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Discussion on: Bang! Old Email, Usenet and the End of the Cold War

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Thomas H Jones II

What was the slow-down exactly, just slow processing power and a lot of requests? Or were things not connected?

UUCP was specifically designed to transit emails to/from through systems that weren't connected 24/7. It was a "store and forward" technology (even early Sendmail was designed to be able to operate this way). This was a point in time where connecting was fairly expensive and where links were slow (the Internet's "backbone" in the late 80s was sub-T1 speeds). Many nodes were dial-up based, only connected for a few hours each day, and, depending on how much traffic they needed to exchange at those slow speeds, my not be able to transit it all within the period they were online. Factor in that systems also weren't super reliable - being wholly offline for day or more at a time or might have an outage during their scheduled exchange windows - and it made for a really slow system.

Participating in USENET was a similar experience. It might take weeks for a message to fully propagate.