If it sees its shadow there's six more years of MetaFilter February 18, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Would you consider bringing back the gopher server? Or starting a new one? Please?
posted by jessamyn to Feature Requests at 12:22 PM (86 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Alas, the MetaFilter institutional knowledge of how to set up and run a gopher server left with mathowie. It existed before my time and wasn't running when I came on board.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:23 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Do any Mefites run (or did-ran) gopher servers?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:29 PM on February 18, 2016


Don't you guys at least still have the giant gopher-shaped spotlight you could turn on?
posted by Wolfdog at 12:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


'Au revoir, gopher!'
posted by In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


left with mathowie.

It's not like he DIED!

But yeah totally understand, I figured it was worth an ask.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


fwiw, I also think it would be fun, but I don't know the practicalities. I gather pb is seeing some security problems that it might raise. But we've gotta have people here who have done this and know the pros and cons and how-tos, don't we?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:40 PM on February 18, 2016


I'm picturing jessamyn standing on a windswept peak of Skellig Michael, reaching out to mathowie. In disbelief, he pulls back his cowl with his skeletal robot hand. Will he teach her the secrets of the gopher server? We'll find out in Episode VIII!
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:45 PM on February 18, 2016 [45 favorites]


Hey mathowie, pb's calling you old.
posted by maryr at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I knew he never really loved us.

... but seriously I have no idea what we're even talking about.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:59 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


HA! Love all the Love Boat tags.
posted by terrapin at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "But yeah totally understand, I figured it was worth an ask.
"

On linux servers, gopher is a daemon called "gopherd", which is fun to say aloud.
posted by boo_radley at 1:07 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm going to out myself as not being as hardcore as I thought, but can someone explain gopher to me as someone who is generally internet savvy and was around when it was still being used, but I personally never used it. I've been active on the internet since the mid ninties and started out access via telnet. But I mostly stuck to newsgroups, email, wget, and occasionally the early web via lynx. But gopher was there - I just never used it, or if I did, I opened it once or twice and left. Wikipedia's entry is less than satisfying.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


What was the content on the gopher server?
posted by borsboom at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2016


Somebody very recently, like in the last few months, put their resume on a gopher server. However Google is failing me as I can't find it now.
posted by COD at 1:22 PM on February 18, 2016


adorable photos of hedgehogs i hope
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm going to out myself as not being as hardcore as I thought, but can someone explain gopher to me as someone who is generally internet savvy and was around when it was still being used, but I personally never used it

Early Internet document server. Sort of HTTPish, in that it had folders and documents in them, but no sense of hypertext links in those documents. Which made the Web that more appealing, because you could "surf" from site to site using those links.
posted by zabuni at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

However Google is failing me as I can't find it now.
Have you tried Archie?
posted by mbrubeck at 1:27 PM on February 18, 2016 [36 favorites]


So what was on the MetaFilter gopher server, anyway?
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:31 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, a long time ago (like in 1995-97) there was a music retailer that sold CDs over a gopher server, I think. I wish I could remember the name!
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Archie was FTP I think. Veronica was the Gopher search engine.
posted by COD at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


I guess what I mean is: was it a mirror of Metafilter's content? If so, did it present it as directory menu listings and plain text files, or did it just mirror the HTML as-is?
posted by borsboom at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2016


A gopher site was basically a menu tree: you came into a site at the top-level menu, pressed ↑ or ↓ and enter to select the item you wanted, and that would either lead to a page of text or a similar submenu (or sometimes a telnet session.) An elegant intarwebz for a more civilized age.
posted by XMLicious at 1:34 PM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


The config is probably still floating out there somewhere. Try something like:

kermit -is mefi.gopher.*
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:34 PM on February 18, 2016


Try something like:

kermit -is mefi.gopher.*


Surely Scooter.
posted by Mchelly at 1:37 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


This appears to be a list of working gopher servers.
posted by COD at 1:38 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes! Previously sort-of-wanted-but-not-requested-then-but-would-really-like-it-please.

