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BITNET, originally known as the “Because It’s There Network” and later as the “Because It’s Time Network,” was an early, wide-area, cooperative interuniversity computer system. It predated the World Wide Web but did allow for the transmission of email and access to 3,000 discussion groups (at its height). It originally focused on academic issues but later expanded to include popular interests and political topics, which were primarily explored on BITNET’s thousands of listservs. Indeed, listservs may be BITNET’s most lasting legacy. Users could also obtain files using FTP servers, and it featured an instant messaging feature, Bitnet Relay. It was designed solely for noncommercial uses. This entry examines the origins of BITNET, its global impact, and eventual decline.

The Origins of BITNET

David Alan Grier and Mary ...

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