Saturday, December 27, 2008

Floppy mail at IIT Kanpur

While googling for something, I came across an interesting blog entry. This captures the experience of Floppy Mail at IITK - read yourself to find out more about it.

Here is where I found it -

below are some postings on various groups about the early days of email/internet at iitk.

most of it had been compiled and posted by vartika bhandari (btech, iitk, cse 2002)
and in the later part there is a reply from Prof Dheeraj Sanghi (also a btech from iitk) where he talks about his btech days.


Subject: Floppy Mail at IITK!!!
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 22:47:10 +0530
From: Vartika Bhandari
Organization: iitk
Newsgroups: cciitk.general

Some interesting trivia about the beginnings of e-mail at IITK, gleaned
from archives of soc.culture.indian:


Xref: quagga soc.culture.indian:446 comp.dcom.lans:3550
>Path: quagga!m2xenix!percy!tektronix!!uw-beaver!!!usc!!!lll-winken!aunro!alberta!!!kudu
>From: (Gopi Kuduvalli, The Gemini)
>Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian,comp.dcom.lans
>Subject: Floppy based electronic mail
>Message-ID: <>
>Date: 10 Aug 91 05:21:50 GMT
>Reply-To: (Gopi Kuduvalli, The Gemini)
>Organization: The University of Calgary
>Lines: 64

A friend of mine (name withheld by request) recently returned from
India. He had an astonishing, if somewhat amusing story to tell about the state
of computer networking in India:

He was at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK), visiting
a friend. This friend was busy for the whole of the evening storing data
on floppies, and making a neat stack of them, while my friend waited
patiently. After seemingly infinite time, the IITK systems fellow came
out sorta sweating and all that swearing, "These guys have no other
business; Din raat mail bejte rahte hai (Keep sending mail thru day and
night)". My friend asked him what his problem was, the mail would go over
the network and he doesn't have to physically carry it, does he? To my
friend's surprise, the systems fellow replied that they do. They store the
mail on floppies and send by Courier service to National Center for
Software Development (NCST), Bombay!


Some statistics on Floppy Mail usage (again from soc.culture.indian):


DATE No. of Mails
28/1/91 17
1/2/91 5
4/2/91 8
7/2/91 10


DATE No. of Mails
28/1/91 45
4/2/91 25
6/2/91 - (the floppy goes even if there is nothing on it)
8/2/91 28


Finally...the advent of leased lines:

From: S. Ramani (
Subject: Indian Inst of Technology, Kanpur is now on a leased line to
Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian
Date: 1993-04-16 02:24:04 PST

I am posting an Email I received today. It brings good news that the
leased from IIT Kanpur to Delhi is now commissioned. So, the Email to
Kanpur ought to flow relatively more reliably. However, please do not
forget that they are reached thru two 9.6 Kbps leased lines
(Bombay-Delhi and Delhi-Kanpur). Do not expect very convenient talk
sessions and ftping of heavy files. The ERNET staff in the Indian labs
are working hard all the time, and we have to recognise the
step-by-step progress they are making in the face of very significant

------------- Email from kanpur follows ---------------------------
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 93 17:31:04 GMT
From: (Vipul Jain)
Subject: IITK is on INTERNET!!

It is a great pleasure to announce that IIT Kanpur is on Internet.
Kindly update your nameserver/hostfiles/routing tables to recognize
our router and Sparc system. iitk_janus (CISCO ROUTER) (SPARC SYSTEM)

ernet-staff at iitk



"...the vision of beauty is possible only to unfettered contemplation..." -- Bertrand Russell


A reply to the earlier posting by Prof Dheeraj Sanghi


Subject: Re: Floppy Mail at IITK!!!
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 18:24:54 +0000 (UTC)
From: (Dheeraj Sanghi)
Organization: Computer Science & Engineering, IIT Kanpur
Newsgroups: cciitk.general

The report is exaggerated a little. We did have floppy mail
in the early 90s, but it was a very smooth operation. All
the mail gets queued in one machine. One command, and it gets
copied to the floppy. Usually one floppy a day, and not an
unmanageable stack.

