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BBS Documentary Starting To Film 220

Jason Scott writes "Well, the BBS Documentary, after years of research and 4 months of pre-production, is set to film starting the first week in January. Once the filming starts, it's a solid year or more of interviews, travel, and hopefully some great footage of some very unique and interesting people. I'd like to thank Slashdot for the burst of letters and support, and I really appeciate the contacts they've helped me make with an amazing spectrum of folks to interview. The list is not complete, but I've so far gotten a great list of interviewees who helped make the Dial-Up BBS what it is in history (and today, I rush to add). Of course, the research is never done, and I encourage people to check out the BBS Software List and the timeline to help me flesh them out even more."
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BBS Documentary Starting To Film

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  • ..because TAG-clones ruled 313 ... :)
    • because TAG-clones ruled 313 ... :)

      TAG? Ugh... 517 had a couple TAG boards, but by and large it was owned by Renegade and its various cousins. The few larger, multiline boards generally ran Synchronet or Major BBS.
      • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Friday December 28, 2001 @05:36AM (#2758025) Homepage Journal
        Depends on the era. I think it was c-net (the Amiga client) that ruled 407 for awhile - and also WWIV for awhile, Searchlight, and Renegade towards the end before I left the community. Early on (circa 1981), they were all custom built. At least three Apple ][ BBSes in the 407 area all were based on the same code, a few hundred lines of GOSUB routines (remember, Apple ][ had a *very* good Basic in ROM), and all menus, functions, etc were hardcoded.

        I still like how Searchlight worked - redirect BIOS and DOS display routines (basically stdout), and emulate color changes and positioning using ANSI. Any program that used BIOS calls for i/o could run under it - in fact the core BBS program itself was just a regular program with no modem handling routines whatsoever - you just loaded the TSR, and told an init style program what to use as the inital login program.

        I SysOped a half dozen boards from 1981 to 1993. I even got paid for two of them, and did many installs and configurations, some for friends, some as consulting work. My Dad got me into it - he was logging into some system via TeleNet back at the very end of the 70s for something having to do with Scientific Products. The community was still mostly Ham types who could soldier, and one threw a big BBQ twice a year at his small farm. One party he unveiled his new creation - one of the first BBSes in the area.

        Ironically, I'd like to point out that at one of those parties somebody showed off a horribly slow but fun game that had you running around a 3D maze and shooting stick figures (the crosshair was always in the middle of the screen, and I believe that the stick figure moved back and forth). Some people still think Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS. :)

        --
        Evan

        • Depends on the era. I think it was c-net (the Amiga client) that ruled 407 for awhile -

          The era and area I should think.. I'd wager that most localities ended up with common software across BBS's because of the simplicity of getting help (support). FWIW in what's now 360, PC-BOARD dominated from 89-95 with a strong showing of RBBS-PC in second place.
      • For the longest time TAG had the overwhelming presence in the 517 area code. It was probably '91 or so that Renegade really started to show up. I found it disappointing, because I preferred TAG boards to Renegade - perhaps that was just because I associated Renegade with annoying kiddies trying to run 'Elite' boards and running them for seemingly two purposes - to talk about how cool GWAR was and playing LORD.

        *sigh* - I was a regular user on The Gamer's Forum and Abacus... such memories...
  • please donate your 2400 baud modem now to help out this cause :)

    pretty good that they're making this documentary, it'll help some people (such as myself) learn of what the old days were like .. that is, of course, hoping they do a good job of it ..
    • I actually remember the day I wanted to upgrade the modem on my BBS from a 24oo to a 14.4. I remember fondly going to CompUSA, plunking down $200, and spending 2 hours flipping DIP switches and fixing Telix so it would all work. WWIV was pretty relaxed about the new modem thing, but I do remember getting G-modem (or was it H-modem) to work properly took some time.

      Now it's just $10 bucks, and a quick PCI port install. Man I miss the good old days -- the days when it actually took some (not much) skill to run a computer.

      My BBS ran on a 386/sx (16mhz) with 2MB of memory and a 120MB hard drive. I think with all my downloads, messages and such I still had nearly 60MB free. I thought 120 megs was impossibly huge. I still have the disk image burned onto a CD. It's fun going through messages that are 8 years old and remembering the good times.

      .anacron
      • yea .. i wish it took skills to operate computers

        at least i wish my job involved people who have some BASICE skills .. and a bit of common sense
        but that's too much to wish for .. i guess i'll just go back to wishing they made stronger tylenol
    • 2400 baud!! I remember how fast that looked the first time I saw a 2400 baud modem. Those lines just screamed across the screen!!! (one line at a time that is). I still have my 1200 baud hayes somewhere... Talk about slow. Imagine, downloading pr0n at 1200 baud, on a Mac Plus!! I never downloaded an entire picture on that thing; I would always get bored halfway through and play Daleks instead.....


    • Wanna my 300 baud paperweight ?
    • I have a US Robotics 9600 HST in the junk pile downstairs that I'd happily donate. It could connect at 9600bps with another US Robotics modem using the HST proprietary protocol, but connected at 2400 with all others. Because of this, and the relative popularity of USR, most big BBS' had separate dial-in lines for HST modem users to get super-quantum speed.

