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The Internet

A Documentary About Bulletin Board Systems 300

Windrip writes: "Jason Scott is compiling a history of the BBS. The BBS documentary is a virtual park bench waiting for people who want to reminisce about the good old days of FIDO, 9600 baud, zmodem. /. had an earlier post from Jason about, now he's looking for a few of the million stories in the naked net."
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A Documentary About Bulletin Board Systems

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  • Having had the joy of broadband for three years, the simple thought of BBSs brings back memories of modems. Starting with the accoustic coupler 300baud with those unforgetable suction cups, to the advent of the Hayes smart modems (AT command set), all the way to v.32/v.32bis/v.34 modems and 16550 UARTs. Man, we've come a long way. When was the last time anyone had to worry about data bits, start bits, stop bits, flow control, etc...
  • Gee, How Exciting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ksw2 ( 520093 ) <obeyeater@gma i l . com> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @09:21PM (#2396661) Homepage
    This sounds like an excuse for everybody to tell everyone else how much more leet they are because they remember when most hackers could type faster than their modems could transmit.


    • quite the opposite (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      this is a chance for reminicing about a time when even the l337 where civil (well, the ones I knew where) and you didn't have the millions of wanna-be's that are always front'n to look cool.

      I think it is funny and as usual will piss off the loosers out there that don't understand the irony when they call someone 'newbie' yet this newbie has probably designed most of the shit these punks are using, but just doesn't go around flaunting it like a tool.

    • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @09:44PM (#2396705) Homepage
      The fastest touch-typist in the world can't type faster than a 300 bps modem can transmit; 110 bps maybe. Of course, most hackers, are hunt-and-peck and can't even reach that. However, I can still remember when I could read faster than my modem could transmit. I'd wait impatiently for the words to finish displaying on my Apple II's greenscreen monitor III, which leads to my point:

      You kids complain these days about how long it takes for your fancy videos to download...well, back in MY day, we had to wait for the WORDS to finish downloading, and we LIKED it! We didn't have none o' these annymaitud JIFF files, and we only had one color, GREEN, and the pixels were the size of your fist! And we LIKED it that way! And those empty threes you like to listen to, why, back in my day we were just happy that we could hear CHR(7) - sometimes we'd listen to it over and over! You kids today are soft...sad, so sad...
      • Re:Gee, How Exciting (Score:4, Informative)

        by hearingaid ( 216439 ) <> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @11:14PM (#2396834) Homepage
        The fastest touch-typist in the world can't type faster than a 300 bps modem can transmit; 110 bps maybe.

        Hell, I can type faster than a 300 baud modem can transmit, and I type funny (I tried to learn how to touch-type, got bored; now I touch with about seven fingers :)...

        300 baud, at 8-N-1 or 7-E-1, is 37.5 cps, theoretically. Practically, 300 bps modems only reach that speed when they're getting a steady stream of characters. You wind up spending a lot of time just dealing with RTS/CTS and other junk when you've got an irregular stream, as you do when you're typing.

        Of course, most hackers, are hunt-and-peck and can't even reach that.

        One of the guys I knew when I was in CS was a trained professional typist. It helped him a lot when he was a starving student (tm); he got these really nice jobs typing stuff (and maybe doing other secretary work; he didn't talk about it much, I think he was embarrassed; it was OK for a geek to be a male secretary but he was also a metalhead :) all summer.

        However, it instilled in him a tendency to produce really gross code. He was like a human cut-and-paste machine. If he could think of an inelegant solution to a problem, that only meant typing up 5000 lines or so, he just went ahead and did it. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a little. But he did produce reams and reams of code.) He could code optimally, but he rarely did; he typed so fast that he spent actually less time coding by simply overcoding.

        So anyway, the point is maybe it's a Good Thing that most hackers are hunt & peckers.

        Anyway, back in my day, I had a Gigi terminal (I think) to do my gfx on. I still remember sneakernetting jpegs back from school (where I had Usenet) to my home (where my Amiga could view them, in truecolour; the machines at school hadn't yet even discovered 256 colours).

        • Actually 300bps was 30cps. You have 8-N-1 correct, but you forgot the start and stop bits, so it actually took 10 bits per character.

          Modems stopped using start/stop bits sometime around 14.4 bps I think.
          • Actually 300bps was 30cps. You have 8-N-1 correct, but you forgot the start and stop bits, so it actually took 10 bits per character.

            Modems stopped using start/stop bits sometime around 14.4 bps I think.

            It wasn't the modems that used start/stop bits, it was the term/BBS software. The most common configuration was F-N-8-1 (Full Duplex, No Parity Bits, 8 Bit characters, 1 Stop bit). This was often combined with X-On/X-Off software flow control - adding more overhead.

            10 bits per character is actually a reasonable estimate though. A 2400 bps modem often had a throughput of about 240 chars/s

            It wasn't the modem the typists were waiting on, it was that line noise.

            So as you can see sjdk^%hjb sd76%!n2f8


        • Hmm... I believe 300 baud/bps is 30 cps.... you have 10 bits per character. (start & stop bits)
          As for your 'steady stream of characters'.... uhh...that's irrelevant. You don't wait on rts/cts unless either end is saturated.. and even then, they are plenty fast enough not to interfere. Using HW flow control does not slow down your connection. The modem would drop CTS to the computer when it's buffers are full, and can no longer accept bytes from the computer.. and would raise it again when it's ready.
          The modem can keep up with your typing, to be sure.

          I believe it's general to assume the average word is 4 characters.... so 30cps/4=7.5wps.... * 60 seconds is 450 WPM. That sounds high.. someone find a flaw in my math? Looks right to me though...

          So you say don't even really touch-type, and you can type 450 words per minute? I don't think so.

          • RTS/CTS were not even used on many 300 baud modems.. there was no need.

