Fidonet began in San Francisco in the 1980's as a mail system, used by founder Tom Jennings, to pass his new software package, FidoBBS, to beta testers. In the wee hours of the morning, the software would dial these beta testers via Modem and send Jenning's latest correspondence and code updates.
Since those early days, Fidonet has flourished and is now the second largest Electronic Mail Network in the world with over 25,000 systems connected and close to 1000 conferences available. It is the oldest BBS echo network, with lofty ideals, few rules and a loose structure.
Fidonet is broken down into 6 Zones, each with its own Zone Coordinator
Under each Zone Coordinator is a Regional Coordinator (RC), who presides over a Country or geographic region within that Zone. Some Regions also have a Regional Echomail Coordinator (REC) who presides over all echomail distribution within the Region.
Within each Region, there are Net Coordinators (NC) and Net Echomail Coordinators who preside over what is often a local calling area, otherwise known as a Net. The NC is charged with assigning node numbers to each individual node within the Net, and "reports" to the RC, and the NEC reigns over the distribution of the Net's echomail. Nodes are the individual systems within the Net.
To become a Member (node) in Fidonet, the requirements are simple:
How Do Mailers Call One Another?
A Frontend Mail System, such as Santronics Software's Platinum Xpress, is a requirement for Fidonet, or any similar FTS Network, and commonly referred to as a Mailer, which literally sits on top of a BBS program and detects incoming modem calls. If a human calls using a terminal program, the Mailer will pass the call to the BBS, transparent to the User, and a login to your system will occur. If another Mailer is calling for the purposes of sending Fidonet Mail or files, the two Mailers talk to one another (handshake), and transmit mail/files in a secured manner. There is no breach of security with Mailer to Mailer transmission as it's one system directly connecting to another.
With all the Media attention the Internet has garnered in the last few years, and thousands of super slick Web Sites at your fingertips, what earthly reason is there to join Fidonet?
Fidonet is FREE to join and you can stick around forever at no cost! Some Nets do have Cost Recovery Programs (CRP) in place for mail and file distribution. CRPs are optional and often $5..00/month or less for ALL Fidonet echos (the BACKBONE) and the thousands of files distributed (FILEBONE). No need to go searching for new file updates. There are many File Distribution Systems within Fidonet where new files are automatically sent to all systems which connect to the Filebone. You can also choose to receive mail via FTP sessions using programs like Santronics Software's iFTP Client, which includes scripts for a few of the largest Fidonet FTP Hubs, or customized your own for any FTP Hub/Server location on the Internet.
As terrific as Internet Email is, if you HAVE to get a message or file out, and it has to get their NOW, and you wish to eliminate ALL possibilities of anyone intercepting your message or file attachment, Fido Netmail is the most surefire and secure mail transmission method in existence.
There are 2 kinds of Fidonet Netmail:
Some great concerns with the Internet are security breaches and viruses. Mailers used on Fidonet provide the security you need to ensure unauthorized individuals don't break into your system or obtain mail or files for which they are not designated. They provide complete control, with your directive, over which systems can access yours, and what they can retrieve or send. Viruses are almost unheard of and always have been on Fidonet.
The conference areas on Fidonet have individuals who preside over them, called Moderators, and their "job" is to oversee echo mail discussion and topicality. If your interest is Windows 95, and you join this conference on Fidonet, rest assured, the messages will be generally polite, helpful, on-topic and spam-free. Spam, which often overtakes many of the Internet newgroups, is strictly forbidden in Fidonet echos.
You've heard the adage, "Quality versus Quantity," and few examples ring more true than the content contained within the Fidonet Network. Even newbie users are indoctrinated with the requisite "Netiquette" techniques so that their initial forays into messaging on Fidonet are positive ones. And they stick around because of the high quality content of the message areas. The knowledge base is formidable and readily available for those who ask.
Unlike the Internet, Fidonet is not a free-for-all where individuals wander around, unguided, in a vast expanse. It's a Global Community, comprised of bigger and smaller subdivisions, where members join together and regularly assist one another across the street and around the world.
Fidonet....A Neighborhood for the World!