Whatever happened to …

… .arc files?

I was thinking about this the other day while watching the upgrade to Tessa 19.1 on my computer.

It took me back; way back. Back to the days when we all used modems to dial up to connect to services. And, people like me ran a Bulletin Board Service (BBS) just as a hobby. In the beginning, at least. It turned out to be a way for some of my students to hand in assignments electronically.

There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes behind the story and the Wikipedia does it justice.

Essentially, in my case, there were two really important reasons to use files in .arc format.

  • often I’d want to sent two or more files to the recipient. In my students’ case, it was their program along with their test data
  • since connections speeds were so slow 300, 1200, 2400, 9600 baud, I’d like to be able to use the fact that .arc files were compressed so that it didn’t take so long to transfer the file. And, curse you wet phone lines

The whole process was anything but seamless. It was all done at the command line (we didn’t need no stinking GUIs back then) so you had to make sure that the program you were using was either in the directory where you were doing the deed or that it was in your search path. What you really needed to do though was to make sure that the file/files were in that directory so that you could make your .arc file.

Once created, it was a matter of sending it wherever it was intended. Oh, and the recipient needed to know what to do with a .arc file. If they couldn’t unarchive it, it was just a worthless collection of bits!

For a Sunday, date your own self and chime in…

  • did you ever use a utility to send and receive .arc files? (there were lots of them)
  • did you ever use .arc to compress a bunch of files for backup purposes?
  • did you ever use .arc to compress files so that they’d fit on a floppy disk?
  • did you ever host your own or be a subscriber to Bulletin Board System?

Please don’t make me feel like I’m the only oldie here and share your thoughts about .arc files – even if it’s to say you’ve never heard of them.

This is part of a regular Sunday series of posts. You can access them all here.

This blog post was originally posted at:

If you find it anywhere else, it’s not original.

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Ah yes – Arc, from back in the days before I was Microsoft free. I remember arc well. Of course on the Unix side, we’d have tar and compress starting those arguments over which is better –> compress each file and package (arc) or package all the files then compress (tar | compress).

    Of course once archived we’d have to transfer files — sure, we’d sometimes use FTP but I spent manysessions firing up Kermit to transfer files not to mention uuencode for when we had to transfer things over scii channels.


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  2. So this “Whatever happened to…” would have left me without a comment had you not specifically invited comments from those who had not encountered this topic before.

    I am assuming that the name of the file format you reference is only coincidentally a homonym for another ancient vessel used to transport things from one place to another?

    However, although I have no conscious memory of .arc files, this did send my mind back to the time of my first modem, and the reality of super slow internet and the need file compression and segmentation. .zip seems to remain the standard today, but .tar and .sit and .sea and .sitx and .bin and .hqx and .gz and .rar would all be formats I have run into over the years. It’s hard to believe that we used to have to encode and break things up into pieces tto send them successfully through the Internet — and then reassemble them and extract them at the other end.

    Of course, before the Internet really became a thing, there were the times when it was necessary to use multiple floppy disks to carry one thing (in pieces) and even before that there was the time when you booted your PC off of a floppy disk because it didn’t have hard disk.

    You really are used to have to work in the olden days. Now you just press a button, and you’re watching the latest Avengers trailer.

    See what happens when you get my mind going backwards after inviting me to talk about something that I don’t remember?

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  3. Wow! I stumped Andy.

    The topic is interesting and also a study in copyright and what can or cannot be copyrighted. A file format? You do mention .ZIP which should backtrack you to PKZIP which should backtrack you to PKARC which should cover it all for you.


    1. With my Mac background, Aladdin’s StuffIt was the utility I spent a lot of time with in the early years. I know I used Pkzip in the early years on the Windows side.

      In scanning the Wikipedia entry for StuffIt, I notice that the .arc file is referenced there as a supported format, but I don’t recall ever running into it.




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