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The Typo That Changed The Internet

The Origin of alt.sex

It was a warm sunny 1988 afternoon in Baldwin Park, California. I was working at Lundy Financial Systems, who made remittance processing robots. While everybody else was playing with the neat cool groovy next generation UNIX machines, I was contracted to fix the 8 year old Z-80/Assembler coded behemoth that nobody else would touch. It was a horrible job. Mind numbing does not begin to describe it. With such a job like this, there was only one thing to do: read talk.bizarre for 7 hours a day.

A fellow contractor, Ralph Freudenberger, had an account on gryphon.com, as did I, to read usenet and get email. Ralph asked me a question. Oh, if only Ralph *hadn't* asked me THAT question.

He asked me: "Richard, I know how to follow up a posting on UseNet, but how do you post one from scratch - without following one up".

I said "oh, no problem", and fired up Pnews and typed in the following article:

Newsgroup: talk.bizarre
Subject: new group
From: richard@gryphon.com
Article-Id: <7676723@gryphon.com>
Distribution: lical

I propose the newsfroup rec.fucking

--
              ``It's too dark to put the keys in my ignition''

richard@gryphon.com      gryphon!richard@elroy.jpl.nasa.gov  ..crash!gryphon!richard

I was being flip, ok, but I'd set the distribution to "Local" so it would never leave gryphon.com; nobody would see it. Well they wouldnt have if I'd spelled "Local" correctly. Spelling never was my strong suit. Still isn't.

So the article went out to the world. Talk.bizarre was not a group that would leave something like this alone. They thought the newsgroup was a good idea. A great idea. They thought perhaps rec.fucking might not get past the backbone cabal, so they changed it to rec.sex.

The requisite 2 week discussion phase ensued, and although many objections were raised and the obligatory postings stating Hmmmph... my site won't carry it occurred, it went to a vote. The vote passed. As predicted, the (poorly named) backbone cabal would not carry the group.

Brian Reid simply, quietly and quickly created alt.sex. and also created alt.rock-n-roll to complete the set. Now we had alt.sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

The rest is history. alt.sex spun off subgroups like nobody's business. They are the most widely read groups on UseNet according to the statistics. Not bad for a typo.

Postscript: I recently (summer '95) noticed there is a book, available in most bookstores called net.sex. A guide to sexual resources on the net. Where's my check?


Richard Sexton
Toronto, 1995