Fidonet is uitgevonden door de Amerikaan Tom Jennings uit San Francisco.
Midden 1984 heeft hij met John Madill uit Baltimore fidonet opgebouwd
door met modems de fidonet software te testen.
Hoe het ook kon, de naam van zijn software noemde hij fido.
Het beste is het verhaal van Tom Jennings hieronder zelf
te lezen welke hij op 8 februari 1985 op heeft gesteld.
Helaas heeft Tom Jennings midden de jaren 1990 fidonet verlaten.
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
This is a long and convoluted document; it has been
sorely needed for months now, and it finally got done.
FidoNet is growing at a tremendous rate, and newer sysops
don't have the information that us oldies (pre Sept 84
sysops) assume everyone knows; hence the history section
here. There is a lot of extremely important material covered
here that was assumed to be known by all; we are finding out
This also covers some of the dark mysterious secrets
about the magical node numbers, and how the magical node
lists appear from nowhere. Those of you that have been
FidoNet nodes since way back when, spring and summer of
1984, and watched all this develop (such as it was) in full
Technicolor, will know most of this; if you are a relatively
new sysop, much of this may come as a suprise. Everyone
should read this, experienced sysops, new sysops, and all
Fido and FidoNet users.
FidoNet is no longer just a piece of software; it
has become complex organism. There are about 160 Fidos in
FidoNet right now; this does not include Fidos being run as
Bulletin Board only systems, just ones that you can converse
with over the net. If the average number of users on each
system is 300 people, you can start to guess at the scale of
When FidoNet was first tested, there were two nodes:
myself here at Fido #1 in San Francisco, and John Madill at
Fido #2 in Baltimore. John and I did all of the testing and
development for the first pass at FidoNet. Its purpose: to
see if it could be done, merely for the fun of it, like ham
radio. It quickly became useful; instead of trying to call
each others' boards up to leave messages, or expensive voice
phone calls, Fidonet messages became more or less routine.
This was version 7 of Fido sometime in June 84 or
so; it did not have routing, file attach, retry control,
error handling, cost accounting, log files, or any of the
niceties since added. A packet was made, a call placed, the
packet transferred, that was it. This was adequate for a
month or two, when there were less than 20 nodes.
In August of 84, the number of nodes was approaching
30; the net was becoming clogged, believe it or not. FidoNet
wasn't too smart about making calls then. With 30 systems,
coordination became difficult; instead of a simple voice
phone call to the (very few!) sysops to straighten out
problems like modems not answering, wrong numbers, clock
problems, etc, it took days to get the slightest problem
repaired. There were by now six nodes in St. Louis, and Fido
#1 was making seperate phone calls for each, when obviously
one could be made. Enter the beginnings of routing.
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
The "original" FidoNet was very simple and friendly;
you told me at Fido #1 that you had a FidoNet node ready, I
put you in the list, with your phone number, and people
called up and downloaded the list; done!
Well ... at first, "everyone knew each other"; we
were in more or less constant contact. However, when the
node numbers got into the twenties, there were people
bringing up FidoNodes who none of us knew. This was good,
but it meant we were not in close contact anymore.
The Net started to deteriorate; every single week
without fail there was at least one wrong number, usually
two. To impress on you the seriousness of wrong numbers in
the node list, imagine you are a poor old lady, who every
single night is getting phone calls EVERY TWO MINUTES AT
4:00AM, no one says anything, then hangs up. This actually
happened; I would sit up and watch when there was mail that
didn't go out for a week or two, and I'd pick up the phone
after dialing, and was left in the embarrasing position of
having to explain bulletin boards to an extremely tired,
extremely annoyed person.
There were also cases where the new node really
wasn't up yet, and the number given was a home phone to be
used temporarily, but I'd forget that, and include it in the
list anyways. Or the new node wasn't really up yet, and we'd
all make calls to it and it would not answer, or worse, the
modem would answer but the software wasn't running, and we'd
get charged for the call.
