Find Old Usenet Messages

You can conduct interesting historical exploration by finding ancient Usenet messages by searching for the unique headers that were used on the older format messages. This enables you to find messages from the old Usenet before it became a popular public medium.

You can see the differences between modern Usenet messages and older Usenet messages by comparing the headers. The format of modern Usenet messages is shown below:

From: (john smith)
Path: dartagnan!athos!porthos!aramis!john
Newsgroups: news.groups
Subject: RFD:
Message-ID: <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jan 99 18:23:54 GMT
Expires: Mon, 23 Feb 99 00:00:00 -0500
Organization: Organization1 Exhibits, New York

The format of older Usenet messages is below, with the significant unique header line highlighted in bold.

From: (john smith)
Newsgroups: news.groups
Title: RFD:
Article-I.D.: aramis.578
Posted: Mon, 23 Jan 82 18:23:54 GMT
Received: Mon, 23 Jan 82 18:23:54 GMT
Expires: Mon, 23 Feb 82 00:00:00 -0500

Since the string “Article-I.D.” is unique to the older format, you should be able search the Internet for old Usenet messages by searching for that string. However, for efficiency reasons search engines don’t index characters like dash “-” and period “.”, so a more useful search query puts that phrase first and then follows it with the other terms from the older header:

“Article-I.D.:” newsgroups title posted received expires

You can also narrow the search to specific topics by adding keywords at the end, as in the examples below:

“Article-I.D.:” newsgroups title posted received expires arpanet

“Article-I.D.:” newsgroups title posted received expires philosophy

The above example searches return a sampling of historical Usenet messages that, for whatever reason, were of sufficient interest to be posted to the web, although the number of these old messages still to be found are declining in number each year. In 2004 on Google the three searches above returned only 325, 10, and 8 responses respectively. To search a larger pool of older Usenet messages than are posted on the web, you can also search a Usenet archive.