#ForeverGopher

Oh, just remembered. Library anecdote. Back in the day, BUBL (BUlletin Board for Libraries) - a service similar to the Scout Report - was running on a gopher server, then it was decided to move it to the new fangled World Wide Web. But few places in UK academia then had the technical support for, or interest in, WWW things, so it was hosted on a server at the University of Bath, where UKOLN was located.

This led to possibly the best web address ever in library land.

Now back to your normal programs...
posted by Wordshore at 1:44 PM on February 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


*pours one out for wiretap.spies.com*
posted by kmz at 1:47 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


This appears to be a list of working gopher servers.

Yay. I installed OverBite for Firefox and I am off in 1993 again.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Huh. Safari on iOS 9 works for the sites in COD's link. Apple won't provide security updates for Snow Leopard but it supports gopher. Gophigure.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


was it gopher that often had .f and .m directories full of porn? hmmm. maybe not if the entire space was 15 GB.
posted by andrewcooke at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2016


Okay, that's weird. A lurking UKOLN alumni just spotted my comment and reminded that in the early to mid 1990s, we had the...

UK National Entry Point gopher, a list of links to all registered UK gopher servers

...hosted at UKOLN. It was in the Information Office, and I have a horrible memory of unpowering it one day in a confusion over where the coffee pot we (illicitly) had for a short while (paid for by lottery winnings) was plugged into the mains.

For people nostalgically into academic library networking services in the early 1990s, there's another bundle of anecdotes relating to gopher, web and related things in another posting by Lorcan.
posted by Wordshore at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heh, looking at that old MetaTalk post: "it was taking 2 or 3 Mb of RAM to run the server, so I decided to finally drop it"....

In comparison, just this tab on my browser is using 60 Mb.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2016 [26 favorites]


I'm going to out myself as not being as hardcore as I thought, but can someone explain gopher to me as someone who is generally internet savvy and was around when it was still being used, but I personally never used it.

Tim McLain - he's still around - has a fun explanatory video from 1995.

Yay. I installed OverBite for Firefox and I am off in 1993 again.

Just realised there are graduate students wandering around today who were not yet born then :)
posted by Wordshore at 2:29 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


If we can't see the gopher server, does that mean it's an early spring?
posted by Kabanos at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


People not knowing what gopher is makes me feel very old, but I realize it's also possible that it makes me younger than those asking. I guess having fond nostalgic memories of gopher just means you are a very specific age.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:06 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, a long time ago (like in 1995-97) there was a music retailer that sold CDs over a gopher server, I think. I wish I could remember the name!


Was it CDNow? I remember this existing too and that's what popped into my mind but it may just be a bad memory. The Wikipedia entry for CDNow says it was "initially launched as a Telnet service in August 1994" but it also says it became a retail website in September of that year. I can very clearly remember an ASCII logo but that's about it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:12 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hold on, I need to install Trumpet Winsock first and then I can check Sunsite... oh neat, a new Doctor Fun.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just realized there are graduate students wandering around today who were not yet born then

And yet my parents and everybody else who lives on their road STILL don't have available access to the internet.
posted by barchan at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gopher, explained.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes! CDNOW! Thank you, MCMikeNamara! Last on my list of "WTF was it called" is a tracker program for the Amiga which created executable MOD files. I think the menus were in French. Any leads there?
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ha, I can't believe I complained that the gopher server took up 2 or 3Mb of RAM, but keep in mind the first webserver for MetaFilter only had 24Mb of RAM total.
posted by mathowie (retired) at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2016 [31 favorites]


Thanks for the link to the directory, COD! I've sent in a request to include one I set up last year as an April Fool's joke.
posted by metaquarry at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2016


Yeah, I mean looking up RAM prices a 64MB DIMM was around $60 back then, which is about the price for 2x8GB (16GB) now [so the price of memory has decreased by a factor of 256].

24 or 32MB would be a pretty normal amount of RAM for a computer back then, yeah.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I found this on one of the pages of the link for all working gopher servers posted above. It is an FAQ regarding gopher servers.
posted by AugustWest at 6:52 PM on February 18, 2016


Always preferred Isaac, myself.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:29 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you could just grab the MeFi RSS feed and hack a gopher server to serve that up. Huh.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 PM on February 18, 2016


24 or 32MB would be a pretty normal amount of RAM for a computer back then, yeah.

