Roadmap96: MAP19 - Gopher (Part Two) | WebReference

Roadmap96: MAP19 - Gopher (Part Two)


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"Nothing quite new is perfect."
-- Cicero, Brutus

There are three ways to enter Gopherspace:

  1. Through a Gopher client running on your local Internet Service Provider's machine;
  2. Through a TELNET connection to a publicly accessible Gopher site; or
  3. Through e-mail (we'll talk about GOPHERmail access in MAP22).

How can you tell if your local Internet Service Provider has a Gopher client that you can use? Easy! Just type


at your system's command prompt, press the ENTER or RETURN key, and watch what happens. If your provider has a Gopher client, your Gopher client's root menu should appear on your screen. If your site does not have a Gopher client, however, all you will see on your screen after you type "gopher" will be a really funny-looking error message.

Fortunately, if you can't access Gopher directly through your ISP, you can always access Gopher through TELNET. The following is a list adapted from the Gopher FAQ (1) and it lists the TELNET addresses and logins for just a few of the publicly accessible Gopher sites:

     TELNET Address               Login          Location
     --------------               -----          --------      gopher         US - Minnesota              panda          US - Iowa               gopher         US - Michigan          gwis           US - Virginia            info           UK                     gopher         Ecuador                gopher         Japan

Please use the site that is closest to you. Also, if you are in North America, please remember that the "" address is the most used Gopher address in the entire world (this is the address of the University of Minnesota's Gopher server -- the birthplace of Gopher). You might be better off if you TELNETed to another North American site.

Also, if your site is running its own Gopher client software, it is *STRONGLY* recommended that you use your site's own Gopher client software instead of TELNETing into the public logon sites. Your site's Gopher client is set up so that you can use custom features not available through a TELNET connection (e.g., you may be able to use a mouse, scroll bars, etc.). You will also find that your provider's Gopher client will run much faster than a TELNET Gopher client (1).



As I said above, to access your ISP's root Gopher menu, just type


at your system's command prompt. Sometimes, however, you may want to bypass your own ISP's root menu and connect directly to a particular remote Gopher server. You can do this by typing

          gopher <site address>

at your system's command prompt, replacing <site address> with the address of the remote Gopher server that you want to access.

For example, to connect directly to the "" Gopher you would type


at your system's command prompt.



Spend any amount of time in Gopherspace and you are bound to run into roadblocks. The most common roadblock that you will encounter is an error message that says

          Empty Menu; no items selected or nothing available

when you try to access a file or menu that you *KNOW* exists (and that you may even have accessed just a few seconds earlier).

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to assume that this "Empty Menu" error is a problem with their local Internet Service Provider's system. IT ISN'T!!

Your local Internet Service Provider is only responsible for the LOCAL portion of your Internet service. If you are having problems accessing a distant Gopher file or menu, your problem isn't with your ISP, it is with the distant site that you are trying to access!

There are two things that you need to keep in mind any time you are having problems with Gopher:

  1. Gopherspace is incredibly dynamic. Sites "appear" and "disappear" every second of every day. Internet traffic, power outages, weather, scheduled repairs, and even squirrels affect whether a site is on-line or off-line.
  2. Sites can "disappear" for as little as a second or they can shut down and disappear forever. If you are having problems accessing something in Gopherspace, wait a little while and try to access it later.



Once you access your Gopher client (or TELNET into a Gopher client), take a look at the bottom of the root menu. If you see a menu line that says

     Press ?  for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu

You are using a UNIX Gopher client. Fortunately, the on-line help menu for the UNIX Gopher is really good. If you type


your screen will fill with a whole bunch of UNIX Gopher commands.

I'm not going to show you all of these commands -- you can find them pretty easily by typing "?" -- but I do want to show you a few of the most important commands that you will use:

     Key                What it does
     ---                ------------    
     Up arrow           Moves the --> cursor up one line
     Down arrow         Moves the --> cursor down one line
     Right arrow        "Enters" or "accesses" the selected menu item
     or Return
     Left arrow         "Exits" the menu and returns you to the 
     or "u"              previous menu

After you have accessed a file and have gotten to the bottom of it, the following menu bar should appear

     Press <RETURN> to continue, <m> to mail, <s> to save, 
     or <p> to print

Pressing the "RETURN" key will just take you back to the previous menu. If you want a copy of the file, you are going to have to press either "m" or "s".

If you are TELNETing into a Gopher client, or if the file is small, your best bet would be to press the "m" key. Then the client will ask you for an address to which you want the current document mailed. Just enter your full Internet e-mail address and a few minutes later that file will (hopefully) be sitting in your incoming e-mail box! :)



There are a whole bunch of different Gopher clients out there. We'll talk about VM's Gopher client in a future lesson, but all Gopher clients work on the same basic principles and they all have relatively good on-line help menus.

So, I want you to access your site's Gopher client (or TELNET to a public Gopher client), take a look at your help menu, and find the keys or commands necessary to:

That's it. We'll talk about some of the more advanced commands in the next couple of lessons. :)



Enter Gopherspace and play around. :)

If you REALLY feel daring, you might want to find Richard Smith's "Navigating the Internet: Let's Go Gopherin" workshop archives. The workshop was a one-month workshop which taught nothing but Gopher.

The following are some Gopher sites that I found that have the "Gopherin" archives. You'll have to access these sites directly -- type

               gopher <site address>

and then hunt around the site for the "Gopherin" files.

             Gopher Address             Comments
             --------------             --------
       (hint: go to the "index" menu 
                                        and then to the "Gopherin" 


(1) From the University of Minnesota's Gopher FAQ.

Start Lesson Twenty | Go to the Roadmap96 Syllabus | Go to the Roadmap96 Homepage

Originally written by Patrick Douglas Crispen