            RTS/CTS became popular as people started to use higher serial speeds than modem speeds... (using 56k port speeds for 14.4k modems, etc..)
          • not consistently. you're forgetting physics.

            people type faster when they're in the middle of words. basically, humans don't stream text at a fixed rate. that beating the 30 cps rate happens when, for example, you do things like hitting a few characters in a row which are close to each other.

            there is, of course, one exception: holding down the space bar. centered sigs were incredibly difficult in 300 baud. without common support for the HT character. but I digress.

            also, as I said, I don't hunt and peck. I know where all the letters are on the keyboard. it's just that I don't always use all my fingers, especially for stuff near the middle of the keyboard. I touchtype badly would be the most accurate way to describe it.

            finally, there is indeed something wrong with your math. the average word is not four characters. much higher. let's see... one of my recent essays has 1,086 words, and counting spaces and punctuation (remember, modems have to transfer those too), totals to 6,546 characters. A little division gives 6.0276243094 characters per word. You're right in a sense though; that still gives 300 WPM, and I don't type that fast - not sustained. But the reason why you don't is because you... take breaks.

            4 characters per word would make "the" an average length word though. Huh.

            As for HW flow control: Ever actually do any RS-232C programming in the '80s? Like, for example, writing a terminal program? I did. (OK, it was primitive; it didn't have any support for XModem or Punter, just text; but it did have a really badass dialer which I hand-coded to match my modem's exact timing to get more redials than everybody else. one sysop told me once that he could tell it was me on the line, 'cause the OH light just flickered for a brief moment before my call came in. I had to re-code it when I upgraded modems though. :)

            • Yeah.. I have done quite a bit of rs232 programming, both past and present.

              You can change your calculations by a character or two.. I just chose 4 off some web page.. I don't know what the 'standard' is.. but it's not far off.

              I still doubt you can type fast enough that the only thing slowing you down is the 300 baud modem... that's my point.

              So... what's your point about HW flow control? You talk about how you are some kind of expert because you wrote some terminal program.. but what's your point?

              RTS/CTS is not going to slow a 300 baud modem down enough so you can type faster than it can eat.

              Yes.. for a few characters in a row, you MAY exceed 300bps.....but that's still not 'typing faster than the modem'. You may experience a delay while waiting for the remote echo from whatever software you are using.. so you might think you are going 'faster' than the modem.. but you aren't.. you're just waiting for processing & return on the other end.

              • Yes.. for a few characters in a row, you MAY exceed 300bps.....but that's still not 'typing faster than the modem'. You may experience a delay while waiting for the remote echo from whatever software you are using.. so you might think you are going 'faster' than the modem.. but you aren't.. you're just waiting for processing & return on the other end.

                What is typing faster than the modem then?

                Lag happens when the network is not moving fast enough to keep up with input.

                What you are describing is lag.

                I don't understand why, when typing causes intermittent lag, it cannot be said that you are typing too fast for your network, whether that network consists of a hundred computers or only two.

                (And yes, I've seen modern, ethernet-based networks lag because of normal typing. I've only ever seen it when NT was involved somehow though. :)

                The question about RS232C programming was directed, I guess, at a rather simple point: most people on /. don't have that much experience. Programming was a lot different in the '80s; there were issues when you're dealing with a 1MHz environment and low-speed peripherals that just don't appear anymore.

                The point about the 4 characters was that it's just incredibly stupid to claim that the average word is only 3 letters long. Anyway.

        • 300 bits per second converts to 30 charachers per second *60 seconds / 5 charecters per (standard) word, that gives 360 word/minute. As I remember it, this is near the world record (and using a modified Dvorak, too, I think).

          If you had a clean line, 300 baud could usually go clean (at least it did in Edmonton, where I lived at that time). In fact, if you had a 'good' modem, you could usually do the overclocking equivalent -- and run them at 450 baud, or even 600 (if you were REALLY lucky).

          For my part, I can usually do around 30 words per minute...On a good day, I can probably burst around 150 for a minute or two. 360 WPM for anything other than well remembered, often-used phrases is pretty unlikely for most people. I think that I'd have to agree that people who had problems with their computer keeping up with them were probably dealing with things like the, uhm, 'interesting' design of the Apple II keyboard.

          On the other hand, I do remember that I could read faster than my 300 baud modem could receive. This got a bit tougher when I upgraded to 1200 baud.

          • 360 WPM for anything other than well remembered, often-used phrases is pretty unlikely for most people.

            I have three words for you: Manually entered sigfiles. :)

            That aside, you're making a similar mistake to the 450 WPM poster; you're forgetting spaces and punctuation. Words average 5 letters, not characters.

            In other news, I can read straight text at 2400 baud if I'm actually paying attention (rare at times :). I went straight from 2400 to 28.8 and lost that ability though...

            • The 5 characters/word number is from my typing class. That was MANY years ago (a memory probably older than most of the people reading this). I'll concede the claim -- especially having done a quick wc(1) on the e-text of MLK's "I have a dream" speech it came in at an average of 9 bytes/word. Including the guttenberg Project Gutenberg [] prelude... The prelude, itself, comes in at about 6.8 bytes/word.

              Yep, yep... I looks about right... I found an article that claimed that 66 WPM was 50 BAUD. This was at 5 bits/ char, with 1 start bit and 2 stop bits == 8 chars/second... The calculations come pretty close to the 300 baud == 300WPM calculation that comes from 6 characters/word. (that 1 WPM/baud rule also strikes a memory cord in my mind).

      • >>...well, back in MY day, we had to wait for the WORDS to finish downloading, and we LIKED it!

        do you recal using the backspace key for part of your password. then you would watch your cursor move around on the password promt.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      and how we had to suffer through 4-bit porn.