In 2001? No way. Maybe if you are talking about like 3-4 year old computers, meaning computers made in 1997-1998.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:22 AM on February 19, 2016


Reading the basics of the language, I think the FPPs could at least be easily scraped and converted. Scraping and converting all the comments might be a little to resource intensive.
posted by charred husk at 6:10 AM on February 19, 2016


That "retired" badge looks right on jessamyn, but it's somehow off on matthowie.

I suggest "emeritus". Or "ascended."

I'm one hunnert percent in favor of this idea, but I'm unclear as to why. I know why I'm in favor, I mean. Why is Jessamyn?

On preview: Did matthowie's badge just now revert to "staff"? And so did jessamyn's! Must be a preview quirk?
posted by notyou at 7:10 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Whew, yeah, just a preview thing. Everything's back to normal.
posted by notyou at 7:11 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Preview is a thing of great mystery, a cracked portal into a world familiar but not our own.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


A cracked portal? Oh man, don't tell me someone's broke it again. Paging pb, pb to the dimensional portal in aisle nine...
posted by marienbad at 8:02 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I might ask at work if anyone has experience setting up a Gopher server.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2016


Can I piggyback on this to revive a plaintive request from 2009: MarkovFilter? The community needs this. I need this. You need this.

Seriously, nothing was better than MarkovFilter. Bring back MarkovFilter!
posted by languagehat at 8:08 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think there's a single comment in this thread that I understand.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:23 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well now you've made one.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


In other fun protocols of yore updates--in a terminal, try:

finger newyork@graph.no

...it gives you weather graphs for NY! It can do other cities as well.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Don't suppose there's any chance of adding a saddle to the pony that is this Talk request and adding the capability to Telnet into MetaFilter, please?

I'd ask for a WAIS option as well, but not pushing my luck today

Metafilter MUD is ... just a thought for now, as well
posted by Wordshore at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well now you've made one.

The best thing about recursion is the best thing about recursion.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also yes pls re gopher.metafilter.com. Would up my monthly contribution to support that.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you about the Gopher Server, but I'm actually going to tell you about my home state of Minnesota, which I am rightfully obsessed with. You see, it's called Gopher because the Gopher Protocol was originally created by Mark P. McCahill, who had studiend chemistry at the U of M before getting excited about computers. Those of you familiar with Internet history know the dude -- he invented the phrase "surfing the Internet" and cocreated POPmail.

So Gopher first started showing up at the U of M when I was a student there in the early 90s. My father was a professor, and, on and off, I would work in his lab. You would connect to it using text, but I recall there actually being a little gopher image at one point.

And of course there is. Minnesota is the Gopher State, and the mascot of the University of Minnesota is Goldy the Gopher.

But why are we the Gopher State? Therein lies a tale that, frankly, makes very little sense to me. You see, back in 1857, Minnesota attempted to amend its constitution to issue $5 million to aid in the construction of a railway. This was bitterly contested, and resulted in one of the worst political cartoons I have ever seen, which you can see here.

It's not clear at all, but what is being represented is the legislature, with bags of money around their neck, supporting a railroad track. On it is a train, being led, for some reason, by gophers, and the idea that Minnesota is full of gophers stuck.

So now you know. The protocol that sort of developed parallel to and prefigured the Internet is the direct result of the development of the railroad a hundred years earlier. I don't know if time is a flat circle, but it's definitely a gopher hole.
posted by maxsparber at 8:43 AM on February 19, 2016 [21 favorites]


Don't suppose there's any chance of adding a saddle to the pony that is this Talk request and adding the capability to Telnet into MetaFilter, please?

Technically, you can telnet in right now. Specifically, telnet to port 80 for raw access to the web server. So if you wanted to read this page as raw html in a term window, you could do

yerbox$ telnet metatalk.metafilter.com 80

And then before Apache times out the request, type in

GET /24014/ HTTP/1.1
HOST: metatalk.metafilter.com
[hit the enter key]


And it'll spit out the thread. This is, in a sense, all web browsers are doing. They're just a lot more showoffy about the details.