  • At the risk of turning your BBS history into a telephony history, I'd include the first translantic phone call (Virginia->Paris, 1915) on any list of communication milestones.
    Oh, and I'm getting no route to http://software.hostnet.net/
  • That reminds me.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by zcat_NZ ( 267672 ) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Friday December 28, 2001 @03:45AM (#2757916) Homepage
    I did finally manage to track down the Waikato BBS list that I used to maintain.. in google groups! And then I suddenly realised that as well as 20 years of usenet, google has archived at least a few years of the usenet-gated fido groups and I managed to track down a few other Fido articles and discussions that I thought had gone forever..


    google is pretty damn useful sometimes..

  • A special section of the movie should be dedicated to Legend of the Red Dragon. I know that's what kept many friends and I on BBSes away from the internet back in it's developmental stage.

    • Amen! I can recall getting up early before school to log in first thing in the morning to play... and that BBS also brought me my first email address -- @plywood.victoria.bc.ca which was extremely cool at the time since friends at other Universities could send me email :)
    • What about BRE? Can't remember the ammount of time I've spent playing the damn thing.

      And I wonder who still have those ANSI graphics and animation lying around on a hard drive....
      • Or using a memory editing tool, and being the sysop of a BBS, just to increase the amount of Jets / Fights in the Forest you will get next turn :)
    • No Way!!

      Trade Wars 2002 was, and is, the coolest door game ever. Nothing beats blowing the shit out of a little Scout Marauder with your Corporate Flagship. Ahh, those were the good old days, when MM0G was 2 guys on a BBS mothing each other's quasar cannons...

      *sigh*

      M
      • TW2002? I would have to disagree... sure TW2002 had more features, but I always felt the simplicity of Trade Wars 1000 made for a better game. That, and I used to have so much fun when there would be a 99% sale on planets when logging in, and go around making planets until the max number was reached... then finding ones hidden in dead end sectors months later with production up to high levels and fighters sitting and waiting...

        Though the scramble to be the first to log on after maintenance run to defeat the Cabal was a bit obnoxious.

        (I also wish I could find a copy of Power Struggle...)
  • Textfiles... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I always found this website [textfiles.com] good in reminding me of 'the old days'...
  • by Jason Scott ( 18815 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @04:16AM (#2757948) Homepage
    Sorry, I'm a moron. I meant software.bbsdocumentary.com [bbsdocumentary.com] and not hostnet.net. Just goes to show that 5 previews is STILL not enough.
    • What, no Obv/2 software? In my last days of BBSing, most of the boards I was on were obv/2, of course, they were mostly art scene boards, but nevertheless, it should be listed. It was last in development by Murray Stokely (Shivan Bastard), the last I heard he works at cdrom.com for walnut creek.

      Actually, as I wrote this I went a did a search on google for obv/2 bbs and found that as of 01/2000 it was still under active development. Here's the link [darktech.org].

      Obv/2 came with some awesome default setups, all drawn by the main art scene groups, mainly Acid (Lord Jazz was awesome), and Ice.

      Just a little history.
  • BBS Internet (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does anyone remember RoboBBS? It was a fully VGA gui based bbs that ran on DOS. You could even preview pictures before you downloaded them.. It would convert the pic into a B/W jpeg so it wasn't even that bad on a 2400bps modem. Now pointing and clicking online is just mainstream.
    • Re:BBS Internet (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sigsegv_11 ( 526293 )
      Yeah, but IIRC, you had to download a special client for it. You couldn't just dial in with any old terminal program. That's why it never went mainstream. I remember it being kind of a pain in the ass, too. I tried it once.. In order to test it, I had to get one of my friends to download the client, then dial in.. and if something went wrong, I'd have to call back and tell him to dial again.. It was just too much of a hassle.

      On a somewhat unrelated (to this thread) note, I find it odd that they didn't have much (or any) information on the most popular BBS software. I remember WWIV, MajorBBS, and Renegade being pretty popular, at least around here.

      -Dave
      • There's certainly some information on those packages, in both the timeline and software information sections:

        http://software.bbsdocumentary.com/IBM/MSDOS/WWI V/
        http://software.bbsdocumentary.com/IBM/MSDOS/MAJ OR BBS/
        http://software.bbsdocumentary.com/IBM/MSDOS/REN EG ADE/

        I admit that sections themselves are thin, but this has been because my biggest concerns have been retrieving information on more more obscure BBS packages, for example those that predate the Internet. I'll go by and flesh out these sets of you.
  • RBBS-PC, anyone? (Score:3, Informative)

    by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @04:39AM (#2757970) Homepage
    I ran my BBS with RBBS-PC and was into it enough to have hacked up the source pretty good. I even shelled out for QuickBasic so that I could compile my modified versions.

    By the late versions, RBBS-PC was so configurable and scriptable... add to that the available source code, and my BBS looked like no other, had a completely unique interface and did things like automatic virus scanning and conversion of uploads into multiple compression formats. Not like a lot of those WWIV systems which were all identical.

    Come to think of it, RBBS-PC was really my first introduction to the fundamental concepts of open source. I don't even know if it was "open source" by modern standards, but having the source available allowed me to do my own thing and spend hours joyously hacking at little things I wanted to modify.
    • I still have my origional manual and floppies of RBBS. Gotta love any BBS that was written in BASIC!

      it was a blast, I think I had more fun runn ing the BBS (I was one of those advanced BBS's I had 2 2400Modems and 2 legal phonelines. Basically, I was pretty sucessful at the subscription system. You paid to get access to the neat stuff, Doors and the bulk of the downloads, and double the amount of time per day to be online.

