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From sneaker (running shoe) +‎ net (network),[1] a reference to a person wearing sneakers walking from one computer to another.



sneakernet (countable and uncountable, plural sneakernets) (computing, humorous, informal, historical)

  1. (uncountable) A method of transferring a computer file from one computer to another by copying it to a floppy disk, thumb drive, or some other external storage device, carrying the device to the other computer, and saving the file there, in contrast to electronic methods used by networked computers to transfer data. [from 1980s]
    • 1986, Hardcopy, volume 6, Brea, Calif.: Sedlin Pub. Co., ISSN 0279-8123, OCLC 479346585, page 143, column 3:
      Significant advances are occurring to race past sneakernet. But the ideal computer interconnect solution will always be just around the next bend.
    • 1989 April, David Plotkin, “Compute! Specific”, in Compute!, volume 11, number 4, issue 107, Greensboro, N.C.: COMPUTE! Publications, ABC Publishing, ISSN 0194-357X, OCLC 473378905, page 58, column 2:
      Before complicated networks and E-mail and special-interest bulletin boards, there was Sneakernet. Sneakernet required no special protocol, no special cables and terminal software. To communicate on Sneakernet, all you needed to do was take a disk from your computer to someone else's, stick the disk in that remote drive, and copy some files—instant data transfer. Well, almost instant.
    • 2001 December, Robin Anderson; Andy Johnston [et al.], “File Sharing”, in Unix Unleashed, 4th edition, Indianapolis, Ind.: Sams Publishing, →ISBN, part II (Critical Subsystems), page 546:
      Before computer networks came into existence, sneakernet was the only method of file sharing available. Sneakernet is the generally accepted term for the act of loading files that you want to share on removable media (tape, CD, or floppy disk) at one computer, carrying the media to a second computer, and reading the files from that media onto that second computer. [...] Sneakernet is the lowest-tech form of file sharing that has ever been available, and it is still practiced at some sites today.
  2. (countable) The group of computers involved in this practice.
    • 1999, “An Introduction to the Internet for Financial Services Developers”, in Jessica Keyes, editor, Handbook of Technology in Financial Services, Boca Raton, Fla.; New York, N.Y.: CRC Press, published 2010, →ISBN, section I (Technology Trends in Financial Services), page 25-7:
      NSA feels there is no reason to use sneakernet anymore when you can distribute software to users through the network. (Sneakernet is the network created by physically walking from location to location to deliver software to users.)
    • 2003, Doug Kaye, “Application Integration”, in Alison Bing and Cessna Kaye, editors, Loosely Coupled: The Missing Pieces of Web Services, Marin County, Calif.: RDS Press, →ISBN, part II (Concepts), page 66:
      Some companies were able to coerce one department's application to read data files written by another's. These lucky organizations often resorted to sneakernets—transferring data on magnetic tape or floppy disks—to avoid the re-keying process. With the advent of LANs and WANs, electronic file transfers replaced most sneakernets.
    • 2004, Adrian W. Kingsley-Hughes, “What’s What—the Anatomy of a PC”, in The PC Doctor’s Fix-it-yourself Guide, New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, DOI:10.1036/0072255536, →ISBN, part I (Overview), page 24:
      Before the days of Internets and intranets, there were sneakernets—users would save files on a floppy disk and simply walk them over to another PC!
    • 2018, Jaroslav Švelch, “Lighting up the Shadows: Informal Distribution of Game Software”, in Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games, Cambridge, Mass.; London: MIT Press, →ISBN, page 151:
      Czechoslovak sneakernets were structured around the geopolitical barriers and foreign trade regulations, but without any direct intervention from the authorities. The networks were improvisational and unruly, but also robust and reliable. [...] Sneakernets were experienced as movement rather than as a service or a set of formalized transactions.



  1. ^ sneakernet, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2004; “sneakernet, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

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