The Lost Worlds of Telnet

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Most people think of Telnet as “that thing I used to use to remotely access servers.” But a few hearty souls are still keeping their Telnet services online — and it’s a great way to experience some good old-fashioned time-wasting fun!

Although, as a work tool, Telnet has long been deprecated in favor of the Secure Shell (SSH), a few minutes of exploration quickly reveals that there’s still a whole forgotten subculture around the places Telnet can take you to. “Connect to other servers through Telnet to view their animated ASCII art, games, etc,” explained a directory at Mewbies, a site offering tutorials on “the installation and usage of (mainly unconventional) softwares.” Last updated in 2014, the web site includes a list titled “FUN ON THE TERMINAL” — along with some simple instructions. If you’re not already accessing Telnet from the command line of your shell account, just paste the site’s Telnet address into any terminal client.

The Origins of Telnet

At IETF.org, you can still find the original 1972 “request for comments” about the Telnet protocol. It was written by Jon Postel, an important figure in the early days of internet standard development, who was involved in the ARPANET project while still working on his Ph.D.

Read more at The New Stack