      I just wish I was able to get my copy of Xenix running with a decent bbs (I tried to port RBBS over to Xenix.) then I could have offered internet email to my users....via UUCP of course. Oh well.
  • BBS's only? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by snake_dad ( 311844 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @05:00AM (#2757985) Homepage Journal
    The software I remember best from that time is the stuff I used to communicate with bbs's, in my days as a point. Software like Frontdoor, fmail, gecho, GoldED, and the like.

    But maybe that would be more appropriate for a documentary on the history of fidonet, even though most bbs's in the Netherlands were(are?) a part of Fidonet, and all its clones. In those days there was a new network every month, because there was yet another person who had a fight with the fidonet "officials".

    I also remember that Quarterdeck Desqview/386 was very important for many bbs's. Real multitasking waaay before windows nt :-)
    • Heh I ran a 2 line BBS in the Netherlands in '95 - got my ass kicked off FIDO too for some reason or other. Not that it mattered since I had another 7 networks I was exchanging mail with.

      Desqview never got on my machines, first I ran on OS/2, later on I went to 2 computers, and as of late I've had the urge to re-start the thing but then on Linux. Lord knows what could happen :)
      • It's funny... OS/2 ran a number of multi-line BBS's in Victoria, Australia. I've got *many* memories of running my BBS... first running my own FTS mail network, then joining Fidonet... becoming a hub, then being elected N632C... then being involved in the Australian BBS Registry as Victorian Co-ordinator...

        I was always a stirrer - particularly over the geographical net rule, which I saw no logic to in Australia, and getting myself into *real* trouble by publishing a FidoNews article proposing the abandonment of the rule just after the disasterous reorganisation of Germany's Fido networks...

        Seeing FidoNet as it is today is somewhat depressing... last time I saw a nodelist, N632 had gone... :-( Melbourne, which used to have 5 networks was down to two, both with less than 10 nodes.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Does anybody remember the Blue Wave offline mail reader?

      I have participated in FidoNet discussions for years using it, altough I have never became a "FidoNet point".

      Also, what about an UseNet vs. FidoNet vs. mailing lists comparison? FidoNet had some advantages.

      I belive that FidoNet was superior, because public messages (echo mail) included a To: field.

      When I downloaded a new mail package and opened it in my mail reader (Blue Wave) Blue Wave would show me all the messages addressed to me, listing the private messages (NetMail) first, then the public (EchoMail) messages. This is just not possible with mailing lists - I never know which of the public messages on the list answered my messages.

      The quoting style used in the message areas was better than the quoting style used by today's e-mail programs. If you quoted a message by Anonymous Coward, the lines of the message were preceded by AC> (the initials were used). In large group discussions, this allowed us to know who wrote certain quoted lines.

      Also, when downloading FidoNet mail, the mail packets were compressed using an archiver.. which could be ZIP, or ARJ, or RAR, or whatever the sysop provided. You could usually choose between compression methods. This way one could download hundreads of messages very efficiently.

      Currently, POP3 servers don't have this feature. :-(

  • There is just way way way to much centered text on that BBS Documentary website. Long tracts of centered text are completely unreadable. It sounded interesting, but I could only read about 2 lines of centered text before giving up.
    • If you use the text-browser Lynx to browse the BBS Documentary site, the centering goes away. And if the idea of a text-based web-browser isn't of interest to you, you probably wouldn't have liked the documentary anyway.
  • I use to run TriBBS, a DOS shareware bbs software package.
  • Used to be in the seattle/puget sound area there was an art group headed up by a BBS called Rat City.

    They produced some nice music and artwork, but I cannot find but an old telephone number as a trace of them on the net.

    Anybody else still remember this highly obscure BBS? Insane stuff at times
  • When I was at Lancaster University [lancs.ac.uk] between 1990 and 1992, the BBS to be seen using was Mono [mono.org].

    Still going strong - grab your telnet client and have a look, or go here [mono.org] to connect via a Java client.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Remember Excalibur? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alsta ( 9424 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @06:24AM (#2758061)
    Anybody remember the Excalibur BBS system? The sysops were promised a 32-bit version from Excalibur Communications but never got one. I don't remember what the last release was though. Anyway, for those that don't remember Excalibur, it ran on Windows. It was a gui BBS system with a gui client. You never really typed anything to navigate in menus. Some sysops made a whole page a big gif picture. Took forever to load the damn thing. Anyway, Excalibur Communications went out of business and I've been trying to find someplace that still has the server. For nothing else than nostalgia.

