p2p and the campus network

ComputerWorld has reposted a campus P2P network story from WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute).

I could have my own story on campus P2P.

When I started school at Iowa State University in the fall of 1996, they had recently tapped into a nearby backbone and were sitting on a sweet T3 connection or better (this is one reason I was addicted to Quake my first couple years there!). The local network was pretty damn nice too. I could open Network Neighborhood and immediately browse a listing of hundreds of systems in the residential network. Some had files shared, many did not, some didn’t know they were sharing things like c:\.

With trial and error, I could find the systems that actually had files shared. Music, warez, porn. And later on movies. At the time, mp3s were only just taking off.

Within a couple years, a couple guys down the hall started hosting a new website on their resnet connection. StrangeSearch (appears to no longer exist at ISU) indexed all the files shared out on the network and provided a nifty, simple Google-like search box to search for whatever you wanted. So now if I wanted to browse files randomly I could do so, or I can look up specific things I wanted. I could even search for the biggest sharers so I didn’t have to trial and error on individual systems anymore.

In fact, StrangeSearch and the ISU network was the entire reason I never had to use Napster or Kazaa back in the day. I completely skipped that development because everything I actually ever wanted I could find locally at LAN speeds. Movies, obscure music, newest versions of Photoshop and other cracked games, etc.

Now, this freedom is interesting. Back in the day, I didn’t have a huge musical collection; most everything came from friends or (gag) radio. But because I could browse stuff on the network randomly, including people who had similar tastes, I was able to find new music, artists, and even movies quite easily (I had never heard of Heat, for instance, until I saw it on the network; I have since purchased it three times over and remains a favorite). In fact, I was opened to and spent money on people and things I likely would never have found before.