      God, those bright orange, poorly dithered flesh tones are still burned into my eyes...
    • by laslo2 ( 51210 )
      take a look back at all of the things bulletin board systems offered; nation/world wide email, games, chat, text files, allowing users to post public comments, file transfers (software, text files, pictures). then look at the stuff that has driven the 'internet revolution'. not everyone has a fidonet email address, but everyone has an internet email address. there's irc, icq, yahoo messenger, aol IM. there's lots of news and information sites that have articles to read. people can post topics and discuss things at sites like slashdot. there are lots of sites ( for one) that offer downloads of software. lets you (sort of) find images to download.

      you may not be impressed, but most of the concepts that make the internet so popular were invented, implemented, and dreamed up by people using, creating, and running bulletin board systems 15+ years ago.

      woo hoo indeed.
  • My first modem was a 300 baud I bought at a garage sale and used with my Mac Plus and it's whoppin' 20MB hard drive. ('Course I later upgraded to a 1200 baud modem).

    Them wuzz the dayz.

    Curious George

    (clearly not an english major)
    • Gee, what I wouldn't have given for a 9600bps modem, let alone 9600 baud. Y'know, 'cause they aren't the same, although they were at lower speeds. Although, for all I know, 9600 baud might be normal now. Broadband really has spoiled me.
    • Reminiscing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @11:44PM (#2396887) Journal

      9600 bps didn't even exist when I first started 'modemming'. Heck, XModem was the univerasl download protocol. I remember discussions about the ymodem protocol on some tech boards, and then the zmodem protocol started to get talked about. So few systems actually supported zmodem at the time, though, I never really got a chance to play with it.

      Anyways, my first modem was a 110 bps acoustic coupler. I remember my parents being absolutely confounded at this gizmo that I spent 4 months of my paper route's salary on. I was only allowed to use it after 11PM. I decided then and there that I needed my own phone line. My parents were reluctant to let me have one, however. It took almost a year to convince them.

      Right after I got my own phone line, I went out to WestWorld computers, and bought a Hayes Micromodem for the Apple ][+. It could do 110/300bps, and could even autodial! (although it could not do tones, only pulse-dialing.) I remember being the first person I personally knew to have an autodialing modem. (gloat, gloat, gloat) There were a few people I knew _of_ that had autodialing modems, and I had even heard of people having 1200bps, but at the time I had never personally met any of them. I had seen 1200bps modems at the computer store where I bought my modem, but they cost way more money than I could afford.

      That summer, the sysop of one of my favourite systems at the time decided to hold a BBS-BBQ. It was the first time most of the users on that system had heard of something like this, and there were about 60 of us that said we would come. Actually seeing the faces for the first time of people who I had formerly only known as "Happy Hacker", "Robin Hood", "The Illuminoid", or what have you, was an experience I still don't have words to describe.

      I had to grow up sometime, however... we all did. The modem ended up getting stored into a closet as I became too busy for that kind of socializing. I had brief flings with assorted groups on usenet in the passing years, but I can sincerely say that no place in cyberspace has ever felt as much like "home" as those old BBS's of the early 80's.

      • I spent a summer taking courses at RPI's High School Summer Program in '87. In the Assembly Language program, we had to talk to an ancient DEC machine with a 50 bps paper TTY! AND type in the bootstrap program every time we powered the system on. Until we did that, we'd be unable to read our 8" floppy disks!
  • i remember when i ran a WWIV system off of a 386. we were on chunkynet for email and boards, and we had games (tradewars and foodfight). and ansi art (i miss TheDraw). i bought a 14.4k modem through a vendor that gave discounts to sysops. after that, i downloaded pirated games that used DOS/4GW at (what seemed like) smoking rates. i even got my first internet account through a bbs (the transformer room).

    <abe simpson>
    you kids with your gigahertz and flash and dsl and tcp/ip don't know anything about zmodem or slurp or busy signals. back when i was your age, we used to get our email once a day. and we liked it.
    </abe simpson>

    i've got to go post to this site.....

    • you kids with your gigahertz and flash and dsl and tcp/ip don't know anything about zmodem or slurp or busy signals.

      Actually, zmodem is great when I just have a quick file I want to move from a Windows machine and all I have is TTSSH. I'm sure there's got to be a better way, but I haven't thought of it yet. As it is, I use rz on the Linux machine and send the file off.
      • Actually, zmodem is great when I just have a quick file I want to move from a Windows machine and all I have is TTSSH. I'm sure there's got to be a better way, but I haven't thought of it yet.
        pscp works pretty well, and it's small enough that you can throw it on your website and download it from there whenever you need it. PuTTY is the same way, and (IMHO) it's better than any other Win32 SSH client I've run across.
  • he's looking for a few of the million stories in the naked net.

    It was a cold, bianary day on the naked net. At least I think the 'net was naked, all the URLs I visit seem to be that way, even the White House []. Just pics of girls so hot they'd melt the GLH* off of Ron Popiel. But of course there were also lots of pics of girls so ugly I'd swear my monitor whinced. Pics of guys looking like girls, girls looking like guys; it was obvious to me that the naked net was a dangerous and confusing place to be...

    To Be Continued...

    *GLH = Great Looking Hair - "Hair in a can" kind of thing

  • Luxury.

    We used to have to redial the BBS until 3 o'clock in the morning because it only had one line. And then we had to connect at 300 goddamn bits per second and every slightest click on the line would appear as garbage characters because there was NO ERROR CORRECTION.

    But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'.

    The scariest thing is that I'm not just paraphrasing Monty Python's 4 Yorkshiremen - it's all actually true...
    • 300 bps? Luxury! When I was a kid, teachers told us one day in the future we might have 300 baud modems, and we didn't believe them.

      Sure, we had modems, but they were slow, and line noise was awful. Usually it was just faster to pick up the phone, call the other person, and say "0 . . . 0 . . . 1 . . . 0 . . ." and not worry about the line noise that ate up 3/4 of all the bits.

