Brian's Blog

I’m not sure what you will find here; general musings and maybe some technical stuff spattered here and there.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Kids Today

Back in the day I used "borrow" software like crazy. My collection at any one time was well in to the hundreds of GB and this was when 1GB hard drives were considered huge.

The other day when my VCR (yes, I said VCR) failed to record one of my TV shows, I set off to find its digital replacement. Today with all the p2p software available, I found the show I was looking for in less than a minute, had it downloaded in less than an hour, and watched it in just another hour. The turnover from search to viewing all occurred in a single night. Remarkable.

Let me shed some light on how long that would have taken just 10 years ago.

First off, there were no p2p programs. We had FTP. Anytime someone wanted to "share" something they had to find a publicly accessible FTP server and upload it for others to download. Groups of users would dedicate themselves just to the task of finding public FTP servers (pub scanners). They would scan ranges of IP addresses for open FTP ports. From that list the would try logging in and see if public write access was allowed (either purposely or accidentally). Once they had their lists compiled, they would share these lists with another group of users, the distributors.

The distributors would browse the list of ftp servers and find the one with the most bandwidth. They would then start uploading "content". Once the content was uploaded, they would post the path to the FTP server on their own forum. The distributors weren't responsible for creating the "content", that was yet another group, the release group.

The release group was responsible for creating the copy of the original content. A lot of times this meant breaking any copy protections, or "ripping" the original to reduce the size for easier download.

Finding the content to download was much more difficult. Leechers (people who only download) were considered scum. If you wanted to download, you had to participate in some way. Once your participation was noticed, you would be granted access to the forum that contained the locations of all the uploaded "content".

If you wanted something specific, you had to monitor the forums for new FTP servers with fresh content, log on to the FTP server, and manually search through the uploaded content. This could become very tedious as it could be days before what you were looking for showed up anywhere. Once it did, it would normally disappear in minutes.

The lifespan of a public FTP server with fresh "content" was very short. It didn't take long for even an incompetent system admin to notice the increased bandwidth to their server and quickly find out why, shutting the whole thing down. Finding what you wanted meant staying on top of the game 24x7. Downloading everything then trading later was the way acquire specific "content".

Today you can configure your free bit torrent client to read rss feeds and automatically download whatever you want. I swear, these kids today have it easy.


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