Like many of the technologies we’re using today, USENET has its origins in the work of two motivated and creative individuals who were looking for a better way to work with information in the 1970s. In this case, two students at the universities of North Carolina and Duke University started exchanging information, which they logically turned “news”, with one another over a very primitive system that eventually became today’s USENET. USENET still operates on a very reliable, but very fast, information distribution design.
In computer terms, a client/server relationship is one of the most fundamental in today’s world. Your computer is the client, in the case of the USENET. You connect to a USENET server, called a news server, to access the system. This is done using software specific to the task; the software is called a newsreader.
When you connect to a newsreader, you have the option of looking at a list of newsgroups or of simply updating the newsgroups to which you belong. There is a huge number of newsgroups available. Most often, there will be at least a few different newsgroups that will address an interest area of yours.
A posting to a newsgroup is called an article. When you post an article to a newsgroup, you upload it to the newsgroup server and that server communicates it with a network of other USENET newsgroup servers from which other participants in the newsgroups can download.
An article posted to the USENET system can propagate very quickly around the world. Each USENET server updates itself at its own interval, but the very popular USENET news servers usually update themselves at very short intervals. Most of the time, you can count on anything you post to a USENET newsgroup being propagated around the world in a matter of a few hours, at most.
USENET services can sometimes be purchased from your ISP and sometimes they can be purchased from other parties. The USENET system has really never fallen out of favor with users, and has been getting more popular in recent years. It is a text based system, but posts can have attachments.
On the USENET system, and attachment is called a binary, no matter what type of data it may be. The USENET is a very fast system today, though its origins were over telephone lines. Like the Internet, the USENET has evolved with the times.
You™ll find that the greatest difference between using the USENET system and using technologies with which you’re more familiar comes down to names. By and large, the workings of the USENET system will be very familiar to anyone who has a bit of experience with computers and enough curiosity about technology to learn a few new terms.