It almost seems as if the interactive fiction archive at GMD has always been around. IF languages, games, systems, and more have come and gone; throughout it all, GMD has remained constant, the first place to go when you needed to download something.
That constant is no more. The IF archive at GMD has shut down. But while the archive is no longer housed at GMD, it has moved to a new home: IFArchive.org.
The History of GMD
It all began with Volker Blasius and GMD, the Gesellschaft fuer Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung mbH Bonn. GMD was a German research institution formed in 1968. The initial staff, including student and part-time worker Volker Blasius, was recruited from the math department of Bonn University.
Volker initially worked in the IBM center of GMD; in 1989, when GMD discontinued use of IBM mainframe computers, Volker helped set up a PC support group, then was transfered to the central Unix support group in 1992.
He wasn't a fan of Unix at the time, but found himself having to learn about it as part of his new job. At the same time, he stumbled across rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction, from which a nascent community of interactive fiction authors and players was arising. One thing Volker noticed was that what IF resources were available on the Internet were scattered far and wide.
Volker saw a chance to learn more about Unix by taking on a project he was truly interested in. He got permission from GMD's FTP administrator to set up an FTP archive, and contacted Dave Baggett, author of the Unkuulian Unventures, for his opinion of the project. Dave thought that such an archive would be valuable, and offered to help.
On November 24, 1992, Volker Blasius announced that the IF archive at GMD was open for business.
A few things have changed since then. The Washington University Data Archive, better known as wuarchive, began mirroring the archive in January of 1993; other mirrors soon followed. Volker began posting regular updates to the two interactive fiction newsgroups along with several others detailing what had been added to the archive. David Kinder began helping out with the archive's maintenance duties, while Dave Baggett eventually relinquished his role as one of the maintainers.
The first rumblings of change came in September of 1999. GMD was to be folded into the Fraunhofer Institutes to form a new IT department for Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. At the time, Volker surmised that the ftp archive at gmd.de would continue to be around for some time, and would probably outlast his tenure at GMD, which was due to end on August 31, 2003.
Then, on July 18, 2001, Volker began his usual "Recent Additions to the Interactive Fiction Archive" post with the following:
[T]his is probably my last post with this subject line. GMD is no more. The German federal government sold GMD to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG). The former GMD will be split up into separate FhG institutes; the central IT department that hosted the archive will probably disappear.
But the archive will survive in a new place. You will hear about it soon.
Indeed, GMD had been formally integrated into FhG on July 11, 2001. GMD, and thus the IF archive at ftp.gmd.de, was going away.
But where was the archive moving to?
The History of IFArchive.org
The archive at GMD had been mirrored by other sites for years, but all of them were, like the site at GMD, FTP-based. While some of them, most notably wuarchive, had HTTP front-ends for those interested in fetching files using a web browser instead of an FTP client, none of them were specifically designed for browsing via web.
On January 2, 1999, that changed. Andrew Plotkin and Paul Mazaitis set up IFArchive.org, a web-based mirror of GMD. IFArchive.org was a complete mirror of GMD, one with plenty of bandwidth. It had a number of nice features, the most notable of which was how directory listings were handled. Rather than merely listing filenames, IFArchive.org annotated each file with its description from the directory index file, making it much easier to find what you were looking for.
IFArchive.org was fast, well-maintained, and quickly became the most popular mirrors of GMD. Thus, when Volker learned of GMD's imminent demise in early 2001, he turned to Paul and Andrew and asked them to take over technical maintenance of the official interactive fiction archive.
IFArchive.org is a mirror no more.
How Things Are Different
For the most part, the new archive is much like the old one. The directory structure is exactly the same. You can reach it by FTP at ftp.ifarchive.org or via browser at http://ifarchive.org.
The main difference is in how uploads are handled. If you wish to submit a file to the archive, you need to upload it to ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/incoming/. However, people can't download from the incoming directory. Why? you ask. Because people often upload warez to such FTP directories and then have their friends download it from there. Instead, uploaded files will be moved into the unprocessed directory once they're vetted; people can download files from there.
The other difference is in who's running things. David Kinder and I will maintain the contents of the archive; Paul Mazaitis and Andrew Plotkin are the technical maintainers.
All of this, of course, was possible because of all that Volker did in setting up the original archive and maintaining it. Without his contributions, the IF community would be a much poorer place.