Kermit (the file transfer protocol, not the frog!)

I saw a sign of the technology times today, the passing of era. Columbia University will no longer maintain the Kermit program suite. Frankly, I’m surprised that they actually were supporting it, but now that I know it’s being dropped, it’s time for a moment of reflection. I have a warm place in my heart for Kermit.

In the mid 1980’s I was working at UNC-Chapel Hill, and we deployed several hundred Convergent Technologies workstations for office automation functions. This was before the PC and Ethernet won in the marketplace, and the CTOS operating system from Convergent had a true multi-user networked environment that was easy to use and very capable. We did a lot of good work around campus with these computers, both with the native apps and by developing custom code. I wrote, for example, an “instant messaging” program with pop-up alerts that was quite popular.

A challenge, however, was getting data from other systems onto these workstations. I looked around at options, but didn’t have a good tool. Then, I found C-Kermit. It worked on most every system in the world except CTOS. I downloaded the distribution (circuitously!) and started to geek out some code. I rewrote the comm line (modem) I/O, disk I/O, screen I/O, and damned if it didn’t work!

I told the folks at Columbia, and it became an official distribution. I sent copies to folks all around the world, and was surprised at the interest! I guess that was my 15 minutes of Internet fame. Anyway, I look at the formal passing of Kermit with a twinge of sadness…that was back in the day when I wrote code instead of going to meetings 😉

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