skip to main bit
a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



NTK, Fifteen Years On

Give or take a few days, it was fifteen years ago that I hit send on the first official issue of NTK. I was hiding out at a start-up called Virgin Internet, trying to work out how to bring Usenet to the masses, or something. I added people to the mailing list by hand, but stuck “-l” at the end of the subscribe email address to make it sound like it was a proper listserv. I still hear people say “listserv”, occasionally, and it sounds like they’re saying “thee” or “gadzooks” or something.

People usually say at this point that it doesn’t seem like maxint years ago, but, to be honest, it does. It feels exactly fifteen years ago. What’s weird for me is that the three years before NTK came out feels even longer. 1994-1997 involved me going from being on the dole, to appearing in a one man show in the west end, doing TV, working at Wired,  joining a startup. That, and the Internet went from being this funny little squeaky gopher thing to having internet addresses on adverts. On adverts! Which, incidentally, we all smugly knew would go away soon, because advertising was lying and the Internet was going to make lying impossible. Or something.

. What I wanted to tell you was that last year after I explaining someone how we were all too collectively lazy to do something to celebrate NTK’s 15th anniversary, that someone came up with a brilliant Minimal Viable Celebration. So, for the next ten years or so, if you subscribe to this newsletter, you’ll get a weekly copy of the NTK that came out fifteen years ago, totally unchanged. It’s like that thing where you get a copy of the Times’ front page for your birthday, except every week is your birthday! Or our birthday. Or something. The name, Anno NTK, comes from Simon Wistow. If it was your idea to do this, tell me!

As I say, it’s literally the least we could do. I actually suspect (and hope) that this will become a bit of a trend in itself. Just as early retrospective sites like the Pepys Diary are drawing to a close, I think there’s this rich unmined pile of early blog-o-mobilia, waiting to have a nice interface stuck on it. It would be  great, for instance, to watch in real time all the bloggers who supported the Iraq war go through their transformations and justifications day by day, or watch stuff like DrKoop and the Industry Standard rise and fall once again. There are lots of weird echoes in the air right now. I really hope other people won’t be as lazy as us, and put a nice frontend on the past.

And meanwhile, thirty years ago, Usenet itself was beginning to outgrow the ability for a human mind to comprehend. Thank goodness the future was so close…

27 Responses to “NTK, Fifteen Years On”

  1. Neil Says:

    I still miss my Friday afternoon NTK email delivery. It marked that moment in the afternoon where you could stop working without feeling guilty and the weekend started. Still regret throwing away my Elite/NTK tshirt…

  2. Chris Devers Says:

    Still have my “Viral marketing doesn’t work …tell everyone you know” shirt.

    People still don’t get it. :-)

    Thank you!

  3. Matt Petty Says:

    What a lovely idea!
    Neil, I still have my NTK Elite shirt. How much regret are we talking? *rubs hands together*

    In line with the Pepys Diary thing, is there a plan to set up an Expanded Universe Wiki to allow us to track all the various characters and entities?
    My own blog doesn’t go back far enough to make a similar effort worthwhile. Also, all the other reasons.


  4. Phil WIlkins Says:

    Still wear my BORN TO RUN L shirt. No-one gets that one either.

  5. Carl Morris Says:

    I was doing A-levels and didn’t understand half the references in NTK. But thanks for talking to me as if I did.

  6. James Duncan Says:

    What a great idea.

    It’s amazing how far things have moved in those 15 years… this will be a warm reminder of my misspent youth.

    Thanks Danny ;)

  7. Sean Says:

    This should be fun, thanks.


  8. Bookmarks for May 25th from 16:38 to 18:31 | Extenuating Circumstances Says:

    […] Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka » Blog Archive » NTK, Fifteen Years On – dob on the re-emergence of NTK, 15 years later. Reading today's issue, it's amazing how things are still the same. […]

  9. Danny Says:

    Matt, yes there is! I think me and Yoz and Simon have to go drinking a bit more before it’s finished, but we do have plans…

    Carl, our standard reply to that was always that *we* didn’t understand half of NTK. We had the excuse that there was 3 of us writing it, but still. It was always intensely fun to write up to an imaginary audience, instead of down to one.

  10. Mike Forester Says:

    *My* NTK shirt is “I spend all day bitching about you on IRC channels you can’t see.” Hand-mailed by Dave.

  11. Lev Says:

    Nice! As a chronic late-joiner, I subscribed to NTK just as it ended. Thanks to BoingBoing (where my identity is cleverly concealed by the nearly-uncrackable “rot13” cypher), I find I can now catch up on everything I heard you or Yoz talking about that left me with a vaguely puzzled look on my face. More of one than usual, I mean.

  12. Lev Says:

    (…thanks to BB for leading me here, that is)

  13. …pickhits…» Blog Archive » Bookmarks for May 12th through May 26th Says:

    […] Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka » Blog Archive » NTK, Fifteen Years On – NTK on repeat. Brilliant and in keeping with, well, something. […]

  14. Jason Cunliffe Says:

    I miss NTK so much ~ more than eve in some ways
    No matter how rough the week had been, NTK on a friday afternoon left me on the floor int fits of laughter and light..
    ntk made sense and nonsense of everything and nothing
    Thank You Thank Thank you!

  15. bruce Says:

    trying to subscribe… haven’t received the confirmation email after 10 minutes… 8-(

  16. bruce Says:

    happy to report that the email finally arrived, and i am subscribed… maybe tinyletter spreads out their outgoing emails… if so, they should probably say so. looking forward to my ntk! thx.

  17. Anno NTK: get a fifteen-year-old tech newsletter delivered fresh each week » | Says:

    […] NTK, Fifteen Years On […]

  18. Ambrose Says:

    Your NTK link is to which is a 404.

    If that’s an in-joke I’m not cool enough to get it.

  19. Minty Says:


  20. Mark Says:

    Ambrose – the link needs a trailing slash:

    But 15 years? Fuck. Thanks for making me feel old. I remember HTML when it was all fields.

  21. Hex Says:

    Is it that long already? Amazing. I miss NTK too; Fridays aren’t the same without it. And now nobody understands me if I say “FALCO!” or refer to something as “a Widdecombe”.

    I recently found my “You must install Japanese text display support to read this t-shirt” NTK t-shirt which I bought at NotCon ’04. Good times.

    Thanks for all the links and laughs.

  22. subbes Says:

    Oh, heck. Here comes a walk back through the origin of 50% of my SIG file, back when those were a “thing.”

  23. RupertG Says:

    Hey. I fucked up those 15 years last time. (“Apple? So over. But Veronica…”)

    TRY AGAIN? [Y/N]


  24. Wayne Says:

    Thank you for doing this. I’ve missed NTK very much.

  25. James Says:

    Uncanny! I was just on last week, trying to dredge up the memories of those simple happy times.
    Thanks for feeding my nostalgia.

  26. NTK – its back! (Sort of,) « Out of My Tiny Mind Says:

    […] out what this here Internet thingy was actually for.  Read more from one of the original writers here or subscribe via the old fashioned “email” here. And in just under a years time, the […]

  27. Pat Cadigan Says:

    OMG, NTK is back?! **bursts into tears of joy** Don’t you ever leave me again!


petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.