This obviously could not go on. We had to have some
way to make sure that at least the phone numbers were
correct! I started a new policy; before giving out a node
number and putting it in the list, I had to receive a
FidoNet message from the new node, directly. This verified
that at least the new Fido was half way running. At the
time, Fido had a provision whereby Fido #1 could set the
node number remotely; I'd send a message back, and presto! a
new node was up.
Well, this didn't work properly either; at the same
time, the Fido software was changing so rapidly, to
accomodate all the changes (literally a version a day for a
few weeks there) that I was losing new node requests, wrong
numbers caused by illegible handwriting, all sorts of
problems. Out of laziness I would still assign nodes "word
of mouth", and got in the same trouble as before.
The people in St. Louis (Tony Clark, Ben Baker, Ken
Kaplan, Jon Wichman, Mike Mellinger) had their local Fidos
going strong, and understood what FidoNet did, how it
worked, and what it was about. They volunteered to take over
the node list, handle new node requests, and leave me with
the software. They tightened up on the FidoNet message
requirement, and in a few months, had the "error rate"
(wrong numbers, etc) down to practically zero, where it is
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
Though I did the programming, Ken Kaplan, Ben Baker,
and the crowd in St. Louis did much of the design and most
of the testing of routing, forwarding, and local nets. They
still remain the experts on the intricacies of routing, and
help sysops set up local nets.
Please keep in mind the entire process, from two
nodes to over 50, took only three months! Fifty nodes is
more than it sounds; at that level it becomes a large scale
project. FidoNet went from about 50 nodes in Sept 84 or so,
to the current 160+ in Jan/Feb of 85.
FidoNet today is a network quickly approaching the
levels of complexity of commercial networks, and has many
more capabilities than many "mini" networks, such as USENET,
which has no routing or hosts. Only ARPAnet has some of the
features of FidoNet. The southern California local network
is three levels deep, with hosts in Orange, LA, Ventura, San
Berdino and San Diego counties.
FidoNet is just too large today to run as an
informal club. The potential for error is just too high to
include numbers at random within the node list. I imagine we
are in a predicament today what the radio ameteur operators
had a number of years ago.
The requirements for new FidoNet nodes are pretty
minimal, and they appear to be arbitrary and harsh if you
aren't aware of what's going on. This is to spell them out
in detail, so everyone will understand the process.
Very simple; it is a hobby, a non-commercial network
of computer hobbiests ("hackers", in the older, original
meaning) who want to play with, and find uses for, packet
switch networking. It is not a commercial venture in any
way; FidoNet is totally supported by it's users and sysops,
and in many ways is similar to ham radio, in that other than
a few "stiff" rules, each sysop runs their system in any way
they please, for any reason they want.
THE STIFF RULES:
Actually, not as bad as it sounds; basically,
politeness as a rule:
1. New nodes, see below.
2. If your system is going to be down for a week or
more, please let Fido 51 know. They can take you
out of the list while you are gone, so other FidoNet
sysops won't be wasting phone calls.
3. If you change your phone number, or decide to stop
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
running Fido, let them know, so other FidoNet sysops
won't be wasting phone calls.
The thing to keep in mind is that FidoNet's
telephone calls to send mail are costing someone money; if
you are down just for a night or so, don't worry about it,
just make sure your modem doesn't answer.
THE NODE LIST
Obviously (if you are a FidoNet sysop that is) the
node list is a text file containing all the names, phone
numbers and other things on each node, and as distributed by
Fido 51, routing information for the many local networks. It
is a very compact list, and so there is no clue as to how
that list is made.
Here is the current process for new nodes to obtain
a node number, and get into the node list. This assumes you
want to run a public access Fido; specialized systems are
covered seperately, below.
SET UP FIDO
Of course, you should get your Fido running first;
no sense in trying to run mail if your Fido doesn't run! In
your FidoNet area, enter a message for Fido #51, and include
the following information:
1. Your boards name
2. City and state
3. Sysops name
4. Board phone number
5. Maximum baud rate; 1200 assumed otherwise
6. Hours of operation; 24 hrs assumed otherwise
7. Way to contact the sysop during the day. This is
not absolutely necessary, but it makes it easier
if there is some problem.
