The SDF Public Access UNIX System Celebrates 20 Years!
It was on June 16th, 1987 that the SDF-1 received its first caller at 300bps. This little Apple ][e BBS of the late 80s turned into a Public Access UNIX System with the demise of "killer.dallas.tx.us" during the "Operation Sundevil" raids. Since then it has grown to become the oldest and largest continually operating PUBNIX on the planet.
Over the years SDF has been a home to 2+ million people from all over the world and has been supported by donations and membership dues. SDFers pride themselves on the fact that theirs is one of the last bastions of "the real INTERNET", out of the reach and scope of the commercialism and advertising of the DOT COM entities. It is a proponent of SMTP greylisting as opposed to content filtering and offers that as an option to its members.
While access to basic services are free to everyone, lifetime membership can be obtained for a mere onetime donation of $36. And it is the members who decide which programs and features are available. The members communicate via a web free, google inaccessible, text bulletin board ('bboard') as well as an interactive chat ('com') where users battle each other in the integrated netris matches. The interface of these programs harks back to the days when TOPS-20 CMD J-SYS ruled the ARPANET.
SDF has also become home to well known hackers such as Bill Gosper, Tom Ellard (Severed Heads), Geoff Goodfellow, Carolyn Meinel and Ezra Buchla, son of the father of the Synthesizer. From this pool of talent you might expect more than just computing, and you'd be correct. An annual music compilation is published featuring original music ranging from electronic noise to improvised piano sonatinas. Gosper's puzzles which he has cut at his favorite laser shop are frequently given away as membership perks or through fundraising raffles.
There are always classes being taught on SDF as well, where instructors and students enjoy free access to the latest teaching and programming tools. Instructors manage their own classes in such a way as not to be encumbered by their own school's outdated utilities or computer security restrictions, which can hamper the learning process.
And where else would you expect to be able to locally dialup at 1200bps from just about anywhere in the USA and Canada with a Commodore 64 and get a login prompt? SDF! As well as direct login, SDF offers PPP and PPPoE via analogue dialup (1200bps - 56kbps), ISDN and DSL. Members also have access to the SDF VPN (Virtual Private Network) and Dynamic Domain Name Service.
One of the many interesting and esoteric aspects of life on the SDF-1 is GOPHER. All users have access to their own GOPHER space and a number of them continue to find it a useful way to share text and data. And if you don't want to relive that past, SDF's 'motd.org' project offers a collaboration amongst members to share source and security tweaks for the latest wikis, web forums, photo galleries and blogs.
SDF runs NetBSD on a cluster of 12 DEC alphas with 3 BGP'ed T1s linking it to the INTERNET. It is an annual supporter of the NetBSD foundation and the Computer History Museum (CA). One of its original incarnations, an AT&T 3B2/500, is displayed annually at the Vintage Computer Festival.