      Plus, we had to crawl 4 miles in the snow uphill in broken glass to the store to buy that modem.

  • I was on FIDOnet when 9600 was only a wet dream. I was so 1337 that I had a 2400 baud modem. In the beginning I mostly ran it on 1200 because it felt strange to run 2400 unless you really needed it. Also many of those BBS were designed from the fact that the modems were no faster than you could read the text as it read it on screen. Later on, the concept of a "more" function was introduced. :-)

    Ah those were the days.. and lets not get started on the 75 baud modems, yes 75.
    • I was on a development contract a few years ago for AOL in Virginia - I was outside having a smoke and one of the Tech Support guys came out, talking about his last call - A guy with a heavy foreign accent, trying to get his new modem working. He said that he had bought a 'very big' modem, which the techie had interpreted to mean 'very fast'. After a while, he figures out that the guy really does mean a 'big' modem - towed it home from the military auction where he bought it. The techie actually knew the model and told the guy that he would never get it to work with AOL, but that the tubes inside were actually quite valuable ones and that he could easily buy a new PC after selling the (gold lined) tubes to collectors...
      I have no idea about what the hardware was, but it was pretty funny...
      Jim in Tokyo
  • There was a nice BBS called the Timewarp BBS in Atlanta back in the day. I've never found an online community which was quite as interesting, though E2 [] does come close sometimes. BBSes, with the games, like Trade Wars 2002 [] and various forums, really gave you some interesting things to do. Since modems weren't as popular, and one had to know where to dial any way, there was much more of a regular community, so you got to know people better than is generally true with Internet web boards. I think I liked Timewarp better than I do the Internet today.
  • by Cerlyn ( 202990 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @09:31PM (#2396680)

    I used to be quite active on the local BBS scene. Operators would get the latest archive CD-ROMs of the day, and then post them online for others to access.

    Nowadays, no one really uses BBSes anymore. Everyone has direct links to the resources BBSes used to offer. Most of Walnut Creek's old content was available from (now run by Want music from the Hornet Archive? You can't purchase the CD anymore; you go online to

    This extreme centalization of content worries me. Instead of colleges purchasing CD-ROMs of technical abstracts, they now subscribe to an ever-changing online service that provides them. Should said service go under or lose their data, humanity as a whole is at a loss.

    Call me a troll, but one of the biggest reasons we should be against DMCA, SSSCA, and other such acts is because they require all content to be managed from a central authority. Should that authority go bankrupt, millions could lose access to a variety of works.

    While peer-to-peer is one extreme the industry does not like, centralization is another problem. We need to start up the BBS era again; anyone have money for a spare phone line?

    • The need to replicate BBS content was driven only by the cost of calling long distance. BBSes would certainly have been more centralized (and specialized) if long distance had been free back then.

      I'm surprised that the Internet has made it this far without any kind of "per hop" pricing... I can buy a leased line in California, and my traffic to Australia costs no more than my traffic going across town. It just doesn't seem like a sustainable model.

      So replication of Internet content is driven not so much by cost (yet), but rather by the needs for performance, evasion of law enforcement, and load distribution.

      Meanwhile, google is doing a pretty good job of archiving things for posterity. Still it would be great to see a FreeNet-like system actually work long term, and have all the most important content mirrored everywhere, forever.

      I think we *are* making progress.
    • We need to start up the BBS era again; anyone have money for a spare phone line?

      I used to have a BBS running, now there's just a mailer. Most people stopped calling 3 or 4 years ago and a lot of BBS software has become unusable since 1-1-2000 (like the hudson messagebase). I don't really see the point anymore in running a BBS since you can get an internet account for free from many places. In the end everyone only wanted to download jpg's anyway, that took most of the fun out of it for me.
  • I often connect through my GSM mobile phone, and I'm lucky if I get 9600 through that! 9600 is very real for me...

    at least things then were optimised for 9600 or slower
  • Fido? Bah! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FFFish ( 7567 )
    Fido was a lousy system for communications. The message format and controls just got in the way of discussions. It was, in short, not well-designed for "talking."

    It was great for files, though. Really kicked ass there. And it was good for pure information sharing, of the question-answer style.

    Now, what was (and is) great for communication -- that is, discussion and discourse -- was/is the Citadel-style BBS. Man, that thing was honed for chatter: streaming sequential messages, closer to dinner-party conversation than anything else.

    I do hope that this documentary doesn't ignore the discussion-based BBSes. There were a lot of people who shared a lot of opinions on those systems... and some of us even had our minds changed because of their persuasive arguments!
  • by motherhead ( 344331 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @09:39PM (#2396696)
    Here is my BBS reminiscence,

    I was nice normal American boy. It was 1991. I logged into the Windy City BBS. Some of you may not remember the WCBBS, 70% of all the porn on the Internet posted before 1998 originated there.

    Two hours after logging in I was versed in fisting, wife swapping, water sports, bestiality, etc etc etc... I was then ready for college and the brave new world of connected systems.

    I blame BBSs for horrible person that I am.

    God bless the Windy City BBS! Cheers!
  • Cott Lang, release under GPL or rott in Hell!
  • The good 'ol days (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gburgyan ( 28359 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @09:45PM (#2396706) Homepage
    God, I feel old...

    I remember when I was 12 in '85 and playing around with my Commodore 64. I borrowed a 300 baud (back when a baud was a bit... time flies) and quickly got my own 1200 bps. A little time went by and I managed to talk my mom into getting a second phone line -- thus Ground Zero BBS was born. Working for all of 1 meg online: a 1541 and 1581 floppy drive. Ran the thing off of CNet BBS software if I still remember. Phone number at the time was 216-381-6550. Don't bother calling 'cause it's long dead though.

