Tom Jennings


Tom Jennings is a Los Angeles-based artist and programmer. Jennings began calling into BBSes in 1980, when he used an acoustic coupler, an early consumer-grade modem,  to call up CBBS (the first BBS, founded in Chicago). Early in his career at the Boston-based Phoenix Software, Jennings created a portable BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) that allowed non-IBM PCs to run Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system.

In 1984, he designed and launched the first message and file exchange system for BBSes, FidoNet. From 1988 to 1991, he also served as publisher and co-editor of the early influential Queercore zine Homocore. In 1992, he co-founded (with John Gilmore), The Little Garden, one of the earliest internet service providers (ISPs). 



Cover of Homocore #1, posted online by Tom Jennings.

1988: Homocore #1 Published.

Jennings had long been involved in anarchist and punk spaces and was inspired to create the zine after attending the 1988 Anarchist Survival Gathering in Toronto. While queer punks were active within the hardcore scene, they didn't have an space that specifically centered their interests—which Jennings hoped to change with Homocore.

The first two issues each had print runs of 500 issues, but doubled to 1000s by #3. The zine ultimately ran for 7 issues, from 1988 to 1991, all of which Jennings edited with his friend Deke Motif Nihilson, who he'd first met at the Toronto gathering. Through its relatively short run, Homocore played an important role in fostering the West Coast queercore scene.


Logo for The Little Garden. An archived copy of TLGnet's website can be found here.

1992: The Little Garden founded.

In the early 1990s, only the largest corporations could get access to the ARPANet (which would later become a key part of the publicly accessible Internet). Jennings, along with two partners, maintained an early "unofficial" connection hub, which allowed individuals to access ARPANet for a set cost, which went to covering the monthly leasing fee at $70 a user. Eventually the number of users became so large they were forced to formally incorporate in 1992 as The Little Garden (later TLGNet, Inc.), named after a Palo Alto Chinese restaurant they frequented.

As a commercial internet service provider, TLG differed from competitors in its focus on providing bulk, full time connections with no restrictions on how subscribers used their connections. This last stance reflected the founders' "explicit social/political goal[s]," as reflected in their Terms of Service:

"TLGnet exercises no control whatsoever over the content of the information passing through TLGnet. You are free to communicate commercial, noncommercial, personal, questionable, obnoxious, annoying, or any other kind of information, misinformation, or disinformation through our service. You are fully responsible for the privacy of, content of, and liability for your own communications."

In a similar vein, TLG frequently hired individuals from the local queer and punk communities. Though most did not begin with technical backgrounds, TLG provided on-the-job training and health insurance.

TLG continued to grow until its infrastructure needs were greater than what could be maintained at its current income level. In 1996, TLG was sold to the Mountain View-based Best Internet Communications.

Further Resources

Archival Documents

  • Homocore Archive - A collection of Homocore scans, covering #1-7 (1988-1991), hosted by Tom Jennings
  • Homocore Audio - A collection of recordings from Jennings's personal archives, including Homocore-sponsored shows
  • Archival photographs - A collection of photographs from Jennings's personal archives, including photos of the queer San Franciscio punk scene as well as the TLG offices
  • BBS Textfiles: The Tom Jennings Collection - A collection of files, including documents, images, and other items related to Tom Jennings’ involvement with FidoNet

Interviews, Secondary Material, and Other Works

Tom Jennings