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Econet was used in a classroom setting to connect a room full of BBC Micros to a single floppy disk drive. This was an important capability because in those days, a floppy disk drive cost in the ballpark of the price of a computer, so one per computer would have been unreasonably expensive. I suspect this was the main thing Econet was used for in practice.

As far as I remember, security was on the honor system; everyone just saved their file under a different name; there was nothing like a login procedure, no technological barrier to reading, modifying or deleting other people's files. And indeed the cost of implementing security with the technology of the day would've been nontrivial, and if I were designing the system, I wouldn't have paid that cost when the expected use case would have all users in the same room.

But obviously that was a long time ago, and memory is fuzzy, so I'd like to make sure: do I remember correctly? Or was there some form of security that I have forgotten or did not encounter?

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  • >a floppy disk drive cost in the ballpark of the price of a computer, Is this really true? Can you give prices? I don't mean to sound disbelieving, but it seems odd to me. Jan 8 at 23:35
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    Off the top of my head GBP400 in about 1983, more or less the same as a BBC model B.
    – Frog
    Jan 9 at 1:38
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Econet did not; there was no authentication at the network level. Nor could you attach a floppy drive directly to Econet; you'd use a computer (BBC, Master or Archimedes) that had a floppy or (later) hard disk drive attached, running server software, or an Acorn FileStore unit.

Some versions of the server software did implment authentication and permissions. Wikipedia notes:

Access Permissions – By the time of the Acorn Level 4 File Server and the SJ Research MDFS systems, Econet file servers had a full user name and password system with public and private attributes. These worked similar to Unix permissions without the group field. Files could be set to be readable and/or writable by everyone, just by the user, or both.

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    As an addendum: Econet file server login sent the password across the network in the clear. You could write a packet sniffer and trivially see the auth requests go past! Nov 10 '20 at 22:10
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    At fea2 I believe. If you didn't have a manual you could discover this by sending large files containing repeats of single characters repeatedly and scanning io pages, repeating with different bytes and applying a process of elimination. Nov 22 '20 at 20:21
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Additionally you had full read/write and execute access on any other station's RAM (including video RAM) if you used assembly language. This is without any authentication required, so there was no security in that aspect.

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    This seems like a comment on something else, or an aside, rather than an answer to the question at the top of this page. If you aren't familiar with the site format, have a look at the tour.
    – IMSoP
    Jan 10 at 15:59

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