Most of this is pretty obvious. The sysops voice
phone number will be kept secret; it will not be given out.
It is only used if there is some problem, and a FidoNet
message can't be sent for some reason.
For Fidos that want to run with an unlisted phone
number, a few other things are needed:
8. A public FidoNet to act as mail host
9. The systems actual phone number
A host is required for an unlisted number, so that
you can receive mail. (If you don't want to receive mail,
then there is no reason for you to be part of FidoNet!) The
host system will have to have the unlisted phone number, of
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
Fido 51 needs to have the phone number also, but it
will be kept secret. This is so that they can contact you
directly if there is any problem, such as a known bug or a
question, or if your host drops out of the network, so there
is some way to contact the local nodes.
GETTING A NODE NUMBER
This is the part that seems so arbitrary if you
aren't aware of what's happening. What happens is: you send
Fido 51 the message described above. When they receive it,
they put the stuff into the node list and fido list, pick
you a node number, and mail a copy of it to you the next
This tests your system at the same time; you have to
be able to sucessfully send and receive mail in order to get
the node number. Out of it, you get a copy of the latest
NOTE: Fido 51 does not mail out copies of the lists to
everyone on a regular basis; it would mean too many phone
calls ($$$ ...). You can get the new node list Friday
evening at Fidos 10 and 51, or Fidos 1 and 2 later that
weekend or early the next week, and usually most any other
If it all works, then 1) you know your system is
working 2) Fido 51, the node list keepers, knows it's
working 3) the other 160 or so Fido sysops know that your
system was working at least as recently as the last node
list. Print out the last few weeks nodelists; compare all
the changes, not just the additions.
This is why node numbers aren't given out "word of
mouth", or at other sysops request. It has to be done
directly, as a test.
WHAT FIDO 51 REALLY DOES
Making the node list is more than just typing in the
information; they make sure that the information in the list
is accurate as possible. This frequently means voice phone
calls to double check, or calls to the new system to see
what the problem is; sometimes it is as simple as the wrong
baud rate, the time wrong on the new system, so that it is
not running FidoNet at the right time.
Ken Kaplan and Ben Baker do the node list work when
they have "spare time"; please be patient! As the number of
new nodes increases every week, response time goes up.
Currently, the node list is done once a week; new node
requests must be received in Wednesday nights mail (by
Thursday morning) so that they can work on it Thursday
night, and send it out on Friday night, so that you will
have it over the weekend. The volume of mail is such that it
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
may take a few days to get out.
(Please note that Fido 51 is an unattended node;
there is no one there to answer Y)ells unless someone
happens to walk by. The machine is located at Data Research
Associates, who kindly donated the phone line, and runs on a
DEC Rainbow 100+, donated by Digital Equipment Corp.)
Fido 51 is an extremely busy system; they receive
125 messages a week through FidoNet alone, so please be
CHANGES, MISTAKES AND UPDATES
If you ever find wrong information in the node list,
please send the information to Fido 51; they will include it
in the next list.
If you become part of a local net, ie. you have an
incoming host, notify them, and it will be included in the
node list also. Other changes might be baud rate (got a new
modem!) hours of operation, board name or sysop, etc.
SOME OTHER THINGS ...
If you have questions or problems with any part of
Fido or FidoNet, please ask. Here's where to go for
HARDWARE, SOFTWARE, PERFORMANCE OR INSTALLATION TROUBLES
Call or FidoNet to Fido #1, me, Tom Jennings.
FidoNet is best, if possible; that way, I have your "address
and phone" handy. If not, then call Fido #1 and leave a
message. If you leave it at G)oodbye, when you call back
looking for a reply, remember to check in the ANSWERS area;
Fido will NOT tell you if there is mail for you, you have to
search for it.
Fido #1 always has the latest versions of Fido for
all hardware supported, available for download. Fido #1
ALWAYS runs one revision later than the released version; it
is used to test new features or bug fixes, so that when
released they will be working. Check the FIDO download area
for the current Fido version.
