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The History of the ETEXT Archives

The ETEXT Archives were founded in the Summer of 1992 by Paul Southworth, hosted by the User Services department of the University of Michigan's Information Technology Division. The web was just a glimmer, gopher was the new hot technology, and FTP was still the standard information retrieval protocol for the vast majority of users. The origin of the project has caused numerous people to associate it with the University of Michigan, although in fact there has never been an official relationship and the project is supported entirely by volunteer labor and contributions. The equipment is wholly owned by the project maintainers.

The project was started in response to the lack of organized archiving of political documents, periodicals and discussions disseminated via Usenet on newsgroups such as alt.activism,, and alt.society.anarchy. The alt.politics.radical-left group came later and was also a substantial source of both materials and regular contributors.

Not long thereafter, electronic 'zines (e-zines) began their rapid proliferation on the Internet, and it was clear that these materials suffered from the same lack of coordinated collection and preservation, not to mention the fact that the lines between e-zines (which at the time were mostly related to hacking, phreaking, and Internet anarchism) and political materials on the Internet were fuzzy enough that most e-zines fit the original mission of the ETEXT Archives. One thing led to another, and e-zines of all kinds -- many on various cultural topics unrelated to politics -- invaded the archives in significant volume.

Within a few months the project migrated to a dedicated server. Bill Jolitz had just released version 0.1 of 386BSD, and the ETEXT Archives obtained the use of a 386DX-40 and over 100Mb of dedicated archive storage. Over the course of the last five years, the project has grown to encompass nearly three gigabytes of mostly ASCII text. The current server hardware is a dual-Pentium system with 128Mb RAM, running Solaris 2.6.

The ETEXT Archives still operate entirely on volunteer labor and equipment. If you have time, skills, equipment or money that you wish to contribute, please contact us at the address below.

If you or someone you know may be interested in sponsoring the archive project with funds, equipment, software, connectivity, or other services, please get in touch.

E-Mail the Etext Archives