    Excalibur died because of the web. The web was cheaper, faster and pretty much always better. And of course, the content wasn't tied to the sysop of a system. So in that respect one can say it was a failure. But other than that, it was pretty cool.
    • Ah yes, Excalibur. I remember they had some security device that would only allow one login name on each computer. I could never make dummy accounts or anything. I never did figure out how they did it. Anyways, the Excalibur BBS in my area was so full of bugs. If you went forward two menus then back one, it'd drop you to the Sysop only area. I used to make my nick "Sysop " (note the space) and wreck havok. There also was a bug that allowed 20 minutes a day free internet (which was the greatest thing ever, because they charged like $30 a month and there was no way I could pay that as a kid.) You could even replace files in the download section by just uploading a file with the same name. I uploaded a picture of Elle McPherson over the sysop's picture, and got myself banned. The dude even called my house and yelled at my parents. Ah, those were the days.
    • Yeah - I remember it too. Before I had a PC clone though, I owned a Tandy Color Computer (CoCo), and they had a similar BBS product for it. You had to call with a special terminal package that only ran on CoCo machines. Needless to say, it didn't last very long.
  • How come there's no mention of 'Terminate', wich was by far the best terminal emulation software for DOS? I still keep all my porn on c:\ter400\download\pictures

    And LORD2 was very cool too.. Too bad it doesn't work under DOSEMU on linux.

    I still miss the > sign to address a msg to someone on a public teleconference channel. IRC sucks.. ;)

    • How come there's no mention of 'Terminate', wich was by far the best terminal emulation software for DOS? I still keep all my porn on c:\ter400\download\pictures

      Terminate is still around, now in a 5.0 version (www.terminate.com).
      I don't claim to have tried a lot of terminal emulation programs, but Terminate was really outstanding.
    • Oh, come on. I run it on my BBS and people play that sack of doo-doo even less than they play poker.
      LoRD was fun and simple, TW2002 0wns, Usurper's keen, OO][ rocked the casbah... but LoRD2? Jinkies.
  • I'm sure a few people out there can remember the politics surrounding the BBS "scene" -- that is to say, a certain segment of the community that did everything possible to be considered "elite". Some will say speak for your own experience; that's fine, but it doesn't dismiss the phenomenon that couldn't possibly have been local to my area only...

    So much of it being a competition likely didn't help the matter -- who had the most warez, who could get the most artwork, who could do the best set up, who could hold the best networks, who had the best users, etc etc. There was so much hate in some of these people, too. Not just out of competition, either. The fact warboards even existed only goes to verify this. As I got older, I realized the silliness of it all, as I'm sure other people did too. To say some people took it too seriously would be an understatement.

    I always take the conference of BBS nostalgia with a grain of salt. It was fun, but there were just so many unpleasant folks out there they ruined the experience for everyone. They know who they are, and they didn't contribute shit other than efforts overshadowed by ugly attitudes.
    • There was so much hate in some of these people, too.

      Very true. I think the documentary is bound to give short shrift to this unpleasant fact, though. Listen to this utopianism from the pitch [bbsdocumentary.com]: "an entire generation started to grow up online. They knew then what so many are learning now: the thrill of communication with others like themselves, around the country and the world.... They made friendships to last a lifetime. And they changed everything." Yikes. Talk about rose-colored glasses. What about the fact that the BBS world was often a snake pit of casual bans, flame wars, and rigid groupthink?

      there were just so many unpleasant folks out there they ruined the experience for everyone. They know who they are, and they didn't contribute shit other than efforts overshadowed by ugly attitudes.

      The only thing I disagree with is that "they know who they are." I think the most unpleasant people in the BBS scene were people who thought very highly of themselves and their contributions, and who really believed they were improving things for everyone by carrying out personal vendettas, banning everyone they disagreed with, and leading the charge to label anyone who didn't agree with local consensus as a troll. As usual, the real black hats were the crusaders, and they were convinced they were on the side of the angels.

      Tim
    • I'm sure a few people out there can remember the politics surrounding the BBS "scene" -- that is to say, a certain segment of the community that did everything possible to be considered "elite". Some will say speak for your own experience; that's fine, but it doesn't dismiss the phenomenon that couldn't possibly have been local to my area only...
      So much of it being a competition likely didn't help the matter -- who had the most warez, who could get the most artwork, who could do the best set up, who could hold the best networks, who had the best users, etc etc. There was so much hate in some of these people, too. Not just out of competition, either.


      Hey, it's like IRC without DDOS attacks! Really, these people exist everywhere. The Internet is full of them. You get used to them, ignore them and move on. Yeah, I remember people who were like that. Either we ignored them or if they got too hard to ignore the Sysops booted them. If they were the Sysop, I quit calling back. It all worked out.
  • Man, I miss BBS's... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oldmildog ( 533046 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @08:22AM (#2758188) Homepage Journal
    I ran a few BBS's in Tampa from around 85 to 92... here's what I remember from my experiences. The first board was GBBS running on an Apple ][e with 2 floppy drives and a 300 baud modem. After a few years, I migrated to an IBM PC XT with 640k RAM (all the RAM anyone will ever need) and a 30meg hard drive. Upgraded to a screaming 2400 baud. Ran software including WWIV (overall, my favorite -- came with source code!), Genesis, Searchlight, and QuickBBS. HATED PCBoard... retarded interface. The king of all door games was Tradewars 2002... some of the other better ones were Arena, Operation:Overkill, and Pyroto Mountain.

    Oh yeah, FidoNet was Usenet, Zmodem was FTP, ANSI graphics was Flash, and spam was practically nonexistant.

    Good times...

