Tutorial for Absolute Beginners

Originally published by bitreich.org at gopher://bitreich.org/0/tutorials/beginners.txt

Hello dear reader,

If you have heard about gopher and want to explore its space but feel lost about how to achieve that, this text is for you. We will assume that you have no technical skill so everyone can read this.

Gopher is the name of a protocol for sharing text, images or any kind of file. A network protocol is a set of rules which allow to create a common service for different people, everyone needing to respect thoses rules to be able to communicate with each other. Some people writing code (called Developers) will write “Clients” software for the end-user and others developers will write “Servers” software which will allow to publish content. The gopher protocol is so simple that anyone with basic knowledge of computer science can write its own client or server easily. Using gopher implies to understand the protocol itself, but we promise it’s really easy.

Gopher is an enjoyable way to browse informations. Every gopherhole [that is the name given to someone’s gopher content] looks like another one. There is no way to customize a gopherhole display except from the text. While this can look a bit harsh, this makes gopher universal. If you know how to browse one gopherhole, you will know how to browse all others because the way to do it is consistent.

So, let’s speak about how gopher works. First, gopher requires 3 informations if you want to get content. You will need a remote address to connect to [it’s called an hostname, like “floodgap.com”], the data type and a path to the data. The url looks like this :


The most important type is the type 1, which is the gopher menu type. A gopher menu is an index made of differents lines, each line having a type field to know what kind of data it leads to. It will allow you to browse from menu to menu or from a menu to a content (image, text, music, archives…).

Here is the list of the most used data types allowed on gopher, the complete list is defined in a document named RFC 1436 which defines the gopher protocol :

  • type i is a line of text in the menu, it’s not a link
  • type 0 is a link to a text document
  • type 1 is a link to another gopher menu
  • type 3 means an error
  • type 7 (search) asks a text input and lead to another menu
  • type 9 is a link to a binary file (data archives, music…)
  • type g is a link to a GIF file (animated picture)
  • type I is a link to an image file
  • type h is a link which lead to use another protocol (irc, http…)

Only the types menu and search can lead to another content. Asking another type will lead to downloading a file.

Now that you are ready to browse the gopher space, we recommend you to read the others tutorials about the gopher client software you would like to use.