Jefferson History

Jefferson Systems is a distributed network created in late 1996 by a small group of students at The College of William and Mary. It originally existed as a project to allow several people to access the internet over a single 9600 baud digital modem (using the SLiRP software). The original domain name was "jefferson.ml.org," and a few web pages were actually served over the modem, although it was *very* slow.

The Linux-based automated door opener

Just when the meager SLiRP network was becoming unbearable, the college's high speed internet service rolled out. Almost overnight, the Jefferson project became a full-fledged network running on servers located in people's dorm rooms. We developed custom software for sharing services and user accounts across a cluster of machines, as well as some other more interesting projects. We also hosted web pages for various student organizations.

Our servers used the now famous Unix-based operating system called "Linux". We quickly became big fans of Linux, since it's free and you can do a lot of interesting things with it. For example, we used a Linux server to control a custom electronic door lock for the dorm room.

We chose the name "jefferson.ml.org" because we were living in Jefferson Hall. The "ml" came from a group called "Monolith" who were providing free domain names, since at the time domain names were very expensive. For awhile we hosted secondary DNS service for Monolith. Eventually domain name prices fell (every company in the world was trying to set up a web page by that time), and Monolith disbanded. As a replacement, we registered a new name "jeffsys.net".

The last Jefferson administrator graduated in spring of 1999, and by then we had begun moving our servers off of campus to various networks hosted by generous patrons. We also picked up a couple new administrators.

At this point we were faced with the unusual problem of coordinating a network of computers spread across thousands of miles, maintained by people living in different cities. If a machine crashed, it often took weeks for someone to get there to fix it, so the system needed to be very robust. This problem is rather unique, and we've had to use a lot of home-spun software tools. For example, no standard solution exists for efficiently mirroring files across a long distance. (The CODA and InterMezzo projects are working on this, but they won't be ready for a long time.)

Today, Jefferson's primary role is as an ISP that provides e-mail and web hosting for various groups, and as a point of collaboration for old friends who now live very far away from each other.


Server Names

Here's a listing of servers that were part of Jefferson Systems at one time or another:

  • emmet.jeffsys.net - the original 386/40 server, now a Pentium 166
  • fupa.jeffsys.net - emmet's second interface at one time
  • bigchief.jeffsys.net - Pete's computer
  • typhoon.jeffsys.net - Brian's computer
  • clarinet.jeffsys.net - Alex's computer
  • horn.jeffsys.net - Matt's computer
  • echota.jeffsys.net - Michelle's computer
  • gimp.jeffsys.net - the most flakey Pentium 60 ever
  • icet.jeffsys.net - the original name for gimp
  • bart.jeffsys.net - contributed by Mentor Investment Group
  • bits.jeffsys.net - located in Los Angeles
  • spiritu.jeffsys.net - located at Northwestern University
  • virulent.jeffsys.net - located in Hawaii
  • miray.jeffsys.net - named after a character from Hab-12; originally in Hawaii, then relocated to Texas
  • pax.jeffsys.net - hosted by Ratloop (also from Hab-12)
  • keeta.jeffsys.net - character from a group fiction work
  • mopump.jeffsys.net - shortening of "Muhammad Pumpernickle"


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