History and Evolution of SikhNet

Before the World Wide Web 

SikhNet is truly a labor of love.  In the early personal computer days, in 1983, Long before the world wide web or the internet as we know it, The first incarnation of SikhNet was a Bulletin Board system (BBS) started by Guruka Singh, as the first computer presence for Sikh Dharma. Some of us used clunky Teletype terminals that printed slowly - we had no computer screens to look at. Others used early computers like the Kaypro (anyone remember CPM?). The whole thing was run on a server through GEnie and we connected at 300 baud! Harbhajan Kaur and Mahan Singh in Millis Massachusetts were the coordinators. The technology we used then seems primitive now, but at the time it was very exciting to us cyber-pioneers. 

From February 1986 until October of 1994, SikhNet was online as a computer bulletin board system (BBS) running on a 10 Mhz IBM XT clone computer with a 1200 baud (later 9600 baud) modem. I used an early version of open-source BBS software (RBBS v.15) which I had hacked severely to customize it for SikhNet. We had about 100 users, 20 of whom were quite active. The logon screen consisted of a large kanda done in ASCII art.

welcome to sikhnet login screen.gif

Ravi Har Singh stayed up late many a night, with his recently broken leg propped up on cushions, writing a dedicated Clipper progam for accessing SikhNet. It was called "SikhNet-Zapper". We didn't have "live chat" at that time, but we had an early discussion forum and announcements from 3HO & Sikh Dharma International were posted for all to read. We could download files and transcripts of the Siri Singh Sahib's talks all over the world, and each day a new quote from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, or the lectures of Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan greeted each member who logged on to the system. These were simpler days before the internet, and required a sepparate physical phone line for each user to "dial in", so wasn't yet as interactive as what we are used to in today's internet.

During this time, SikhNet's host computer moved from Columbus, Ohio to Yosemite, California to Espanola, New Mexico as I and my family moved from place to place.

For ten years, SikhNet was up and online 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, but it finally stopped in October 1994 when I was no longer able to serve as the Sysop (System Operator) and it was taken offline.

The Birth of the SikhNet website

The website and organization that you now know of as "SikhNet" was founded by Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa and launched on the internet on Vaisakhi day (April 15th) in 1996.  The chosen name of "SikhNet" was inspired by the BBS system that Guruka Singh had pioneered and run from 1983-1994.

In his early 20’s, Gurumustuk Singh had a fascination with Internet technology. He built the original HTML SikhNet website pages intending to establish an online platform where Sikh youth from around the world could connect, support and dialogue with each other.

From its inception, SikhNet.com provided an educational environment where its audience could learn about the Sikh faith, ask hard questions and engage in a new kind of community experience: one that brought Sikhs from different countries in contact with each other, outside of the traditional family and Gurdwara structures.

As the years unfolded and its audience grew, SikhNet had to continually re-invent itself, responding to the changing educational needs of its audience. When Sikh youth got married and had children of their own, for instance, new services were born, like the SikhNet Children’s Audio stories. (www.sikhnet.com/stories). Through the years, SikhNet’s longevity as a “cyber sangat” owed much to its ability to adapt itself to the ever-shifting realm of cyberspace.

 With Guru's blessing, this Web site, and all of SikhNet's many services, will continue to serve us all and give us all an opportunity to connect and grow. 

Sikhnet - 1995
1986 (BBS System)
Sikhnet - 1996
Sikhnet - 1997
Sikhnet - 1998 - NOW