Networking, Internet & Mail Art

article by Ruud Janssen

This article was written after a first use of Internet. I wrote down my thoughts on how my mail art activities and e-mail activities were going at that time. version : October 1995.



  • I started using the computer for communication back in 1987 or so, but already in 1978 I was working with computers and programmable calculators for my study. At that time (mid eighties) there was the blooming time for the BBS (Bulletin Board Services). One computer could contact the other computer thanks to the telephone-line, and there was a straight (by technicians called ‘circuit-switched’) connection. The BBS-computer serves like a cell in a network, and the BBS contains info that is accessible to others. Also the BBS could call other BBS on a regular basis and so spread the information that it received.
  • The internet is developed in the beginning-times of the cold war. In case of a nuclear attack, the USA wanted a communication network that wouldn’t be destroyed if it would be bombed. The solution was simple and effective. Each computer in the network has to follow the same rules, and passes on information to any computer it can contact. Messages come in, and messages go out, and the direction is determi ned by the computer that sends out the messages. If a message is received that is meant for someone that works on the receiving computer, it is stored and the ad dressee can read his message. So, no fixed circuit anymore, just ‘message-swit ching’ as they call it.
  • The internet was developed for the army, but because of the effective method, and the technicians who already worked with it, soon the universities and large institutes began to use the internet too for their communication. Messages can be sent to the receiver in 1 or up to 5 minutes, and that is very fast.
  • In internet there is no real fixed structure anymore. There are just lots of protocols which are put down in OSI (Open Structure Inter-connection) manuals, and anybody who wants to enter the ‘network of networks’ has to use these protocols. This is the reason for the still ‘poor quality’ of the mail-services on the Internet. A fixed network can be very good and high standard, but on the internet the protocols are chosen so that everybody can communicate with anybody. And with ‘everybody’ I mean the computers. In the internet the oldest servers are determining the proto cols.
  • But nowadays the internet is open for private persons too. They just have to make a contract with one of the companies that offers access, have their own com puter and modem, and then they have an e-mail address. The form of this address indicates also where the person is located. My address e.g. is The name ‘tam’ indicates that this name is a unique name at a special server. After the @ comes the rooting address that is known in internet. The code ‘nl’ indicates that the server is located in the Netherlands, and inside the Netherlands the code ‘dds’ is known, it is the Digital City of Amsterdam (De Digitale Stad), an initiative by the former whizzkids from Hacktick, who went commercial and know all the tricks.
  • In October 1994 I got in contact with this ‘dds’ and since then I have an e-mail address there which makes it possible to be in touch with the internet.




  • Some mail-artist (like Mark Bloch and Chuck Welch in USA , Charles Fran