Usenet, the Internet-based distributed bulletin board system with over 110,000 separate forums, is still alive and well — over 30 years after it was created in 1980.
What do I mean by "distributed bulletin board system?"
Think of it as a forum that is hosted on many, many, many different computers, each displaying some or all of the 110,000+ forum sections, and passing posts to the "news servers" that distribute the messages.
I’ve been reading Usenet since about 1986, and it was one of my major education tools as I learned about PC’s.
Usenet is structured in a hierarchical format, such as comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.video. The highest levels are comp (computers), rec (recreation), sci (science), news (news) and alt (alternative, which is less structured. Usenet is also used in today’s world as a mechanism for circulating and maintaining newsgroups that are more limited in nature – such as groups for specific universities, as well as official and/or unofficial support groups for microsoft product, borland, clari(net), fidonet, linux, freebsd, sfnet, stardock, staroffice and others.
How can you get started with Usenet?
It’s easy. All you need is access to a news server and a news reader program.
For a news server, not long ago, almost every ISP provided Usenet news groups. There are also third party news servers that provide much more complete archives. Giganews, which I use (Disclosure: I have a complimentary account and the link is an affiliate link.) , has a huge retention of messages — as of August, 2011, they had 3 years of binary posts and 2,971 days of text post retention. They have multiple levels of service, so that you can sign up for the service level you need.
Giganews also has a specially designed news reader called Mimo, which is a Usenet browser and search tool, as well as being designed for reading, image viewing and downloading.
Your ISP may still provide Usenet, in which case you’d need a Usenet reader. Outlook Express, the old Microsoft email program in Wndows XP and earlier versions, was also a newsreader. I would have recommended a free newsreader called Free Agent (I use paid version called Agent, which has more features and is from www.forteinc.com) but it has been apparently retired. You can probably find it via some Google searches. On the other hand, Tucows (www.tucows.com) is a good place to search for a usenet newsreader.