I have nothing to do anymore with maintaining the
node list, nor do I hand out node numbers.
ROUTING, NODE LIST, LOCAL NET QUESTIONS AND PROBLEMS
Fido 51. Since they keep the list, they're the ones
to contact for node list problems. If you want advice on how
to set up a local net in your area, they can offer help and
FidoNet History and Operation 8 Feb 85
If you are setting up a private network, and it is
to be truly private, what you do with it is your own
business. If, however, there is any possiblility that
members of your private network may wish to communicate with
any members of the public network, you should contact Fido
51 for the allocation of a block of node numbers to be
assigned by you to the nodes in your network. This is to
avoid node number conflicts upon receipt of FidoNet mail in
the public network.
Neither I nor Ken Kaplan nor Ben Baker "run"
FidoNet; local networks such as the one in Southern
California and Massachusetts are entirely the responsibility
of the sysops in the area; the only thing we ask is that the
designated "incoming host" for that area be somewhat
reliable, for the obvious reason that it will be receiving
lots of phone calls from across the country.
As a matter of fact, you are encouraged to form
local networks, or join one that exists locally. IT makes it
cheaper for other systems to send you mail, and generally
streamlines FidoNet operation.
Other than that, local nets are totally standalone;
that is what they are for! For instance, SoCal can run their
net anyway they please; it is their hardware, their phone
lines, and their phone bills. It is their investment in
work, and they should reap the benefits. If there is a
"FidoNet policy", this is it.
AND SO ON ...
I hope FidoNet is a bit clearer now; if you have any
suggestions, or want to volunteer to help, please let us
know. Our only interest is in keeping the node list correct
and up to date; this simple list is what ties the entire net
Ken Kaplan Fido #51 314/432-4129
Tom Jennings Fido #1 415/864-1418
Ben Baker Fido #10 314/234-1462
This is Part Two in the history of FidoNet. It
turned out that the original FIDOHIST.DOC (now called
FIDOHIST.DC1, or just "Part One") was useful, and many
people read it. Unfortunately, by the time everyone read it,
it became totally obsolete. Oh well. Here is Part Two.
FIDOHIST.DOC covered the early history of FidoNet,
why it was done, how it was done, and the reasons for the
organization and obscure rituals surrounding node numbers.
If you havent read it yet, I suggest you do now, because
I'll probably refer to things that won't make any sense
The original FidoNet was organized very simply; each
FidoNet system (each node) had a number that served like a
phone number, uniquely identifying it. The NODELIST,
generated by the folks in St. Louis that had all FidoNet
nodes in it, contains information on all known FidoNet
systems. Every system in FidoNet had a current copy of the
NODELIST, which served as the directory of systems.
(In the interests of brevity I'm leaving out huge
amounts of information; I hope you have read FIODHIST.DOC by
FidoNet has been growing steadily since it started
by accident in May 84 or so. The node list continued to get
out of hand; the original FIDOHIST.DOC was written to try
and help smooth things out. It is impossible to
overemphasize the amount of work involved in keeping the
node list accurate. Basically, the guys in St. Louis were
keeping track of hundreds of FidoNet systems in Boston, Los
Angeles, London, Stockholm and Sweden, and publishing the
results weekly. There has never been such a comprehensive
and accurate list of bulletin board systems generated.
We talked for many months as to how we could
possibly find a solution to the many problems; it was at the
point where if a solution was not found in a few months (by
Aug. 85 or so) that FidoNet would collapse due to the sheer
weight of it's node list.
The newsletter, FidoNews, was, and still is, an
integral part of the process of FidoNet. FidoNews is the
only thing that unites all FidoNet sysops consistently;
please keep up to date on it, and stock it for your users if
you have the disk space. And contribute if you can!
There were many constraints on the kind of things we
could do; we had no money, so it had to be done for zero
cost. Centralization was out, so obviously localization was
in; just how to do it was a total unknown. We thought of
going back to having people in different areas handle new
node requests in their area, but that always generated
confusion as to who a person should go to, how to avoide
having someone requesting a node number from different
people simultaneously, etc etc.