    Lasted for around 4 years, which was a fairly long time as far as BBSes went. I still remember the first couple of callers. Watching them sign on and leave messages. I got to know everyone on there. It was like a close group of friends -- maybe 30 or so regulars. We had a couple of get-togethers. By Co-sysop started dating one of them too.


    Times are changing. Back then I knew almost everyone that was online in the 216 are code. Now most everyone is on. Heck, the code split twice because of all the new phone lines being put in.

    It's something that I'm sure to tell my future kids some day. Back when we were on the cusp of something big. Back when computers were as uncommon as rotary phones are now.

    • I was online in '84 with a C=64 and a 300 baud modem in San Diego. Had some great fun there. Still remember the shock when I upgraded to a 1200 baud when I got a C=128; "Damn, this is fast" I thought.

      Those were the days indeed.

      Now, with my ADSL, I'm grabbing RedHat/Mandrake iso images without a second thought.

      I dread, and can foresee a time, however, when I'll think that THESE were the days. Too many legislators needing to justify their existance!

      Support the EFF!

    • Geez, I think I remember this BBS. Long time ago and I'm not sure but it sounds awful familiar. I was in the Cleveland OH area during that time and probably logged onto most of the BBS's in the 216 area code that were around during the late 80's and early 90s. Ahhh, the memories. It was really exciting to log on back then.

      I remember shelling out $250 bucks for a 2400 baud modem from Practical Periferals (subsidiary of Hayes if I recall with V.42bis which allowed me to get a little extra speed out of the connection through hardware compression. Probably wasn't worth the money but it was cool. 9600 baud modems had just hit the market and cost $500 at the time. This was back when my machine was a 286 with 1 meg of RAM. Dropped $1600 for that bad boy and still have the VGA (640x480 max) monitor for it which sees occasional service 13-14 years later.
  • I remember learning the basics of programming by creating .PPE scripts for PCBoard bbs'es. Those were the days...
  • I ran a pretty popular BBS on Maximus under MS-Dos - originally on a timeshared 486 (someone else would use it during the day - I'd use it at night for the bbs) at an office - then it was downgraded to a 286. This was in Coos Bay Oregon - it was called Lidpoint 1:356/24 (was its fidonet address). It was eventually shut down because a crackpot dork named les lemke became the net admin (for net 356) - he not only treated me like crap (because he hated me), but he continually set me duplicate nodeiffs - and I was too stupid or lazy to modify the batch file to extract the nodeiffs without confirmation :(. Those were the days when if you wanted to write a script you really had to know what you were doing mostly because a dos based fido capable BBS was a huge mess (literally) of batch files that would run at specific error levels etc. Batch files were also used to execute doors - like games. You're really a scripting god if you can figure all that out. I guess it wasn't all that complicated if it was layed out properly - errorlevel x bink has to go fetch mail etc.

    My second board was actually on an Amiga 3000 - what a difference. For one thing no archaic scripting languages - everything was Arexx - and it was nice, virtually unlimited amount of devices. In fact it was eventually on the internet via the telserd.device - a modem emulator device driver for telnet in the early 90's. Not to mention you could use it while the bbs was running and you - nor the bbs user knew it.
  • by bad-badtz-maru ( 119524 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @10:01PM (#2396737) Homepage
    Some of you who followed it to the end saw what happened to most of the BBS packages. Clark Development went belly up. Searchlight and MSI sold their software to small companies who squeezed every last dime from the software (and still try to market it!). I don't know what Galacticomm ended up doing with MajorBBS/Worldgroup. Lesser-used packaged like TAG and WWIV dropped off the face of the planet.
    In all this, there is a neat story, involving Rob Swindell and his Synchronet BBS software. His company, Digital Dynamics, sold Synchronet for a noteable price "back in the day". They had full page spreads in Boardwatch along with Clark, Galacticomm, MSI, and the other big players. However, when the bottom fell out of the market, instead of squeezing every last dime from the product, Rob Swindell cleaned up his code and released everything into the public domain at which time he himself ceased all development.
    It gets even cooler than that. About a year ago, Rob picks up the project again and turns it into open source with the release of a Linux version. Synchronet now supports Windows, OS/2, and Linux versions, all free and all GPLd. You can check it out at .
    If anyone here used the ZChat chat door, that was my "child".

    • Or was that his chat bot? I actually fell for that when I was a BBS newbie ;).

    • It gets even cooler than that. About a year ago, Rob picks up the project again and turns it into open source with the release of a Linux version. Synchronet now supports Windows, OS/2, and Linux versions, all free and all GPLd. You can check it out at .
      Damned right!

      Rob's code keeps getting better, with Telnet, FTP and SMTP servers now part of the deal, JavaScript support built in, and a long and exciting "To Do" list with items actually getting done all the time. And best of all, the developer is actually accessible, listens to your suggestions, and frequently acts upon your suggestions in days or even hours.

      Fully GPL'd code available under CVS, and an active and growing support network via QWK or FIDO, Rob announced another slew of enhancements only a couple days ago! Way to go, Digital man!!!

      You can visit Vertrauen BBS [] yourself, and check it out!
    • Is boardwatch still aronud? I actually saw an issue around when BBSes died(mid '90s), and I Must say it was quite a disappointing issue. All it was was basically a nationwide listing of dial-up ISPs.

      It was sad.
      • Boardwatch is indeed still arround, however it has little to do with BBS's now. It's all about running small ISPs.

        Here is a link [] to the September issue table of contents.

    • Worldgroup got sold off to [], which STILL gouges potential customers for every penny and dime they can-- case in point; you want to buy it (as if buying a BBS software package is worth ANYTHING, but let's pretend it is) you have to fork out not $100, not $200, not $500, not even $1000.. you have to pay $7000 for the privilege of running their software. Want more than 128 users at a time? You have to CALL and ask to be graced with that heart-attack inducing price (apperently they cared enough about peoples' health to know that if you saw the price for the 128 user or less copy, you might not be able to handle the price they demand for >128 users).

