included electronic mail, file transfer, real-time terminal messages, and access to EARN server machines which provided information retrieval services. Gateways existed from EARN to the ARPA Internet (ARPANET, MILNET, NSFNET, CSNET, X25Net), CSNET, UUCP, JANET (Great Britain's Joint Academic Network), and more than 10 other national academic and research networks. There also was limited access to VNET, IBM's internal communications network.

At the network layer EARN was based on a "store-and-forward" technology. In a "store-and-forward" network information is sent to an intermediate node where it is kept and sent as soon as possible to the next node on the path to its final destination. The intermediate node verifies the integrity of the message before forwarding it. Each time the intermediate node confirms the receipt of the data the originating node deletes it.

The EARN "store-and-forward" system was originally based on IBM's technology and used the Remote Spooling Communications Subsystem (RSCS) and NJE/NJI protocols on the IBM Virtual Machine (VM) mainframe operating systems, and JES2 (and later JES3, Job Entry Subsystem) on IBM MVS mainframe operating systems.

At the physical layer the network backbone initially comprised a set of dedicated telephone circuits connected via pairs of synchronous modems with speed varying from 1.2kbit/s to 9.6kbit/s. Each country in Europe managed its own national backbone, which was then connected via one international circuit to the European backbone.

Through most of the 1980s the entire traffic between the European backbone and the United States BITNET backbone was carried over a single 4.8kbit/s circuit and afterward, for quite some time, over a single 9.6kbit/s circuit using a pair of IBM synchronous modems. Later in the late 1980s, the backbone bandwidth was gradually augmented to accommodate for the increased traffic; but, given the very high prices for dedicated telephone circuits at the time, it became soon clear EARN could no longer afford a dedicated European backbone. Since the IBM sponsorship of international and transatlantic lines had stopped in fact each European country member of EARN, typically the organization in charge of each national academic network, was paying its own line to connect to the European backbone and was sharing the cost of the transatlantic connectivity via the EARN annual contribution.

A technology called VMNET was released in April 1989 at Princeton University, allowing NJE network links to operate over circuits using TCP/IP as the underlying protocol. VMNET was first used in Europe in December 1989. It opened the door for EARN to share the same physical circuits used by the other organizations connecting to the Internet. This link, along with the March 1990 link between CERN and NSFNET over the TAT-8 cable helped paved the way for the acceptance of Internet protocols in Europe by 1992.

After the advent of EBONE EARN canceled its private line to the USA at the end of 1991, invested the money into EBONE, and was able to use EBONE to carry its traffic around Europe and across the Atlantic, drastically reducing the network cost for its members and granting to all EARN countries access to a total of 4.5Mb (at the time a fairly large amount) redundant connectivity to the US.

This web site provides a comprehensive overview of EARN and contains a large number of original documents and pictures related to EARN

European Space Information System

The European Space Information System (ESIS) project was initiated in 1988 as a service for homogeneous access to heterogeneous databases on the network. At the time, DECNET, EARN and Bitnet were the main academic links. The project pre-dated the World Wide Web, which immensely pushed technology in 1993 to allow homogeneous access to data.

Initially, the ESIS project was to link databases of the European Space Agency together with centres of excellence that included the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg and its SIMBAD service, the European Southern Observatory and the Canadian Astronomical Data Centre (CADC), as well as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for Space Physics data The outcome of the project yielded a set of applications to browse catalogues, access images, spectra and lightcurves, as well as access to bibliographic information. The main astronomical missions that influenced ESIS at the time were the Hubble Space Telescope, EXOSAT and IUE, while Space Physics was mainly focused on the Cluster mission.

Having been a pioneer project in its days, many of the original concepts used then (such as catalogue browsing, searching in an area of the sky) were later embedded in other astronomical data services worldwide. ESIS provided the building blocks and the prototypes to what is today being implemented in the Virtual Observatory projects, such as the Astrophysical Virtual Observatory.

The greatest success of ESIS was the transfer of its Catalogue Browser to the CDS, which later became better known as the VizieR Catalogue Service.

Glenn Ricart

Glenn Ricart is a computer scientist. He started using one of the original Internet (ARPANET) nodes in 1969.


VNET is an international computer networking system deployed in the mid-1970s and still in current, but highly diminished use. It was developed inside IBM and provided the main email and file-transfer backbone for the company throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Through it, a number of protocols were developed to deliver email amongst time sharing computers over alternative transmission systems.

VNET was first deployed as a private host to host network among CP/67 and VM/370 mainframes beginning before 1975. It was based on RSCS, a virtual machine–based communications program. RSCS used synchronous data link protocols, not SNA/SDLC, to support file to file transfer among virtual machine users. The first several nodes included Scientific Centers and Poughkeepsie, New York lab sites.

RSCS-compatible communications code was subsequently developed for MVT/HASP, MVT/ASP and MVS mainframe operating systems. By September 1979, the network had grown to include 285 mainframe nodes in Europe, Asia, and North America. Unlike the Internet, VNET switched files among mainframes using a store and forward technique. Many of the early connections operated over dial-up phone lines at speeds of 1200 to 2400 bits per second. The addition of a 19.2 kbit/s trans-Atlantic satellite circuit in late 1977 was considered a major step forward.

End users typically sent files between 100 and 100,000 bytes in length. The user could expect delivery within one minute to several hours. File delivery was acknowledged on a hop by hop basis but there was no end to end delivery confirmation. However, by the late 1970s an email application was developed that provided delivery confirmation as well as message archiving. What began as a research activity among engineers and scientists became, by 1980, a valuable business asset for many organizations within IBM.

The first widely disruptive computer worm, "Christmas Tree EXEC" in December 1987, originated on BITNET and spread to this network.

Id file

Id files are plain text files containing a playful description of oneself.

