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Tom Jennings

AKA Thomas Daniel Jennings

Born: 1955
Birthplace: Boston, MA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay [1]
Occupation: Computer Programmer, Artist, Activist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Author of FidoNet BBS protocols

Anarchist, artist, and computer expert Tom Jennings founded the FidoNet bulletin board network, "to provide minimal-cost public access to electronic mail". The first version of Fido software was written by Jennings and released in late 1983, and the system's first interstate message was sent in May 1984. Over the next decade FidoNet became invaluable in facilitating emails and file transfers between far-flung computer bulletin board systems (BBSs). Offered as shareware and functional on virtually any computer running DOS, the system's widespread availability meant that anyone with a personal computer, a modem, and a modicum of technical knowledge could establish a computer communications system. At its peak, tens of thousands of BBSs were interconnected by FidoNet. The system's popularity in the United States faded as the internet became easily available, but FidoNet protocols continue to be heavily used to exchange mail and files between thousands of systems world-wide, mostly in locations where high-speed internet access is unavailable or unreliable.

Jennings was also the founder of Shred of Dignity, a skateboarders rights group, and publisher of the seminal queercore zine Homocore from 1988-91. In 1992, with John Gilmore, Jennings founded the Little Garden, one of the earliest internet service providers (ISPs), and in the same year he was hired as the first webmaster for Wired magazine. He continues working as an artist, activist, and computer historian.

[1] Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (1993), page 136: "He's a skateboarder, a gay activist, and an anarchist who hates the idea of suppressing any kind of free expression of ideas."

Boyfriend: Josh Stehli

    High School: Lawrence High School, Falmouth, MA (1973)
    Administrator: Computer Programmer, University of Oregon (2002-03)
    Administrator: Computer Tech, University of California at Irvine (2003-)

    Public Software Foundation Computer Programmer (2002-03)
    Little Garden ISP (President (1992-96)
    Wired Webmaster (1992)
    Apple Computer Programmer (1985)
    Fido Software Founder & Programmer (1984-92)
    Phoenix Technologies Computer Programmer (1982)
    Solid State Technology Computer Programmer (1977-79)
    Bose Corporation Technician (1977)
    Ocean Research Equipment Technician (1973-77)
    Art and Technology Hackers Club
    Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
    National Rifle Association Certified Firearms Instructor
    Shred of Dignity Skaters' Union
    Andrew Fluegelman Award 1987
    Dvorak/Zoom Telecommunications Award 1992
    EFF Pioneer Award 1992
    Shareware Industry Conference Hall of Fame

    BBS: The Documentary (24-May-2005) · Himself

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