And students loved it. IIT Kanpur was the only institute
in the country to have email (or floppy mail, if you
please). When the leased line came into existence, the floppy
mail continued for some time, but some politics, and some
ego hassles later, the floppy mail was stopped. And with this
the email to students stopped. The 9.6 kbps leased line was
too unreliable to allow 3000 users to send unlimited emails.
So only faculty and PhD students could send email. And their
emails would be read by someone to ensure that they are not
misusing the small amount of bandwidth that we had.
The concept of privacy was unknown at that time.

What would you prefer: floppy based mail, or no email at all.

Many people even at that time felt "no email" option is better.
Having floppy-based email was tarnishing Institute's image
as a place for high technology. On the other hand, someone
like me would argue that it enhances our image in that we
have found an innovative engineering solution to achieve
faster communication. Before that a letter and its reply
would invariably take 3 weeks. Floppy based mail would get
you a reply in maximum 48 hours.

And you could FTP a file through email (there were many
email-to-FTP gateways on the Internet), and you could
get a webpage in the similar fashion (though there were
very few webites then).

And not surprisingly, most of the people who wanted to stop
floppy based email (and eventually succeeded) were those
who had email access through the leased line.

And by the way, MIT at Boston (Media Labs), has now picked
up that concept, and has a similar solution to provide email
to rural communities. In their words, there are many communities
who cannot afford permanent online Internet connection,
and an intermittent, asynchronous connection is one way to
bridge the digital divide.

And those who have done computer networks course in CSE
would remember that a truck loaded with tapes running on
a highway has more "bandwidth" than a fiber optic link.

So don't think lowly of low-tech. As an engineer, your focus
should be problem solving and not on technology.


Dr. Dheeraj Sanghi
Associate Prof., CSE Dept., and Off: 259-7077,7638 Fax: 259-0725,7586
Head, Computer Centre Off: 259-7252,7651 Fax: 259-0413
IIT Kanpur, UP 208016, India Res: (0512) 259-8627


Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson

Thanks to Chakresh for pointing me to this piece. I really liked it and hence it finds its place over here. :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reporting from IIT Delhi

Visiting IIT Delhi for a conference I am struck by the lack of infrastructure in the hostels. The wash rooms really need a wash. The walls are in dire need of a coat of paint. Seems like an institute which is hard strapped for cash. Looking at the hostels no one would be able to say that these are IIT hostels. Compared to IIT Kanpur, the IIT Delhi rooms are far worse than even the wash rooms of IIT Kanpur. IIT Delhi alum seriously should consider donating to uplift the hostels.

On the personal front, life is not really upbeat. Had never thought that recession would hit me personally and that too multiple times. But cannot really help it. Let's see how things finally turn out.

Another interesting thing - met a school mate who seemed to have taken the next step in life - marriage. That set me thinking. When I was growing up I had never thought that there was more to life than to study, get a job and get settled. Now looking at things I realize that life is a race which can be run in so many ways and everyone is doing it in his/her own style. It would really be wrong to brand one way as better than the other as each one has its own merits and demerits.

Will write as and when have more things to share. :-)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The year that has been

A post after quite some time. I had been keeping busy with a lot of stuff. The main thing was making the right choice for my future. Now I have a moment to stop and catch my breath before I start running again.

This year has been a great learning experience for me. It has taught me how to face failures, though in a manner harder than I would have liked. But it has also taught me to hold my own come what may. A great quote that I have learnt to follow during the placement season - "Praan jaaye par bakchodi naa jaaye". For people who are challenged with Hindi, it means that you may lose your life but don't lose your attitude.

Another thing that I have seen this year is people falling apart and other people coming in close. Again the change has been really fast and drastic. People I thought who were really close have grown quite far apart and people who I thought I would not be able to gel well with have come in real close.

Hopefully the posts will continue now. Rest only time can tell. :-)