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Is there a way to read the comp.unix Usenet discussions (and others) using the software that was used then? I'd like to read it to learn, but I can do a bit of escapism at the same time. Besides, as Usenet was so immense in popularity, probably that software wasn't bad at all. I found trn ("threaded read news program"), and, with export NNTPSERVER=Aioe.org, I get something, but not anything sensible to read. It seems, you should put newsgroups in a .newsrc file. Does anyone know how to do this if it is indeed possible?

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Emacs gnus perhaps? –  jordanm Nov 20 '12 at 1:55
    
@jordanm: Yes, do you know how to set that up to get, for example, comp.unix threads from the 90's (my favorite decade)? That would be so cool! I don't know anything about Usenet because it was never within my radar as a kid; now, I read the Wikipedia article but it was mostly architecture and politics (which, of course, is interesting, but not what I seek). –  Emanuel Berg Nov 20 '12 at 2:04
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Note that most news reader applications include a header that identifies the software being used in each article they post (User-Agent or X-Mailer). So, if you want to know what reader is popular in a particular newsgroup, just look at the headers of the messages there. In the comp.unix hierarchy, slrn and gnus are quite popular. I use a patched version of mutt with NNTP support. Note that usenet is far from being dead (despite google's sabotage) and has been going on for over 30 years (predates the web). –  Stephane Chazelas Nov 20 '12 at 10:32
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

For most Unix-based newsreaders, you need a $HOME/.newsrc file. It tracks (by article number) which articles you've already read in each newsgroup.

.newsrc is a plain text file. To start with, you can just created it with the name of each newsgroup you want to read on a line by itself, with a : appended to it.

I don't believe comp.unix still exists, but there are a number of newsgroups in the comp.unix.* hierarchy.

For example:

comp.unix.misc:
comp.unix.programmer:
comp.unix.shell:

Newsreaders (such as trn will generally have ways to get a list of all newsgroups and to subscribe and unsubscribe to newsgroups; you might not need to edit .newsrc manually (but you might as well, at least initially).

aoie.org is one free NNTP server -- but as I understand it it's fairly heavily used by spammers, and some Usenet participants ignore articles posted from there. I use eternal-september.org myself. You have to set up a free account and create a $HOME/.authinfo file; see their web page for more information.

A number of Usenet newsgroups are still quite active. (I hang out in comp.lang.c myself.) Servers other than groups.google.com don't save articles for more than a few months. Google doesn't provide an NNTP interface -- and its web interface has some serious problems.

My own preferred Usenet client program is Gnus, which runs under emacs; you'll probably like Gnus if and only if you like emacs.

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Yes, export NNTPSERVER=Aioe.org in .zshrc, then the three newsgroups you suggested in .newsrc, then M-x gnus in Emacs, that's all there is to it. (I'll try the other server later: Aioe.org seems to work at first glance, though.) –  Emanuel Berg Nov 21 '12 at 4:50
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