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to be encumbered by their own school's outdated utilities or computer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
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."