  • I miss those days! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cmilkosky ( 145648 )
    Lets see - I went through a number of BBS software packages before the Internet became popular:

    • WWIV
    • RBBS
    • Renegade - this was great
    • Maximus/2 - also great
    OS/2 ended up being the platform I stuck with because of its decent multitasking ability. It was neat being able to watch users in a little window while I was working on something else in another. That was such a big deal back then! =)

    Doors - here are my favorites (the ones I can remember!):

    • LORD - Legend of the Red Dragon
    • LOD - Land of Destruction
    • GWARS - Global Wars - Risk-like game - real fun
    • Tradewars
    • Chess
    • Foodfight
    Favorite terminal emulators:
    • Telix - was my DOS favorite for a LONG time
    • Terminate - this was, hands down, the absolute best.
    • Procomm was OK not the greatest - I mention it only because I remember it
    Hosting a BBS was such a gratifying experience for some reason. It actually was rewarding for me to give a free service to the public.

    ANSI art - that was fun... Wish I could remember the name of my favorite ANSI art package.... Something with a "T" I think... Can't remember.

    Well, thanks to all for bringing back those good memories!

    Chris

  • ...doesn't that mean only one person can watch it at a time? Hopefully, he'll put it on FidoNet so more people can see it.

    You know, we all tend to look back fondly on those days, but even through the haze of nostalgia, I remember that little timer in the command prompt, counting down the minutes until I got kicked off. I surely don't miss that!
  • I was around in BBS days and it sucked (compared to now).

    I can't believe I was impressed with 256 color GIF porn....
  • Hopefully they'll touch on the security of some of those systems too, they were a ball to hack. I remember Renegade in particular had a huge hole in it, where you could go into the d/l area, and pass it ..\..\Rengade\*.DAT and d/l the system's DAT files, then look through them to get the system password. With that, you could install a copy of Renegade on your system, put in those DAT files, use the system pw to login locally, and then get the passwords of every user on the system, including the sysop. And then log back into the BBS as sysop and have some fun.... ;) Man those were good days. Oh, and as far as add-on software, they have to touch on Doorway, an ANSI emulator for DOS command prompt sessions. I used that to administer my board when I was away. I ran the Sanitarium up here in Michigan's 810, and had the most activity around in 95-96
  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @09:21AM (#2758358) Homepage
    In the Philly area, what is now Voicenet was originally a files-n-pr0n BBS back in the day. The gent who ran it was a serious hobbyist. His system grew to something like 50 lines. Nowadays, with T1s leading into Ascend boxen, managed by a single Radius server, 50 lines is not unthinkable. But hobbyists back then knew nothing of Unix. So 50 lines meant that he had 50 386s! And no rack mounting... these were on cheap bent-metal racking with scores of wall warts for the modems! I think it was all in his garage or something.

    I heard that the guy was astounded out of his gourd to see one of the first SLIP-oriented ISPs set up correctly with those same 50 lines run from two Sun pizza boxes.

    (My own BBS lives on in the form of a web community. The Cellar [cellar.org], est. 1990. The IotD in my sig is just a part of it.)
    • But hobbyists back then knew nothing of Unix. So 50 lines meant that he had 50 386s!

      It depends on the software he was using. By about 1990 or so, there were several BBS apps that used Desqview to run multiple instances of the BBS on one box, and others that supported DigiBoards with 16 COM ports. TBBS, which was written in assembler to be amazingly frugal with system resources, supported "intelligent" DigiBoards and could accomodate up to 64 lines on one Intel box. I know because we had a 48 lines hooked up to a 386SX TBBS host -- which we later upgraded to a 64-line 486.
  • Evolution of BBS's (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HeyBob! ( 111243 )
    A great way to see the history and evolution of BBS's (and the internet) is by checking out the Boardwatch magazines, online [ispworld.com], from the current issue thru 1995. The mag goes back before then, and they don't show any of the ads, so you'd have to check at a good library for older issues. If they do an interview, Jack Rickard, founder of Boardwatch, would be a must.
  • Software like Binkley also deserves a mention. Ever log onto a FidoNet BBS? The first thing you were likely to see was the BinkleyTerm version information.

    BinkleyTerm (and similar) was the bit that shunted FidoNet Netmail and Echomail messages from BBS to BBS. My memory of it is a little hazy now (well, it was 10 years ago!) but I remember it was wrapped in a vile batch file that looked at the exit code to decide what to do next (launch the BBS or get Echomail etc.)

    My BBS was never popular, but it was always fun, and being part of FidoNet made it a lot more interesting. 2:252/204, you'll be sadly missed :-)

    (It was a 386/16 with a whopping 2.5MB RAM and DesqView as the multitasker).
  • I was sifting through some of the enteries on textfiles and smiling now and then with the memories. But nothing got me to smile as much as this [textfiles.com] about Davy Jones's Locker in Millbury MA.

    I remember a few friends and I got on it a few times (the toll call was rather large and the parents very watchful of it... :). It was so easy to get an account and he basically had _everything_ you would want. And things you might want but would even take *days* downloading on a 9600 (the fastest then, though I had 2400).

    Gosh, all these things I'd forgotten about! What memories.
  • I just ran through the timeline, and with the exception of a few bits here and there it all seems to be:

    "XXXXXXXXX arrested by the FBI for copyright violations"

    "XXXXXXXXX BBS shut down due to obscenity violations"

    "XXXXXXXXX apprehended by the FBI on charges of child pornography"

    "XXXXXXXXX began serving his(her) xx month sentence for xxxxxx"

    I ran a large (well, for Chattanooga anyway) Remoteaccess board starting with .04, all the way to 2.51. There was a sense of community that you just don't have now, regardless whether it was people popping messages back and forth with BlueWave or hopping on to play LoRD and BRE.

