back to article The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software goes offline for good

One of the web’s early software download bazaars, Tucows.com, has closed. Originally named “The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software” and launched in 1993, the site came along just as the web erupted into the public imagination and as shareware became a popular tactic for software distribution and marketing. Initially …

  1. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    Farewell, tucows

    The archive was usually a part of my answer to Windows users with problems, from its origin through the days of XP.

    RIP, and thank you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Farewell, tucows

      Holy shit

      A Jake post not about Linux! Or iR35

  2. The Aussie Paradox
    Pint

    A toast

    Lets us all raise a beer in honour of Tucows.

    So many memories!

    Cheers.

  3. Blackjack Silver badge

    I am the weird one for never remembering having using it?

    Early on, from the early 1990s until I got Internet access in 1998 I got my shareware from PC mags CDs or copied it in floppies from friends.

    Later, I even remember trying to set a site in Geocities, but for some reason I never ended using tucows and if I did it was once or twice.

    1. Simon Harris

      Back before CD ROMs were a thing, in the late 1980s I remember writing off to ads in the back of PCW with a cheque to cover media and postage for 5 1/4” floppy disks of shareware.

      The first disks I had contained EGA graphics demos and various character sets - some bit-mapped of dubious quality and the Hershey vector character set.

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        I did have a few PC Mags that came with floppies but those I got used. Basically I didn't have much motivation to get a PC Mag until they started to come with CDs with stuff as the first PC i owned was a Compaq with Windows 95. Before that I played DOS games in other people computers.

  4. JeffMohler

    Wow..I hosted Tucows back in the early 90s at Phoenix.net....

    Those days will never be forgotten Scott!

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Nostalgia

    Old souvenirs from a time when the Net was intended to share information and spread knowledge, wasn't yet a mix between a pr0n bazaar, a scam provider and a living display of the lowest instincts of the human race.

    Idealism does not survive when exposed to reality.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Nostalgia

      I think you'll find there was plenty if porn then.

      Oh the suspense.

      Loading....

      Loading....

      Loading....

      Damn! A bikini shot.

      1. Captain Scarlet

        Re: Nostalgia

        Or the "free" programs which changed the dial up numbers to a premium rate number.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Nostalgia

        There were plenty of "living displays of the lowest instincts of the human race", too. Mostly text-based, but the written word can be awfully awful (or awefully awful, depending on the reader's proclivities), especially when used (in)correctly.

        I was the proverbial fly on the wall when some "well meaning" idiot brought the existence of alt.sex.stories.* being available on the Stanford Usenet feed up to the Board of Trustees. Was pretty funny, in a sad kind of way. Cooler heads prevailed[0], and the well meaning idiot was sent on her way, threatening that she'd be back with lawyers ...

        [0] Stanford's not in the business of censorship, slippery slope, etc.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      3. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Nostalgia

        "Porn before then"

        Limiting to "computer porn"...

        Like "Edith"?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtlrITxB5qg&list=PL-_93BVApb5-F-M6WhZwwuQWpvo8LqAor&index=6

        Or "Sophie" (cannot seem to find it/her right now)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Nostalgia

          No, that's not my 1401 that the dirty old men are playing with.

          I have six card decks from the early '70s labeled TITS01 through TITS06. I must remember to ask them for trades ... And for you folks who prefer other entertainment, I also have DICK01 through DICK04 from the same era. (The mix of men to women running computers at SLAC was roughly 50-50 back then, with a slight nod towards the female side, so I'm not sure why the discrepancy.)

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Nostalgia

      Sorry to disappoint you but Internet already had porn back then, heck some BBS had porn!

  6. Press any key

    So long, and thanks for all the fish

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      So long, and thanks for all the Milk... --TFTFY....

      1. Alister

        That was very Mooooving.

      2. Bill Gray

        Yup, no bull. It was udderly wonderful, or at least so I've herd.

        1. jake Silver badge

          You lot are cheesy, with a butter wouldn't melt quality about you. Do you cowordinate your replies? They seem somewhat cowculated, and I have a feeling of deja-moo.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >I have a feeling of deja-moo

            Suggest you take solace and play with your Gateway computer(*)

            (*) I understand they are available again from Walmart in their distinctive box.

            1. jake Silver badge

              If you seriously suggesting I hoof it to Walmart?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            You've got a prick quality about you.

    2. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re:

      Ahh, memories of the Fred Fish disks for all my Amiga Freeware.

