Bitnet was derived from the catch phrase “Because It’s Time NETwork” and  began as a university computer network. BITNET began in 1981 with three simple requirements for its members: 1) a data circuit from a site to an existing BITNET node or connection point, 2) modems connecting each end of the data circuit, and 3) allowance for all other institutions to connect to a site without chargeback. As a network, BITNET differed from the traditional internet because it was a point-to-point system that allowed information and files to be transmitted entirely from one server to another. From a technical perspective, this network is much more like Usenet.

BITNET reached its peak circa 1991. At this point, the network encompassed approximately 500 academic organizations with 3000 nodes. This network extended over multiple countries and continents, including the US and North America, Europe and India. More notably, BITNET network protocols– or RSCS– were used to construct IBM’s large back end internal network.

Though BITNET predated today’s internet, the network did feature email and LISTSERV software. These features allowed users to circulate electronic magazines and email newsletters to a saved list of recipients. Two of the e-newsletters that began on BITNET are still used within the academic community today.

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