The old method of routing was very different than
the current method, and much more complex; instead of Fido
automatically routing to hosts, each sysop had to specify
(via the ROUTE.BBS file) how all routing was done in the
system. The was done originally by hand, later by John
Warren's (102/31) NODELIST program.
Then of course there was the problem that no matter
what we did, it would not be done overnight. (ha ha.) It
would take many weeks at the least, possibly months, so that
whatever we did had to be compatible with the old method as
We went through probably hundreds of ideas in the
next few months, some possibly useful, some insane.
Eventually the insanity boiled down to a pretty workable
system. We chatted by FidoNet and by voice telephone.
Eventually, we settled on the two part number scheme, like
the phone company does with area codes and exchanges. It
accomodated backwards compatibility (you can keep your
present node number) and the new "area code" (net number)
could be added into an existing field that had been set to
zero. (This is why everyone was originally part of net #1).
When a fortunate set of circumstances was to bring
Ezra Shapiro and me to St. Louis to speak to the McDonnell
Douglas Recreational Computer Club on XXXX 11th, we planned
ahead for a national FidoNet sysops meeting that weekend.
Ken and Sally Kaplan were kind enough to tolerate having all
of us in their living room.
The people who showed up were (need that list) The
meeting lasted ten continuous hours; it was the most
productive meeting I (and most others) had attended. When we
were done, we had basically the whole thing layed out in
We stuck with the area code business (now known as
net and region numbers) and worked out how to break things
up into regions and nets. It was just one of those rare but
fortunate events; during the morning things went "normally",
but in the afternoon solutions fell into place one by one,
so that by late afternoon we had the entire picture laid out
in black and white. Two or three months of brainstorming
just flowed smoothly into place in one afternoon ...
What we had done was exactly what we have now,
though we changed the name of "Admin" to "Region", and added
the "alternate" node and net numbers. (We still seem to be
stuck with that terrible and inaccurate word, "manager". Any
ideas?) I previously had a buggy test hack running using
area codes, and the week after the meeting it was made to
conform to what we had talked about that Saturday.
When version 10C was done, it accomplished more or
less everything we wanted, but it sure did take a long time.
10C was probably the single largest change ever made to
Fido/FidoNet, and the most thoroughly tested version. At
10M, there are STILL bugs left from that early version, in
spite of the testing.
Once the testing got serious, and it looked like we
had a shippable version, St. Louis froze the node list, and
started slicing it into pieces, to give to the soon-to-be
net and region managers. (That word again.) This caused a
tremendous amount of trouble for would-be sysops; not only
was it difficult enough to figure out how on earth to get a
node number, once they did they were told node numbers
weren't being given out just yet. Explaining why was even
harder, since FIDOHIST.DC2 (ahem) wasn't written yet. (I
have to agree, this thing is a little bit late) It was a
typical case of those who already knew were informaed
constantly of updates, but thse in the dark had a hard time.
Things were published fairly regularly (am I remembering
"conveniently" or "accurately" on this part?)
Eventually, 10C was released, and seemed to work
fairly well, ignoring all the small scale disasters due to
bugs, etc. We couldn't just swap over to the new area code
business until very close to 100% of all Fidos were using
the new version. This was (for me) an excruciating period,
basically a "hurry up and wait" situation. There had not
been a node list release for a month or two, and for all
practical purposes it looked like FidoNet had halted ...
Finally, on June 12th, we all swapped over to the
new system; that afternoon, sysops were to set their net
number (it had been "1" for backwards compatibility), copy
in the new node list issued just for this occasion, and go.
I assumed the result was going to be perpetual chaos,
bringing about the collapse of FidoNet. Almost the exact
opposite was true; things went very smoothly (yes, there
were problems, but when you consider that FidoNet consists
of microcomputers owned by almost 300 people who had never
even talked to each other ...)
Within a month or so,just about every Fido had
swapped over to the area code, or net/node architecture.
With a few exceptions, things went very smoothly. No one was
more suprised than pessimistic I. At this time, August, I
don't think there is a single system still using the old
node number method.