      All this, and the software hasn't been updated in a few years, and the support just doesn't exist. Galacticomm I think still exists, but what they market/sell I don't know.. they may still be up at [], if you're curious anyways.. Galacticomm also changed their name to "netVillage" (their page appears to still be up, and actually, and look entirely different, so don't ask me which one still represents the original gcomm..) during the recent past, and for awhile (and apperently still) try to sell hosting of Worldgroup systems (or their expertise at setting them up and maintaining them) rather than selling the software itself (again though, supposedly owns it, so I don't understand this arrangement they have, but shrug).

  • by DocSnyder ( 10755 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @10:04PM (#2396741)
    ...once the Internet has become an unusable, proprietary, virus-plagued and outlawed Big Brother hell.

    It might be quite different from the former Fido BBSes as far as technology is concerned, but the users and sysops will have the same spirit: freedom.

    • Absolutely. And we'll have some nicer tools to play with like 802.11b and Bluetooth. That way your average mug punter won't even need a phoneline - he just uses the card that talks to his digital camera and PDA.

      I hope someone is working out the protocols for this. Very few people realise that the wireless Freenet is going to be as big - if not biger than - the internet we know today.

      Vik :v)
  • Anyone remember this one? Kinda made that $600 Hayes 9600 modem earn its keep.
  • After reading this artical I did a google search on my old Alias & a few other unique terms to the Melbourne group that I used to hang out with, and to my amazement came up with the following: [] (which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 5th April, 1993)

    The names the hackers use are, as always, interesting. In a review by iNFiNiTY, a bulletin board management program, credit is given to Transvamp, Country Distortion, Death Wish, Bit Byter and others.

    I actaully wrote the Infinity BBS software with a few other people in Turbo Pascal, which I was coding when I was around 14-16 years old, and my alias as one of the ones above.

    The moral of this story, type your old Nic into google and see what you come up with!

  • I had a smallish 4 line BBS (CNet Amiga) here in Tacoma, WA.. it was once called Lost Sword of X-Calibur, then X-Calibur, then Shards of Sanity.

    I really miss the sense of 'community' that the BBS brings. Calling up your few local favorites to check your email and the message boards.. trading *ahem* files with your friends. Spending massive amounts of money on phone bills at times.

    Mine was going for a few years.. the last year I even had a brand new dedicated 28.8k link to the Internet offering PPP/shell access for my users (one 28.8k line was fine because 14.4k was the norm, 3 users max) - but then came a HD crash that I never really recovered from, or wanted to recover from. My own Internet usage got to me.. and I saw the 'future.' - too bad it was largely owned by AOL and the faceless corporations that we hated.

    Jason Fisher
    (Lord of Flies, King Arthur, BloodHawk.)
  • BBS bashing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Many of the smaller BBSs were programmed in Basic (with console i/o routed thru the modem port and ctrl-c etc trapped). One problem that many of these systems had is that although they had error trappng and recovery via "on error goto", floating point overflow and underflow errors were not handled properly because the author never thought about that happening. These systems could be brought down by typing something like 9e99 or 9999999... (>75 nines, if they stripped out non numeric chars) when the system asked for a number, like a message number to read.
  • by MagPulse ( 316 )
    What I really miss is being able to talk to people in my area, usually within the 8 mile band A radius, that spend as much time with their computers as I do.

    What do we have now.. LUG meetings? Except for some of the famous ones like SVLUG, the ones I've heard about and been to are just a bunch of people who can't get Red Hat installed.

    I've been content to talk to coders from around the world. I find them because they're part of an OSS project I'm working with, or they're on IRC, or they post to the newsgroups I read. But I will probably never meet them, go find some decent bars in the area, or talk about the local CompUSAs and which ones have the best selection. I have to do that alone.
    • Start a website for local people to converse, start something. I'm sure all the people you used to talk to feel the same way. I agree the sense of community is missing. It might not work but maybe you could start something.
    • I ran a socially oriented system called David's Amazing BBS. In its most successful incarnation (1987-1991), it ran on Microport Unix (lousy Unix, crashed all the time, or was that my hardware?) and had 5-6 phone lines.

      I dated 4-5 women off that system; I've never had more success with the opposite sex before or since, which depresses the heck out of me now. The geographically diverse nature of Internet use really does hurt the dating scene. I'm sure being the big cheese of the system is something that helped my prospects, too, and now I'm relatively insignificant as these things go.

      I've played around with running other dating systems, but none of them have worked nearly as well as the old one, most likely because the local nature of the BBS made promotion within my geographical area a lot easier. Now most of the people I get for my dating system (now not running) have been scattered all over the world, and so there isn't much coherence to the thing.

      I miss BBSs a lot for that reason; in the sense of get-togethers and socializing, those really were the good old days.

  • I was SysOp of WithoutaNet, a TBBS system which lived in my attic. It started on a clone 8088 machine, and eventually made it all the way up to a '386 with a handful of modems ranging from 2400 to 19.2!

    I also had a pet iguana who liked to clamber on top of the nice warm CPU. Somehow, the lizard managed to hit the right keys to change the system password, and I was never able to manage the system from the console again!

    Ahhh, the good old days...

  • Talk about history:

    Atari was my dream computer in the late 70's. After all, who could afford a IBM-PC?

    Compuserve @ 300 baud was my link to the "world".

    Much of what I remember was the problem that if you had a program on tape, you could not transfer it to a floppy, because the file headers were different. Thus, you had to either type it in again (booting with the floppy active) or download it from the Compuserve forum. The file (not gonna dig to find it) was about 64k. Again and again my connection would choke, and I'd have 2+ hours of long distance phone charges for nothing. This would always happen when I had 95% of the damn thing downloaded!