Now, if you mean log into MetaFilter via Telnet, the answer is TELNET SENDS PASSWORDS OVER PLAINTEXT, NEVER USE TELNET FOR ANYTHING, WHAT ARE YOU, CRAZY, etc etc
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:07 AM on February 19, 2016 [24 favorites]


Don't suppose there's any chance of adding a saddle to the pony that is this Talk request and adding the capability to SSH into MetaFilter, please?
posted by Wolfdog at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Gophers, schmophers. I'm still waiting for carrier pigeons.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:15 AM on February 19, 2016


Unfortunately the NIST-mandated cryptographically secure 1024-bit carrier pigeons are not yet widely available due to materials scarcity.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:19 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


This must be what spirits trapped between worlds feel like when they finally find peace.
posted by eamondaly at 11:21 AM on February 19, 2016


There's always PigeonRank.
posted by maryr at 11:23 AM on February 19, 2016


I'm picturing jessamyn standing on a windswept peak of Skellig Michael, reaching out to mathowie

On linux servers, gopher is a daemon called "gopherd", which is fun to say aloud.

So you're saying that high on the hill was a lonely gopherd?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:47 PM on February 19, 2016 [24 favorites]


That's...that's...you should be ashamed of yourself. and by "ashamed" I mean "extremely proud"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:20 PM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


and by "ashamed" I mean "extremely proud"

The whole of that song is basically like that, managing as it does to rhyme "goatherd" with "men in the midst of a table d'hote heard", which is some next level ridiculousness.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:56 PM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I needed that stuck in my head as I go to sleep, so thanks, thanks a lot.
posted by maryr at 9:05 PM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm picturing jessamyn standing on a windswept peak of Skellig Michael, reaching out to mathowie

On linux servers, gopher is a daemon called "gopherd", which is fun to say aloud.

So you're saying that high on the hill was a lonely gopherd?


Greatest comment on MetaFilter so far this decade.
posted by Wordshore at 1:20 AM on February 20, 2016


Can we have a Metafilter finger server too!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:46 PM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


/me remembers when he thought blogs were just a wako kind of .finger
posted by bonehead at 7:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


In other fun protocols of yore updates--in a terminal, try:
finger newyork@graph.no


I think somebody at Lifehacker reads MetaTalk. It can't be just a coincidence.
posted by klarck at 4:10 AM on February 24, 2016


Those of you familiar with Internet history know the dude -- he invented the phrase "surfing the Internet" and cocreated POPmail.

Sadly the U of MN completely screwed up this opportunity by trying to charge for patent rights for Gopher, so everyone switched to the Web (which was equally primitive at that time). The U kept McCahill working in the IT department for the following 15 years or so, rather than, say, letting him represent the university as a computer scientist who invented large parts of the Internet. He eventually got a much higher level position at Duke. That's public universities for you... coming up with amazing new stuff and then totally failing to capitalize or build on it.
posted by miyabo at 10:18 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, the U of M had other priorities, like remodeling then-president Ken Keller's house.
posted by maxsparber at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hey so it turns out the answer is yes.

Yes, we can bring back the gopher server.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Great! So what about MarkovFilter?
posted by languagehat at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2016


remodeling then-president Ken Keller's house

Super ironically, the Computer Science building was renamed Keller Hall.
posted by miyabo at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2016


You know, I used to have weekly meetings about the University's web presence in Keller Hall and it never occurred to me that it was named for Ken.

I am retroactively furious.
posted by maxsparber at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2016


Great! So what about MarkovFilter?

One thing at a time!
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


*polite English MetaFilter requesting cough*

Speaking of things from back in the day that were a thing then and could possibly make a comeback... please?
posted by Wordshore at 12:14 PM on February 24, 2016


Also, can we bring back those gifs that sparkled?
posted by maxsparber at 12:25 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, can we bring back those gifs that sparkled?

Seconding that pork barrel.
posted by Wordshore at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blink is still fully supported on Metafilter; your choice of browser is limiting your appreciation of the second greatest tag ever. On Firefox you can use this addon to restore Blink.
posted by Mitheral at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


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