    I _really_ hope they try to focus more on that than on the negatives that seem to choke up the timeline given.

    (and as an aside, what about FrontDoor and Bink as mail-tossers? No mention there. Not to mention the whole door phenomena, which has been mentioned already. Or how many of you guys remember AreaFix for File Echos? You know... if I knew a way to connect RA to the net... ;^)
    • I agree. There is a lot of history and interesting events other than the crimes and busts. PC relay and FIDO are interesting in and of themselves. Much of the social interactions is also fascinating.


      There are people I've lost touch with that I only ever knew through the BBSes. At times I wonder where they are.

    • And I've noticed that most of the people posting to this article seem to be from what were fringe areas of BBSing. Hardly any mention of how it was THE mainstream messaging method for so many years. I guess no one else remembers how at one time BBS conferences, and networks like Fido, U'NInet, ILink, Byte Brothers, etc. were the equivalent of usenet today. (Complete with high traffic, spam, twitlists, and flamewars.)

      Oh, and I still use a BBS and BlueWave every day for my regular email (rather, seasonally HeatWave or ColdWave, as I've taught it to call itself courtesy of a hex editor :)

      • And I've noticed that most of the people posting to this article seem to be from what were fringe areas of BBSing.

        I guess I'm curious as to what you mean by that. Many people used BBS's for many different uses and reasons, there was no 'standard' usage pattern. Some were door wizards, others chatted, others only used the local conferences...

        Hardly any mention of how it was THE mainstream messaging method for so many years. I guess no one else remembers how at one time BBS conferences, and networks like Fido, U'NInet, ILink, Byte Brothers, etc. were the equivalent of usenet today.

        Usenet equivalent? Mainstream? Hardly. The BBS community was *tiny*, and mainly geeks, certainly nowhere the penetration that Usenet has today. At least in this area it was fairly late in the day when most BBS carried anything beyond their own conferences. That was the great strength of BBS's, that they were local, and many interacted in meatspace as well as online.

        If anything is being missed in this discussion it's the role the BBS community played in the growth of the internet by providing a pool of technichally inclined users ready to explore 'new' methods of interaction.
        • Fringe areas -- exactly the sort of BBSs you're talking about. I used to track about 50 BBSs in the north Los Angeles area (my reviewed BBS list may still be floating around in old filebases). Network messaging was the CORE activity for most of the really viable BBSs, followed by filebase activity, with door games and such being an attraction but nowhere near the ongoing draw that messaging was.

          The BBS software mentioned also is evidence: most serious BBSs used Wildcat or PCBoard (of course those both cost serious money), and that's where the majority of the users were, too -- probably because the interfaces were more competent and easier to learn. Conversely interfaces like WWIV actively discourage messsaging because it's so awkward (linear message spooling, fer ghu's sake, and no mail door), and messaging on Renegade/Telegard without a mail door is likewise more of a PITA than it's worth. Renegade was popular among hobbyists mainly because it was free.

          And the messaging community was only "tiny" (compared to modern Usenet) because far fewer people even owned computers in those days. But nearly everyone who did had at least one BBS subscription. (I used to track users across BBSs, too. BBSs normally had a userlist available.)

          Local BBS community was there, yeah, but it mainly served as the springboard for network communities to grow from. That's where the heart really was. Once those networks began losing critical mass to Usenet, THAT is when BBSing began to die. Which really didn't happen until Win95 made dial-up networking and easy ISP connectivity ubiquitous.

          BBSs without major messaging networks tended to attract mainly kids and file leeches who would hang around for a few months, then move on -- which does nothing for building a community of stable users.

          In my observation (admittedly I don't track it as closely as I used to) BBSs that survive via telnetable access are still messaging-oriented, with filebase activity still coming in second.

          • Fringe areas -- exactly the sort of BBSs you're talking about.

            That's a badly mistaken assumption... I didn't talk about types of BBS's, I talked about how people used BBS's, a very different issue.

            I used to track about 50 BBSs in the north Los Angeles area

            Well, there's another badly mistaken assumption.. Los Angeles is not the world.

            Network messaging was the CORE activity for most of the really viable BBSs, followed by filebase activity, with door games and such being an attraction but nowhere near the ongoing draw that messaging was.

            I guess that depends on your definition of viable. Your messages indicate that you only believe that network messaging mattered. My experience over the years 1982-1996, in widely seperated areas, indicates that is not true.
            • As it happens, my old QModem phonebook has BBSs in several other states as well as Los Angeles. (Imagine calling out of state on a 2400 baud modem.. I must be insane :) And I've had telnet accounts on several (and not just in the U.S.) since that's become a major access method.

              You seem to think that BBSs in Podunk, Nebraska were somehow different from BBSs in Los Angeles, and it just wasn't so. I tracked every BBS in my calling radius, not just the messaging BBSs, or the file BBSs, or the chat BBSs. Long-term viability and messaging went hand in hand, period, because that's what attracted people who called in every day, year after year after year. File-oriented BBSs that didn't have much messaging would have spasms of activity, but once everyone had leeched what they wanted, they moved on. Chat BBSs were kinda like IRC on specialty channels -- some core users and a lot of short-term drifers who don't "stick".

