I've been browsing through comp.lang.forth usenet posts and have found some fascinating gems such as this one here on minimal Forth implementations.

Makes me wonder if it's possible to browse through the CLF postings in reverse order from when the usenet group was first started...

To this end, I downloaded Forte's Agent 7 usenet newsreader for Windows, and set it up to point to Eternal September as the news server.

This works great in pulling back the 30K postings from 2010 onward.

But it's clear by going to CLF on Google Groups, that there are messages that go back much further than this. In fact, i've been able to find postings from almost 30 yaers ago --- 1988.


Is there a way to access more headers than eternal-september appears to retain? How far back could I go? Is there another source that would allow going back to 1988?



In Agent 7, I've tried from the main menu:

Action > Get Headers > Sample Recent Headers...

And I've set the field: Retrieve all messages posted more recently than the specified date: number of days to retrieve = 10,000 (i.e. after 11 Aug 1986).

Nothing before 02.May.2010 is being pulled back.

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    You'd need to find a usenet server that has retention that far back – Journeyman Geek Mar 25 '14 at 1:15
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    @AssadEbrahim Correct. Most NSPs have a binary retention time of more than 4 years, but at 4 years that's roughly 9000 Terabytes of information. Going back as far as 1988 would probably be outside the realms of feasability. – Michael Frank Mar 25 '14 at 1:23
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    @AssadEbrahim The issue there, is techincally everything on usenet is a text file. I'm not too familiar with the original use for Usenet, only it's more modern binary.* version. The idea is still similar however. – Michael Frank Mar 25 '14 at 1:48
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    unfortunately, there are likely no sources for usenet messages that old. – Frank Thomas Mar 25 '14 at 1:54
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    Have you looked at The Internet Archives? They have a historical collection of Usenet that spans more than 30 years. – Jason Aller Mar 25 '14 at 4:01

Here's what I have found on the question:

  1. Can Google Groups be used as a newsserver?
    No... It's designed as a web-interface.

  2. What's a good free text-based news server?
    Eternal September... and they retain 4 years of text data.

  3. Can we get postings from further back?
    Possible. Various low-cost pay services advertise higher retention.
    In particular, Agent Premium advertises 3300 days retention for text-based newsgroups -- that's just under 10 years, so to about 2005 -- UPDATE: Just tried this -- indeed, they have postings dating back to July 2003 -- 11 years ago. As another alternative, Derkeiler.com also holds text-based newsgroups back to 2005 (about 10 years), but does so in a web-browseable archive, which makes using a newsreader difficult.

  4. Can we get hold of anything older than 10 years?
    Yes, but it's not easy. Apparently, Google Group archives go back over 20 years, but the problem is (quote) "that it’s hard to just browse a newsgroup – everything is search oriented, not browse oriented."
    You can verify that the archives go back to at least 1990 by searching for Julian Noble in comp.lang.forth and sorting by date (note: you'll have to scroll down quite a bit...) (A bit of Google Groups history -- apparently Google Groups is the moved and renamed fate of DejaNews, a company Google acquired in 2001.)

(thanks to Journeyman G., Michael F., and Frank T. for their helpful comments)

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