Before the World Wide Web was invented, and long before social network services came into existence, people on BITNET used to send each other Id files as a way to introduce themselves. They were decorated in creative ASCII art (even if it actually was EBCDIC back then) and contained the typical personal information that a profile on a social network page would contain today.

The term Id file comes from the filetype used on the IBM mainframe operating systems which were the most common BITNET hosts at the time. Your ID file would be named after your login or nickname (as in FRED ID—the name and type were separated by a space, not a dot).

The file content often included machine-parsable data in a common IBM tagged format (colon tagname dot value, e.g. :name.Fred :location.Boston). Many users accumulated large collections of ID files for their online contacts, and interfaces to popular applications such as BITNET RELAY could access your Id files and their content during Instant Messaging (chat) sessions.

Ira Fuchs

Ira H. Fuchs (born December 1948) is an internationally known authority on innovative technology solutions for higher education and is a co-founder of BITNET, an important precursor of the Internet.

He was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2017. Since 2012 he has been President of BITNET, LLC a consulting firm specializing in online learning and other applications of technology in higher education.


The term Listserv (written by the registered trademark licensee, L-Soft International, Inc., as LISTSERV) has been used to refer to electronic mailing list software applications in general, but is more properly applied to a few early instances of such software, which allows a sender to send one email to the list, and then transparently sends it on to the addresses of the subscribers to the list.

The original Listserv software, the Bitnic Listserv (also known as BITNIC LISTSERV) (1984–1986), allowed mailing lists to be implemented on IBM VM mainframes and was developed by Ira Fuchs, Daniel Oberst, and Ricky Hernandez in 1984. This mailing list service was known as Listserv@Bitnic (also known as LISTSERV@BITNIC) and quickly became a key service on the BITNET network. It provided functionality similar to a UNIX Sendmail alias and, as with Sendmail, subscriptions were managed manually.

In 1986, Éric Thomas developed an independent application, originally named "Revised Listserv" (also known as "Revised LISTSERV"), which was the first automated mailing list management application. Prior to Revised Listserv, email lists were managed manually. To join or leave a list, people would write to the human list administrator and ask to be added or removed, a process that only got more time-consuming as discussion lists grew in popularity.By 1987, the users of the Bitnic Listserv had migrated to Thomas' version.

Listserv was freeware from 1986 through 1993 and is now a commercial product developed by L-Soft, a company founded by Listserv author Éric Thomas in 1994. A free version limited to ten lists of up to 500 subscribers each can be downloaded from the company's web site.Several other list management tools were subsequently developed, such as Lyris ListManager in 1997, Sympa in 1997, and GNU Mailman in 1998.


MAD ("Multi Access Dungeon") was a global MUD, similar to MUD1, which ran on "FREMP11", the BITNET node operated by the École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris. The MUD was developed by Bruno Chabrier and Vincent Lextrait, two students at the school, and began operating in 1984.

After slightly less than two years, BITNET administrators, concerned about the impact of the widespread adoption of the game, asked the École des Mines to stop it. MAD was then installed on several other nodes in the world, until it was completely banned, as a consequence of its success, which had resulted in the complete saturation of BITNET on several occasions.


Mail-11 was the native email transport protocol used by Digital Equipment Corporation's VMS operating system, and supported by several other DEC operating systems such as Ultrix.

It normally used the DECnet networking system as opposed to TCP/IP.

Similar to Internet SMTP based mail, Mail-11 mail had To: Cc: and Subj: headers

and date-stamped each message.

Mail-11 was one of the most widely used email systems of the 1980s, and was still in fairly wide use until as late as the mid-1990s. Messages from Mail-11 systems were frequently gatewayed out to SMTP, Usenet, and Bitnet systems, and thus are sometimes encountered browsing archives of those systems dating from when Mail-11 was in common use.

Several very large DECnet networks with Mail-11 service existed, most notably ENET, which was DEC's worldwide internal network. Another big user was HEPNET, a network for the high energy physics research community that linked many universities and research labs.

Mail-11 used two colons (::) rather than an at sign (@) to separate user and hostname,

and hostname came first.

Pseudo-top-level domain

A pseudo-top-level domain is a label or name for a computer network that is not participating in the world-wide official Domain Name System and may not even participate in the Internet, but may use a similar domain name hierarchy. Historically the best known large networks in this group were .bitnet, .csnet, .oz, and .uucp, for which many Internet mail forwarders provided connectivity. In addition, newer networks like .exit, .i2p, may be included. (Newest draft of the proposal expired on July 28, 2015 without becoming a standard.) Some domains such as .onion may later become officially recognised.Although these networks or domain names have no official status, some are generally regarded as having been unofficially grandfathered, and are unlikely ever to be allocated as top-level domains.


Remote Spooling Communications Subsystem or RSCS is a subsystem ("virtual machine" in VM terminology) of IBM's VM/370 operating system which accepts files transmitted to it from local or remote system and users and transmits them to destination local or remote users and systems. RSCS also transmits commands and messages among users and systems.

RSCS is the software that powered the world’s largest network (or network of networks) prior to the Internet and directly influenced both internet development and user acceptance of networking between independently managed organizations. RSCS was developed by Edson Hendricks and T.C. Hartmann. Both as an IBM product and as an IBM internal network, it later became known as VNET. The network interfaces continued to be called the RSCS compatible protocols and were used to interconnect with IBM systems other than VM systems (typically MVS) and non-IBM computers.

The history of this program, and its influence on IBM and the IBM user community, is described in contemporaneous accounts and interviews by Melinda Varian. Technical goals and innovations are described by Creasy and by Hendricks and Hartmann in seminal papers. Among academic users, the same software was employed by BITNET and related networks worldwide.

Network topology
and switching

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