              • You seem to think that BBSs in Podunk, Nebraska were somehow different from BBSs in Los Angeles

                Well, given that my experience in three different states across nearly eighteen years is very different from yours... Los Angles is not the world, how hard a concept is that to understand?

                I tracked every BBS in my calling radius,

                'Calling radius' is a term with no definition. Your original claim was based on "50 BBS's" in the Los Angelese area.. Now you attempt to use an undefined term to expand that claim.

                Long-term viability and messaging went hand in hand, period, because that's what attracted people who called in every day, year after year after year

                Of course, if you chose to ignore Door BBS's, and BBS's that served a close knit community.. And many other kinds of BBS's and BBS based services other than national level echoes and conferences. I don't know what you mean by 'viable', but you need to define it in other terms than just the use of one of the many services that a BBS provide(d). That's called 'circular logic'.
        • Usenet equivalent? Mainstream? Hardly. The BBS community was *tiny*, and mainly geeks, certainly nowhere the penetration that Usenet has today.

          Only if you very narrowly define "BBS".

          In any sensible definition, Compuserve and AOL are BBSes, and AOL's got 30-million-plus users.
    • I _really_ hope they try to focus more on that than on the negatives that seem to choke up the timeline given.

      It's going to be hard because, other than software releases, most of the 'positives' were purely local in effect. Is it important that the 1994 Floppy Disk Throwing Party [1] had * 100 * people attending? (It was to us, then and there..) How globally important is it that Bill W. of the Wings BBS had thirty people help him recover his systems after his house fire? (It was to us, then and there..)

      [1] An annual BBQ circa 1989-1995 for the Kitsap Peninsula BBS crowd.
  • by netringer ( 319831 ) <maaddr-slashdot@@@yahoo...com> on Friday December 28, 2001 @10:52AM (#2758823) Journal
    I've the privilege of knowing Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, the two who INVENTED the BBS (and coined the term) right here in Chicago. Ward is an on-site technical support rep that is working in my office a bit now. We had lunch a few days ago.

    When it was mentioned here on /. that Google had posted the USENET archives I checked for Ward's name. I told him that comes up with 700 messages, mostly mentioning his MODEM protocol as "the Ward Christensen protocol." Yeah, he invented file transfers by modem, too. Google returns over 54,000 web page matches [google.com] for Ward's name. Ward laughs about how many hits you can get when his name is mis-spelled.

    In 1978, Chicago had a severe blizzard and Ward and Randy wanted to share programs. Ward wrote the MODEM protocol to send the files back and forth.

    During that snowstorm in January 1978, they invented CBBS to emulate the cork bulletin board at the meetings of the Chicago Computer Hobbyists Exchange (CACHE) user group that computer hobbyists used to post messages about wanted computer parts and such. They made use of a pair of direct connect 300 baud modems donated by Dennis Hayes. Randy built the S100 system and Ward wrote the program which they called CBBS. There was no operating system in those days, so the program talked directly to the hardware. It took them a month to have it done by the next CACHE meeting.

    Ward is a pioneer that we all owe:
    - He invented the world's first BBS program, CBBS.
    - He wrote the world's first modem file transfer program, (X)MODEM.
    -one the pioneers of FREE OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE. [freewarehof.org] The company he works for would not let him sell programs he wrote so he gave them away. If you had an early CP/M system like I did, you knew that there were dozens and dozens of free useful utilities available on BBSs that were written by one W. Christensen.

    BTW, they copyrighted the term "CBBS," not "BBS." Oh, well.

    I'm sure the documentary team will be looking up Ward. I'll let him know about this and maybe he'll post.

    P.S. Randy's Illinois license plate is CBBS. Ward's is XMODEM.

    Trivia question: What does the C stand for? It's not what you think.

  • Wow. These are memories of bbs's I don't need.

    :watching a naked picture of a fat girl download one painful line at a time, and not knowing she was fat until ten minutes later

    :my Legend of the Red Dragon character got laid before I did

    :Jolt Cola in cans

    :$17,465 in long distance charges - three years to pay!

    I'm sure there's more, but I'm not sharing.
  • I just read through most of the timeline, and it struck me a truely sad that history will primarily remember the criminals and their prosecution. The vast majority of the entries are news articles about various busts by the FBI.

    I called a lot of BBS's from '86 to '88, and it was great fun. There was a lot more good than bad, and I met a lot of great people (some even in person at some get-togethers we organized).

    It makes me sad to see that the lingering public memory will primarily be of small-time criminals getting busted for phreaking (cheating the phone system), trading calling card numbers, breaking into remote systems and later pirating software. The days of 'old were so much more to so many people. I hope the video manages to capture some of that.

  • HBBS -- The first graphical BBS software I can think of, circa ~1984, HBBS (HiRes BBS) never fully worked on my Franklin Ace 1000, but I knew people who had it working.

    Tele-Cat II - Docs here [textfiles.com] Basically an Apple II BBS for the Novation Apple Cat modem/miracle. I think this one was actually written by Novation, but i can't remember.

    ABBS - BBS system, docs at this excellent site [textfiles.com]

    ProTalk -- A total rewrite of L&L Productions' GBBS by Parik Rao, the only thing ProTalk had in common with GBBS was it used the same MACOS language. ProTalk was pretty popular by like 1988 or so.