    Finally, since I already had typed the thing in assembly from Compute! magazine, I found a way to get it onto a floppy and gave up on Compuserve. They were the AOL of yesteryear, anyway. Bastards! (although they deserve credit where due - pioneering and all that)

    Using the Computer Shopper, I ran my phone bill up terribly calling and subscribing to any BBS I thought would be cool.

    I once ran into one that scared the bejeezus outta me with some satanic crap...I immediately wiped all references to my visit and took a long deep breath before I called another BBS, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't *posessed* from logging on to that thing.

    I thought that this might interest someone, or I wouldn't have bothered typing it...

  • by rawg ( 23000 )
    If only I can figure out how to restore my Norton Backups of my old WWIV BBS. I wonder what texts and files lurk in there...

    My copy of Norton Backup is long gone, and I can't find any info from Norton about how to restore it. One day though...
  • It was like zmodem protocol, but with a fancy statistic screen and you could chat in real-time with the SysOp (laggy though). :)

  • This is a bit off-topic, but a request. I seem to have lost my copy of a cool ant ANSI that Terminator2 (Baud Town user #2692 I believe?) made back in the old days (early 1990s). Has anyone seen it in any ANSI archives?

    Thanks in advance.

  • When I first got on the Net, it was via an Amiga 1000, dialing from Kansas City to Boston to call The World [], the first dial-in ISP at 1200 baud. I then moved to Chicago, where I looked around for an ISP, and joined Chinet []. This was run by Randy Suess who, with his friend Ward Christensen (who wrote Xmodem) and they created CBBS which launched in 1978, considered to be the first BBS.

  • Geesh, I remember before we had shared message areas, there was just what we called "netmail", the ability to send a message to another BBS on Fidonet...and that was cool. Then this guy name Jeff Rush came up with a way to take the new messages in a special message area and ship them to another BBS...way cool! It was called Echomail. Then we started doing it between a bunch of Fidonet BBSs, there were less than 500 of them at that point. It was Echomail that really made Fidonet take off...and the worst of it was that us Sysops bore the brunt of the funding for it...we ran the systems, sometimes bought the software to run it on, and paid the long distance bills to bring in the echo we wanted. Eventually, we banded together in areas like Ottawa, and pooled our efforts. Then one person got permission to use the ir companies bulk long-distance, and started pulling in all the echos for free! Then, we started to really grow in the Ottawa 163. For the longest time our net host was a guy named Al Hacker...really, that was his name! He even showed us his driver's ID and all! And then the evil politics started, and we splintered into nets 163 and 148.

    So, I will leave the story there...

    Farrell McGovern
    SysOP Solsbury Hill BBS
    (originally Fidonet 1:163/5)
  • There's still a number of BBS's around, they've just moved to Telnet. Check out [] for a listing...
  • They forget that in every bbs, there was a lot of interesting activity such aD!*"/$&!")( NO CARRIER
  • I say:
    • YooHoo

    And you say:

    • YooHoo/2U2!


  • its all about legends of the red dragon. bbs doors brought people together in a way no one could imagine.

    People were all about playing a game with people they didn't know in real life.

    and it was all about flirting with the girl in the bar, in LORD. best game ever.

    I'm drunk, and going to bed now.

    I dont have anythng else to say.

  • One thing that I like about Jason is that he doesn't equivocate "BBS" with "the past" the way some other people (*cough*CmdrTaco*cough*) do. The BBS community is definitely alive and well; it's moved to the Internet, of course -- dialup is what's dead. And with modern BBS software giving users a choice of text or web interfaces, there's little chance that it's going to go away anytime soon. (Click this link to go to UNCENSORED! BBS [], which I run on a Linux box in my basement with a DSL circuit.)

    The role of BBS's is what has changed. The "make the sysop some money" boards all turned into ISP's in the mid-1990's. The "download information/drivers/etc." BBS's were properly replaced by web sites. But the online community BBS's are still here. The ones run by people who love to get a great group of people online to enjoy each other's company. The places where spirited, friendly discussion is the meat and bones of the medium. No, it's not exactly like it was a decade ago, but few things are. Some things aren't quite as charming, but some things are actually better. No more endless busy signals to get on your favorite BBS, since the Internet is by its nature multiuser (right now I'm counting 10 people logged into my BBS).

    With the mainstream Internet becoming more and more the playground of the corporate elite, I'd expect small, hobbyist-operated sites like BBS's to become even more popular, as users get disgusted with having pre-packaged crap shoved at them through the big channels, and go around looking for something a little more "folksy."
  • Well, we have a website about it...

    Run by the cool guy AMPro, it covers BBS'es in the Western New York area... (mostly Buffalo.)
  • For those of you who remember the Pagan BBS Scene (now there was a small niche lemme tell ya, probably no more than 20,000 boards in all), I have still got a lot of the text files I had on my BBS (The Cauldron 1991-1995) when it was part of PODS (The Pagan/Occult Distribution System) and Fidonet, available on [] in the Resources Section [].

    I really loved the BBS days, and although the Internet is more efficient at communications than BBSes were in their day, there is not the sense of community that there used to be with a BBS. Something was lost with the demise of the BBS as a medium. Oh, I know they still exist but the average internet user will never see one in their entire lives - they are a dying element of modern communications. I am still tempted to set up one again though - perhaps a telnet bbs this time, since dialup is not feasible.

    Any other PODS users or Sysops out there?

  • You know what I miss most about those days? NO FRIGGIN ADS!!!! No pop-ups, pop-unders, pop-overs, pop-you-in-the-mouth, banners, animations, Shockwave, etc... Except for having to deal with an upload/download ratio, I could pretty much spend my hour downloading a pirated copy of Doom II in peace. Now I get to pay over $20.00 a month for the privledge of having an appreciable percentage of my bandwidth dedicated to advertisers.

    You know what else I miss from those days? NO SPAMMERS!!!