This is all well and fine as far as the software
goes, but it made a mess for new sysops. For us sysops who
have been around for a while, there was no great problem, as
we saw the changes happen one by one. However, new sysops
frequently came out of the blue; armed with a diskette full
of code, they attempted to set up a FidoNet node.
Actually, I don't understand how anyone does it. The
information needed is not recorded in any place that a non
sysop could find. On top of that, most of it is now totally
wrong! If you follow the original instructions, it said
"call Fido #1 ..." if you found a real antique, or "call
Fido #51 ..." if it is more current. Of course now it tells
you to find your region manager. "Region manager???" Well, a
list of region managers was published in FidoNews, but
unless you read FidoNews, how does anyone ever find out?
I'll probably never know.
ANYWAYS ... the original reason for all the changes
was to DECENTRALIZE FidoNet. It just wasn't possible for Ken
Kaplan to keep accurate, up to date information on every
Fido in the US and Europe. The decentralization has been
more or less a total success. The number of problem
sintroduced were negligable compared to the problems solved,
and even most new problems are by this time solved.
It is interesting to note that with the hundreds of
systems there are today, the national FidoNet hour is less
crowded than it was when there were only 50 nodes.
Please, keep in mind that no one has done anything
like this before, we are all winging it, and learning
(hopefully) as we go. Please be patient with problems, none
of us is paid to do this, and it is more and more work as
time goes on. Somehow it seems to all get done ...
HOW TO GET A NODE NUMBER AND ALL THAT
20 August 1985
This is by necessity a very general idea of how it's
done, and you were warned earlier that this may be obsolete
this very minute; with that, here's the "current" process
for starting up a new FidoNet node.
You can of course skip all or part of this if you've
done this before; if you haven't, well, be prepared for a
lot of searching and asking questions.
Of course, you need to have your Fido BBS system
running first. It's probably best that you play with it for
a while, and get some experience with how it all works, and
whether you have the patience to run a BBS. It can get
exasperating, and you will never find time to use the
computer ever again.
Obtain the most recent copy of the nodelist
possible; thi may take some searching. If you get totally
lost, you can always contact Fido 125/1 or Fido 100/51;
though these are very busy systems, they both usually have
the very latest of anything, and can direct you to the right
The big problem here is to find out if oyu are in a
net or not, and if not, then who your region manager is. If
you are in a lrge city (Los Angeles, Cincinnati, etc) then
there is probably a net in your area. Look through the node
list (use the N)odebook command in Fido, or a text editor)
for the right area code or city.
If there is no net in your area, then you are part
of a region. This is a little harder, because regions are
large, and sometomes cover many states. Look at all the
regions in the node list, you should find a region that fits
Once you find this, you have to contact the net or
region manager to get your node number. Exactly how this is
done depends on who the manager is, and how sticky they are
fir details. A near universal requirement is that you send
your request via FidoNet, not by manully; this isn't done to
make you life difficult, but to ensure that your system is
really working right. IF you manage to get a FidoNet message
to the manager, its usually safe to assume that you're
system is working OK. If you get a reply in return, then you
know both directions work.
It is usually each sysops' responsibility to go get
the latest nodelist and newsletters; they are not
distributed to all systems because of the expense. (Though,
I'm trying to get them distributed to more places than they
are now, it's sometimes very difficult to get a copy of the
Again, read the FidoNew newsletter regularly; it is
about the only way to stay in contact with the rest of the
net. Programs, problems, services, bugs and interesting
announcements can always be found there. FidoNews articles
don't come out of thin air; send in anythnig you think might
be of interest. They don't have to be lifetime masterpieces,
or even well written.
Please remember the entire network is made of the
sysops; there is no central location from which good things
come, the net consists entirely of the sysops and their
contributions. If you don't do it, chances are no one else
20 Aug 85
Ken Kaplan Fido 100/51 314/432-4129
Tom Jennings Fido 125/1 415/864-1418
Ben Baker Fido 100/10 314/234-1462