If you ever wondered about what it was like using the Internet before Web 2.0 and even Web 1.0, then SDF would be a good interactive resource.
SDF or The Super Dimension Fortress is a public access supercomputing center that provides Unix shell accounts for free. It is a non-profit community of software enthusiasts, educators, and users that depends on members for its operations. SDF has been around since 1987 and offers various features to its members like bulletin boards, games, web hosting, dialup Internet, software tools, and more.
To make a free Unix shell account, sign-up from the SDF registration page here.
The membership is of three levels: Users, ARPA and MetaARPA. A list of features and pricing for each of these can be found here.
After creating a free shell account, you can log in to SDF by SSH either through Putty in Windows or directly from the Linux Terminal.
On login, you would first see the uptime report of various SDF servers, followed by ASCII art of moon waxing-waning status. 🙂
To know how to navigate as a user, at the SDF command-line, type help.
This will show all the various features that are available as an SDF user.
To know what you can do using the free account, type what.
If you are familiar with the Linux command-line, you can directly try a few of them to see what happens. In this example, to know who else is currently logged in, the who command was used. The results showed 920 users currently logged in. 🙂
Otherwise, type unix to know the various commands available and feel free to try them out.
Before the graphical web browsers, the online forums were text and menu-driven. If you would like to experience using it, then SDF is ideal. Type bboard at the SDF terminal. A list of various bulletin boards would be displayed along with their IDs and description.
To access any of them, type G (GOTO) and the bulletin board name.
Once inside a bulletin board, you can use the help command to see how to navigate it.
Not all bulletin boards are very active with frequent updates. You can try replying to the posted topics, create a new one, and so on.
If you miss the old IRC days or are curious to try text-based chat rooms, then SDF has many of them. Type commode to see the listed rooms.
Again, using the help command will list the various options when inside the chat rooms.
You also get your email account as an SDF user. To access email, type mail. This will open mutt which is the available email program.
Text-based browsers like lynx are available to use from the SDF account. So you can browse websites that support them using it.
Software and games:
Depending on the user level, there will be different software tools and utilities available to you. There are many and you can list them for the user level by typing software.
You can also get a list of available software packages for the user level by typing software user.
Besides these goodies, there are also many classic games that you can play using SDF. To get a list of games, type games.
To launch a game, type the name of the game and follow the on-screen instructions on how to play them.
Validation: To authenticate your SDF account and get a lot more features, use the user validate command. This will display the procedure to validate your account and the benefits it offers.
Alternatively, you can make a contribution to do so from the SDF donations page here.
There are details about using various SDF services and features on the FAQs page here.
This is a great way to learn about various Unix commands and also experience retrocomputing that is completely text-based.
Do try it out.