    My God, BBSes of days gone by are seeming downright civilized when compared to what we have today. Even the flamers stuck to their own little topic area on the boards.
  • I remeber first going online at a friends house, he had 300baud...I thought wow, this is cool. My first modem for going to BBS's was a hayes 2400, nice modem...still works ;)

    But a few BBS's stick out in my mind, there was Hogman and I think Mitch Cole was his name that owned it...maybe your reading this, if me. Bunch in town, I remeber the old Empire Boards 4 nodes at one point, before it disapeared. I remeber the weekly stradegy for BRE, and Tradewar's where the guys in the city would get together in the local coffee shop to plan the weeks stradegy. Ahh there was one run by a nice guy named bill, whom I haven't talk to in year we were friends, then the "inner" sanctum of BBS owners going awol on each other, spreading lies and rumors...basicly brought down this great community we had.

    Oh well, I still play BRE on a couple of leages, one out austraila and one out of germany. Though I fondly remeber dialing up the music archive, of MP3's to get the best ones...such a shame when they went to a paid service.

    Sometimes I wish I could trade my childhood back, sometimes I'm quite sure I missed the most importan point...and that was the fun of it all...but running a BBS myself...that didn't leave too much unfortunatly. But such as life, and it was a good experiance.

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper,
    plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship,
    design a building, write a sonnet, balance acounts,build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly.
    Specialization is for insects."

    -- Robert A. Heinlein
  • I'm still on fido (2:206/233), though you'll mostly find me in R20. A nice complement to the larger use[less]net.

  • That was a network, like Tymnet or something, that sold their after business hours capacity to hobbyists for an affordable price, about 1985-7 or so. With PCPersuit you could expolore the BBS scene in anyone of 35 or so major matropolitan area from any town with an dialup access # w/o running up a huge long distance bill. You connect your 300 baud modem (1200 if your cool) to a local access #, then issue some commands to a dial OUT modem in, say, Atlanta, to connect to a BBS there and viola, your online long distance cheaply, flat rate. Every BBS you find usually had a list of other local BBS's so it was a quickly expanding tree of boards to connect up with.

    One time I got a modem in, say, Atlanta to dialup, not a BBS but the PCPersuit access # there, and got dialout in Chicago, connected to the PCP access # in Chicago to connect to Denver, and daisy chained THAT to LA, etc....

    Any, for a modest monthy fee it really opened up a huge world of BBS's you could really waste tons of time on...

  • I was active in Charlotte and Asheville, NC, and in Japan (within the US Army).

    First pass in Charlotte, I had bought my father a 300 baud modem (couldn't afford the 1200 baud ones available at the time) which he plugged into his Kaypro II... but I got the most use out of it. I was in my early teens, and heavily intrigued with this nifty technology.

    For a while, we had to convert binary files to hex (so they were ASCII), then download the ASCII without error checking to convert back to binary again on the other end. It was the worst way imaginable to transmit files.

    Eventually, Ward Christensen's (sic?) protocol became available. This is either the precursor or the same protocol that later became known as XModem. This made file transfer significantly easier.

    I joined the Army, and moved to Japan. While I was in Japan, I got involved with FidoNet. Our computer club maintained a FidoNet node, communicating mostly with other BBSes in English-speaking Japan.

    Eventually, having lost an election to become the system operator of the club's BBS, I started my own using an old Amiga and Citadel. I had tried a variety of BBS software for the Amiga, eventually settling on Citadel because of its emphasis on textual communications over files. I had the most unique BBS in Japan.

    Then, I finished my term of service and returned to Charlotte, where I tried to get Machine's Machination running again. I caused a couple of other people to start Citadel BBSes in an area where WWIV seemed to have become the dominant player.

    Ah.. WWIV. I spent far too much time on WWIVNet. Eventually, we had a kind of contest where you could vote for various WWIV community members, and see who won at an awards ceremony that was held in some sports bar or something.

    I won three awards. The first was for the best TradeWars handle (Fearless Fleeb, flying the Garn Blooie Drekship, establishing Garn Blooie Dreksectors and Garn Blooie Drekports). The next award I won granted me status as the most eloquent user, a title that stunned me. I was asked to give a nice speech, but not having prepared, I did not have much to say (a pity, in retrospect). Most amusingly, however, was finding myself with the third award, voted the most verbose user (where those who asked me to give a speech told me to shut up).

    I eventually ran Machine's Machination in Asheville, and for a little while networked with Citanet, but eventually had to take it all down. I wouldn't dream of running one now, with the Internet as it is and all.

    But Citadel, from my perspective, had the best user filter available; only those people clever enough to figure out the peculiar user interface could 'join', and those people tended to also be the ones that liked signal over noise. Hence, my BBS of choice.
  • Im still running one, telnet only mind you, using synchronet 3.10e beta [] I have set up about 20 door games and have about 350 users... if you all want to play LORD, BRE, FE, Clans, Tradewars and others drop on by (the addressis in the sig)
  • Here's my karma whoring troll for the day...

    A Baud is not a Bit. You don't have a 9600 Baud modem.. you have a 9600bps modem, operating at propbably 2400 baud.
    The maximum theoretical baud rate on a phone line is about 3200 baud or so.. I'm not positive what's used for each bps rate.

    I believe 28.8k modems use 9bits per baud... making the line 3200 baud...

    96kbps modems use 4 bits/baud...

  • ISCABBS (telnet, one of the first Internet-based bbs systems, is over ten years old, still alive, and fairly healthy. At its peak in the mid-90s, it often had close to 2000 users online at any given time. It can still pull a few hundred when it's busy. It was the original DOC (Dave's Own Citadel) version of Citadel, and is fairly robust. The Citadel system of "X" messages (private messaging) and public forums is still the best online *community* form i've seen.

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. -- F.M. Hubbard