    Ascii Express -- Anyone writing a history of BBSing on the Apple II MUST include this file-xfer software which was basically the system upon which the Apple II BBS community were built. In the early days of the 1980s, AE *WAS* BBSing, and AE was usually integrated into later BBSes, which would "drop you" into AE for file uh, exchanging.

    Cat-Fur ][ -- Not BBS software per say, but this file transfer software was very much used w/the Novation Apple Cat file-sharing set and was integrated into many BBses.

    There was also some kind of famous EAMON-like role playing BBS system too for the Apple II but I can't remember what it was called.

    Hope this is helpful. Maybe someone else can fill in the blanks.
  • The DOS comm program "Telix" had a bytecode interpreted C-like language called "SALT" in which someone wrote a complete BBS program. I don't remember its name, though I ran it for a year. anyone else know?
  • ... in Granada Hills, Calif., and one of the largest (if not THE largest) repositories of Netware 3.x material in existence. And our DOS collexion rivals Simtel. Give us a call -- 818-368-3337 (Wildcat 4.20 running on Netware 3.20; access to everything but internet email is free; email subscription $10/year). Or check out http://eqcitybbs.tripod.com -- home of the Computer Links From Hell reference pages. [/shameless plug from the co-sysop-at-large] :)

    Yeah, there's nowhere near the volume of callers as in BBSing's heyday, but for some things you just can't replace a BBS.

    For those concerned about messaging security in this era of prying gov't eyes -- mail that goes into a BBS's local conference never touches the net -- thus never goes near Carnivore and its ilk. And once deleted and the message base purged, it's gone forever. With a secure system like Wildcat for DOS, the only persons who can read a given message are the sender, the recipient, and the sysop.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @04:54PM (#2760560) Homepage Journal
    As usual, the Slashdot groupthink refers to BBS's as a "thing of the past." Listen folks, BBS's are not dead. Dialup is dead, yes. BBS's have moved to the Internet. Those that didn't evolve have died off. Those that did, are thriving. Click to log on. [citadel.org] Telnet, SSH, web, your choice. Client software, the whole works. Some BBS programs are even evolving into nice-looking groupware systems.

    You can bet your bitbucket that I'm going to drive this point straight home when I'm interviewed for the BBS documentary. BBS's are not dead.
    • As usual, the Slashdot groupthink refers to BBS's as a "thing of the past." Listen folks, BBS's are not dead. Dialup is dead, yes. BBS's have moved to the Internet. Those that didn't evolve have died off. Those that did, are thriving. Click to log on.

      The system you link to is just another website, altho with an interesting interface paradigm and overall theme. It's not a BBS in the classical sense.

      One interesting point about evolution... At least two local BBS's evolved into ISP's.
  • by DrZimp ( 546573 ) on Friday December 28, 2001 @05:06PM (#2760605)
    Lord's still around.. http://lord.lordlegacy.org [lordlegacy.org] .. Being ported to Win32 w/ door32, OS/2, and Linux. (some people might ask "why os2?" its easy for me to do win32 and os2 versions. change compile target, recompile, poof. done.) A telnet server and web version are both planned as well.

    Seth Able, the original author, got burned out on bbs coding.. Sold all of his software (Lord, Lord2, Teos, and TLord) to Metropolis [gameport.com].. They had the games for a good 2 years before allowing me to work on them.. This next June will make 3 years that Ive been working on them.

    Want to see what the games like nowadays? telnet://bbs.lordlegacy.org [lordlegacy.org] .. Make sure to use a good telnet client, such as Mtelnet [eesc.com]..

    BBS's, while not as popular as they once were, are still going pretty strong. With telnet helping out, theyre making a good come back. Check out Synchronet [synchro.net], EleBBS [elebbs.com], or Mystic [mysticbbs.com] for good telnet softwares.

    Maybe looking for bbs chat? Grab an IRC client and go to irc.lordlegacy.org or irc.thebbs.org in #bbs

    Looking for a list of boards? TheDirectory [thedirectory.org] has a telnet list and a dialup list.

    Looking for the bbs files? TheBBS's Archives [thebbs.org] is huge.

    Looking for some good links? Sysops Corner [thebbs.org] has them
  • Anyone from DC ought remember, and any BS historian ought know about Focke's List [google.com], a monthly publication that tracked the DC/VA/MD BBSes. It was quite an exhaustive database.

    I can't find any hard links to it anymore -- hence the google reference -- though I'm sure some ancient editions can be found on some dusty FTP server somewhere. This Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com] is an interesting time capsule, however, as it references the decline of BBSes, via Focke's, as early as 1997.
  • When I was first getting into BBS's, I logged onto a local board and wanted to create a fake account. So, to make sure all the user information sounded real, I picked a name completely at random out of the phone book and entered in that persons' name, address, and phone number into the database.

    Turns out, the name I picked at random out of the phone book just so happened to be the name of a sysop of another local BBS! The sysop of the BBS I was on was watching me log in and was friends with the guy. So, while I was looking around I was granted sysop-level access for no-apparent reason. Then, the local sysop broke into chat and started talking to me, saying, "Hey, Bryan, what's going on? How's you been?", etc., etc.

    Anyway, I guess this post is waay to late to actually be read, but i'll still never get over that amazing coincidence. I mean.. I literally just opened the phone book and picked out a name at random.

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