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Walnut Creek CD-ROM

    Another essential resource of the time

    https://archive.org/details/walnutcreekcdrom

    In my case, it was the source for the Hobbes OS/2 collection

    1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

      +1, and before Walnut Creek there was simtel20.arpa, which I used over a 2400 baud PSN via a node at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment. In those high and far-off times, O Best Beloved, our pride and joy was a microcomputer running CP/M, with not one but two 5.25 in floppy disk drives!!1! This was necessary, because the OS itself was housed on the first, leaving the second for data transfer via TFN (Tossed Floppy Network). Many of the utilities grabbed from simtel20 improved our productivity enormously. I particularly recall one which was just called 'do'. It had sub-commands which achieved many of the things that sort, cut, join, and uniq do in GNU. Good times, looking back.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

        The simtel FTP archive was hosted at White Sands, originally on simtel20.arpa and later wsmr-simtel20.army.mil ... there were what we now call mirrors, if you knew where to look.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

      Also early FreeBSD, Slackware[0], the simtel collection, Project Gutenberg, X11R5 (and later R6), perl, the complete monstrosity known as ADA ... later, that new-fangled Apache & accessories for people fiddling about with the WorldWideWait thingie ... All available either on very inexpensive CDROM or a download via FTP to your shell account, then to your home computer over dial-up (quite spendy back when even local telephone calls cost money per minute ... was usually far cheaper to have the CD mailed to you, unless you lived near Walnut Creek. Or had a Fry's Electronics nearby, they carried most titles.).

      [0] When Slackware 1.0 first came out, Volkerding was quite surprised to see his FTP server crash under the load. And then crash again. And again ... Walnutcreek CDROM volunteered server space and bandwidth on ftp.cdrom.com ... The rest, as they say, is history.

      1. eswan

        Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

        Still have somewhere my Walnut Creek CD-ROMs of FreeBSD and Slackware (Now with ELF binaries!)

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

        Ahhhh, Slut^H^Hackware... Memories. :-)

        First experience of Linux. It sucked so bad for a newbie, but at least I got the hang of building from tarballs quickly. :-)

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

      Oh...the memories :-)

      ...and the thrill of being able to install Linux from CDROM instead of having to FTP 11 (13?) 3.5" floppies from simtel20/tsx-11/wuarchive/decwrl...

      I still have a collection of those Walnut Creek CDs somewhere...

    4. anothercynic Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Walnut Creek CD-ROM

      Ahhh, Walnut Creek! The memories... le sigh.

      *gets out hanky* *dries rheumy eyes* ;-)

  8. quartzz

    maybe slightly relevent, not myself, but s.w.i.m. might have had the *cough* only illegal thing he ever downloaded to his PC, in the form of the t3rr0r1sts h4ndbook, in about '94, from tucows? or somewhere else. s.w.i.m. can't really remember

  9. Jamesit

    Is TUDOGS still around?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Yes. In Elk Pointe, South Dakota. A couple miles uprivers[0] from Sioux City, Iowa.

      [0] No, that's not a typo.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    A Blast From the Past

    Truthfully, I had forgotten about the download site as I have not used it for at least 6 or 7 years now. RIP, old friend.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A Blast From the Past

      I used to love that site. It was my first port of call for most things I wanted or needed. But eventually they started placing highly intrusive, flashing ads instead of the more usual plain ones. It was annoying enough that I installed an ad blocker. Then the download buttons stopped working because they pointed all the download links via the ad-server. So I stopped using TuCows. I had no idea it was still running. But then I also switched to FreeBSD quite some years ago too so had no real reason to even look for it.

      Still, sad to hear of it's demise.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: A Blast From the Past

        "Then the download buttons stopped working because they pointed all the download links via the ad-server."

        You could still get 'em with FTP. No browser required. In fact, I can't remember browsing their system with a browser after the first time I went there ...

  11. anothercynic Silver badge
    Angel

    Buh-bye TUCOWS!

    You were a great resource all the way into the new millennium.

    Great run, sweet dreams. Thanks for all the fish.

  12. rcxb Silver badge

    One of those programs cast a long shadow

    Back in the mid 90s I would often browse "MS-DOS" program download sites, including Tucows. Most often I was interested in trying out the various command-line compression utilities. Back then, getting a useful amount of data to fit on a floppy disk was a challenge, so some alternative compression utility that squeezed a few more percent out was very welcome. I distinctly remember needing a pack of about 20 floppy disks to install Quake, for instance.

    There was of course a selection of compression formats, ARJ, CAB, RAR, and more, but overwhelmingly they were 3rd party implementations of PKWare's ZIP format, often claiming better compression than pkzip. Among these ZIP-compatible challengers, I found one program going by the moniker of 7 zip, written by some Russian guy.

    While it didn't actually compress noticeably better on any of my test files, it still stood-out for coming with a detailed technical write-up of what algorithms the author used, and what types of data it compressed better than other utilities.

    In the late nineties I was surprised to hear people talking about that obscure little 7 zip program, and looked it up again to find it had become a Windows GUI application with multiple format support. Later, Igor's own LZMA compression format got a lot of buzz and proliferated. Today, LZMA is the compression format used behind the scenes in just about every software installer/package.

    1. quartzz

      Re: One of those programs cast a long shadow

      I do know that in about 94 I attempted a backup of some files using MS backup to floppy. they spanned about 14 disks. one of the disk reads failed and I lost the entire lot.

      I did learn things from that

      a friend also did a hard drive backup in about 2010. he had two identical model and capacity disks, and he picked the wrong one to write to, and lost everything on that disk. X-s. I learnt things from that too - having different manufracturer hard disks can help you choose the right one

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: One of those programs cast a long shadow

      In the mid-90s you probably would have been using Phil Katz's rather imaginatively named PKzip ... 7 Zip and its 7z compression format weren't released until 1999.

