Back in the care-free spring of 1993, I started a (then) very manageable project of organizing and categorizing veterinary medical information available on the Internet. I had already been hosting a veterinary electronic bulletin board system (now at AALAS) since 1985. In any case, finding all the veterinary mailing lists, FTP, Telnet, and Gopher sites was not that hard to do...simply because not too many were around! Most were in obscure places not even being maintained by any organization, but instead were thrown together willy-nilly by enthusiastic computer administrators. When I finished my list of veterinary sites, I still thought it was disappointingly small. So I decided to include the object of veterinary practice, animals, too. A little more ambitious, but still manageable in the good old days. The result was several renditions of a text file that I called the Electronic Zoo, a nice term for the collection it seemed to be describing.
It became increasing obvious that there had to be an easier way to keep a text file up to date....and the Internet Gopher protocol being developed at the University of Minnesota was a nice way to do that...so I used a spare 386 PC and the free KA9Q operating system to create the first Gopher version of the Electronic Zoo (now defunct). To keep the veterinary portion distinct, I separated the veterinary medical and animal components, thus creating the sidekick service known as NetVet Veterinary Resources. The gopherserver still exists today, but I have not kept it 100% up to date.....because the Web happened.....
...or I should say is happening....and nothing has been the same since. By Fall, 1994, the WWW HTTP protocol was running neck and neck in popularity with Gopher, and I decided that it was time to make the conversion and run both types of servers. The KA9Q operating system was very versatile and had been modified to serve HTTP, so making both run on the same machine had some appeal. This setup worked nicely until the popularity of the web in general and this server in particular reached a point where the poor old 386 just could not keep up. I temporarily relocated the webserver to another computer using a shareware prototype HTTP server on the Novell operating system. It was not too long before that server, too, constantly crashed under the heavy demand. At that time, no tools existed which would allow me to analyze the log files generated by the obscure webserver software I was using. About all I could do was marvel at the size of the log files, which were growing exponentially.
Enter NetScape server software to the rescue in the Summer of 1995 and a spare industrial strength fileserver running Windows NT. Finally, I was able to see exactly how many people were actually visiting this site, and it turns out to be quite a few. Extrapolating from the logfiles, it looks like about 650,000 other computers accessed one or more of the pages on the server in 1995. Currently, the server is running on Website software.
All during 1995, several kind people and groups took notice of the web versions of NetVet and the Electronic Zoo....it's all really the same system with similar goals in mind....to categorize and organize veterinary medical and animal-related information on the Internet in a relevant, easy to use (I hope) format for people interested in these topics. My thanks go out to the Argus/University of Michigan Clearinghouse, the W3 Virtual Library Consortium, GNN, the Whole Internet Catalog, Point Communications, McKinley Group, Internet World, NetGuide, .net Magazine, Microsoft Network, CompuServe, Prodigy, and the many others who helped spread the word about this server.
If it's not obvious, I'll point out that I do not run this webserver to sell anything. No gimmicks or schemes, simply an attempt to help people and their animals in the spirit of academic interest in telecommunications for the veterinary profession. I have helped host a few web pages for non-profit groups, like the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, Laboratory Animals, the International Journal of Laboratory Animal Science and Welfare, the USDA National Agricultural Library's Animal Welfare Information Center. (now with their own servers), the American Academy of Veterinary Informatics, and the Association for Veterinary Informatics,
Veterinary Medicine and Animals are popular topics and we're still in the early stages of the general phenomenon of the Web and the Net. Who really knows where all this will end up? I have some idea that we'll see much more to come from various veterinary organizations, institutions, and individuals as we move forward. I'll just keep plowing through all the new sites, trying to let you know what's good and what's new. Enjoy!
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Division of Comparative Medicine
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Ken Boschert, DVM
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