      Is the other person who actually paid the registration fee for PKZip also here on ElReg? Do you still have the printed manual to prove it?

      1. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: One of those programs cast a long shadow

        Seems you skimmed my post too quickly. pkzip was mentioned twice.

        Your skepticsm motivated me to dive into my archives. Not only did I find some of Igor's old programs, but the FTP site referenced in the README is still up and running!

        ftp://ftp.elf.stuba.sk/pub/pc/pack/

        His 777 archiver is: ftp://ftp.elf.stuba.sk/pub/pc/pack/777004b1.zip

        His BIX archiver is: ftp://ftp.elf.stuba.sk/pub/pc/pack/bix100b7.zip

        His UFA archiver is: ftp://ftp.elf.stuba.sk/pub/pc/pack/ufa004b1.zip

        If you look at readme.txt in any of those, in the "OTHER PRODUCTS" section you'll find mentions of 7-zip as a "Console 32 bit" archiver.

        Looks like he started these all around 1997, a couple years before he reused the 7-zip name for the graphical Windows 7-zip program he wrote. The timestamp in the zip files are circa 2000, which is after the GUI version of 7zip existed, but (fortunately for me) the old README.txt in them just wasn't updated as new versions of the archivers were released.

        Unfortunately I don't see anything that looks like the original command-line 7zip archiver in my brief perusal of that FTP site. Perhaps removed to prevent name confusion.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: One of those programs cast a long shadow

          All three of those files are dated 1/27/00

          Here's an interesting link:

          https://www.7-zip.org/history.txt

          Note the very first entry, at the bottom of the page.

          Then read the (always suspect) Wiki entries for 7Zip and 7z compression.

          From what I can see, you did not run across 7Zip or 7z compression in "the mid 90s" as you stated, because neither was released until 1999.

          1. rcxb Silver badge

            Re: One of those programs cast a long shadow

            You're a dense one, aren't you?

            Looking INSIDE 777004b1.zip, the timestamp on 777.exe is March 1998.

            The most recent date in the History.txt (changelog) file? Again, "1-Mar-1998"

            you did not run across 7Zip or 7z compression in "the mid 90s" as you stated

            Once again, you simply didn't bother to comprehend my original comment. The 7zip program circa 1997 was not the GUI one that now exists. I direct you back to my original comment where I explained everything.

  13. Kev99

    "Maintenance challenge"? Is that a polite way of saying the coders have absolutely no idea how to code from the command line and can only do it from the fancy-dancy web gui?

    1. jake Silver badge

      No. It means they think it was old and dreary and didn't match their new, exciting look ... but there was no money in the kitty to update it.

      Why companies don't just archive this stuff, offer it "as is, where is, no warranty, no support" and call it a museum, never to be changed again, is beyond me. It's not like they are going to go broke allowing two or three people per month to download the 1994 edition of WS-FTP and the like.

      It's just as daft as the companies who remove old hardware drivers. Why? Some of us like to use the old shit as a teaching tool for the youngsters. (And before some uneducated idiot says it, I still use things I learned on Mainframes in the 1960s every time I go in to troubleshoot a modern data center.) And some goes into museums. Is it really that much of a bandwidth drain to offer 100K byte files?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        So you don't have to keep it patched against the latest vulnerabilities so someone doesn't turn it into a cheese-pizza repository or insert crypto miners into the downloads.

        And occasionally reinstall everything when the OS you are using runs out of security updates or the HW is no longer supported.

        Then pay somebody to deal with the 1000s of DMCA orders when somebody claims that the name of a 30year old DOS utility sounds like their new song/movie/tik-tok video

        1. jake Silver badge

          "So you don't have to keep it patched against the latest vulnerabilities so someone doesn't turn it into a cheese-pizza repository or insert crypto miners into the downloads."

          Make the archive read-only. I've already suggested "as is, where is, no warranty, no support" and call it a museum, never to be changed again.

          "And occasionally reinstall everything when the OS you are using runs out of security updates or the HW is no longer supported."

          BSD is likely to still be operational long after my Grand Daughter's Grandkids are pushing up daisys, so that's hardly an issue, now is it?

          "Then pay somebody to deal with the 1000s of DMCA orders when somebody claims that the name of a 30year old DOS utility sounds like their new song/movie/tik-tok video"

          Auto-reply something like "It's been on my server for over thirty years with no complaints. Talk to my lawyer at ::phone number:: Have a nice day." Dollars to doughnuts said land-shark will get no takers. And if he does, he'll have a good laugh to share with me.

          That's pretty much how I handle some 40ish year old firmware images I have made available on a server for anyone who needs it to restore certain old kit. No complaints as of yet, but the lawyer did get one call from somebody claiming to own a bit of it. He said "fine, send proof to my (his) office, and if we deem it valid, we'll remove it." That was several years ago, we haven't heard back.

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