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The BBS Documentary: A One Year Report 71

Jason Scott writes: "Readers of Slashdot might remember some stories posted about a BBS Documentary that was being filmed. Well, we're at about a year of production and I've released a status report about the project, including some pictures, some statistics (over 120 hours of footage have been filmed!) and some information about where the project is heading. If you remember reading about it last year and are wondering what's up with it, check it out."
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The BBS Documentary: A One Year Report

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  • BBSes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Bulletin Boards were a lot of people's first introduction to the on-line world - that history needs to be preserved.
    • Re:BBSes (Score:3, Informative)

      by majestynine ( 605494 )
      Although its not a documentary style history, have a look at []. Its an enormous archive of all sorts of text files which were on BBSs, back in the day.

      It makes for some really interesting sessions. Have a beer while you drop down memory lane one night. I've done that. Every now and again you see some of your own files on there! :) cool.

      • When I think of BBS's, I think of "The General" (a huge multi-line board here in Houston that had a lot of .. interesting software). More fondly though, I think of "The Dojo", and the interesting and informative discussions that took place on NirvanaNet []. & the Temple of the Screaming Electron" (&totse []), one of the boards involved in NirvanaNet, eventually setup a basic website []. Fun times. Ah. 20-something, and this story makes me feel old [] .
    • Flame Entertainment [] is working on a program called FlameBBS. It is a Java BBS software designed for Linux, but usable in any UNIX variant with a jvm.

      This project isn't our highest priority, but it will be if enough interest(personal emails, voting in polls, etc) is expressed.

      I was an avid BBSer myself five years ago, and the history needs to be preserved.
  • They evolved, or atleast helped in the evolution of slashdot, so everyone has to love BBoards!
  • And I'm appropriately tired and extremely high on the adrenaline keeping me awake. So I think: "Hmm... BBS? Heh - Ron Vibbentrop. Dead crab. Ni." Try and guess my train of thought.
  • by LaserBeams ( 412546 ) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @06:05AM (#4179918)
    I'm 18 years old. When the BBSes were at their peak, I barely even knew what a computer was. Now, about 10 years later, people my age who have been using the 'net and other various online communication for several years are starting to realize the value of our figurative ancestors.

    At the very least... I am. There's only so much one can learn about the past by reading. Hearing about the experience first-hand (or second-hand, as the documentary would be...) is another thing entirely. Can you be nostalgic about a past that you never had? I think so. This documentary will be great for people like me who want to know what "our" history was like.

    Call me sentimental, but I get a little teary just thinking about it. The past is worth much more than some of you people (naieve newbies) take it for.
    • I am 19, and I started to get into BBS's just as the peak was dying off as the net started to make it's way into smaller towns. Think I had my BBS up for a year or two before my town got net access from Barrie, I have lots of fond memories and ran a BBS from a fairly young age untill I was 14 or 15. Think I finnaly closed up shop when I was 15 or 16, as the number of callers per day just was not worth the effort I wanted to put into it. Hoewver, last week I was sorting though piles of old stuff in my room as I am moving to toronto tomorrow, and was popping in CD's w/o lables to see what was on them, and found a backup of my BBS as of the last day it was running, logged on locally and had alot of fond memories come back. Many of my RL friends I have now who I see on regular baises (as they live like, 15-20 mins away) I met from the local BBS scene when I moved 3 hours away from where I was orginnaly from.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @06:05AM (#4179919) Homepage
    I had the same reaction I had when I read the title last year...

    Ok, the British Broadcasting System is making a documentary, but what the HELL is it about?"

  • I ran a BBS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Powercntrl ( 458442 ) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @06:19AM (#4179933)
    From 10-28-92 until it was taken offline sometime in '97. I still have the entire system backed up to CD-Rs and my friends that remember the system want me to put it back online with a telnet/virtual serial port software setup.

    The system was a lot of fun in its time, but bringing back old software wouldn't bring back the experience. People called local BBSes because they were the "open source" of the online world. I contributed my time and hardware so people wouldn't have to spend money on an expensive online service to particpate in message boards or download files. I was also a LOT younger at the time and working on the BBS was a great excuse to avoid homework.

    At any rate, the first time I got on the actual Internet (through AOL, no less), I was in denial about the whole death of the BBS thing. I actually took the time to create a web page that had a virtual tour of my BBS. For the sake of preserving history, MOST of the site now exists on []. Someday I'll get around to restoring the actual backups and put a more complete "virtual museum" of my BBS online.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:38AM (#4180012) Journal
    I remember reading a BBS advice line in a text file where people (fake or whatever, didn't matter) would write in for advice. One particular memorable one was (remember, this was before AIDS):

    Q: I met a girl on this BBS and we are going to meet in person. She told me that she had TB or VD, but I can't remember which. What should I do?

    A: If she coughs, fuck her.

  • Has anyone seen my copy of ProComm?

    I need the check out the picture Star Trek of the new show 'Next Generation'. My friend said it on FidoNet and I need to fetch this week's package. This will be sweet, the pic is sippose to be in 256 colors!

    By the way has anyone seen WarGames yet? My aunt's C64 was done and I couldn't go.

    This was a drama, that must likely did happen in the 80's. God help us all!
    • ProComm 2.4.2 ruled. But the newer commercial versions of ProComm (i.e. ProComm Plus) were evil. But Telemate had come along by then and it kicked ProComm butt.
    • I can most certainly vouch for you, things like that do go on on BBS's back in the day.

      BBS's ment a lot to me, I still remember the phone number to my favorite one, the Omni-Com in South Mississippi, it's 228-497-6664 (497-OMNI). It was all rad with it's 2 line wildcat system. :)
  • Somebody oughta donate a decent microphone for this guy.

    I can't believe he's using the on-camera mic! (At least for the interview with Jason)
    • I switched to a boom mike after that interview. Cost a pretty penny and was well worth it. The sound of the interview is vitally important and I spent some time getting the right equipment for the job, which has worked out.
  • That's the happy memory of the BBS era. Playing TW2002 with people, and kicking their asses in the 416. That game was great, hours of enjoyment, and the strategies applied both to game play, knowing when the system rolled over, and when your opponents played (and henced busying the line). Yes I was a geek back then, but boy was it a fun distraction..

    It was an interesting time and the first board I connected to was Eternity III found from the C64 for advertisings... My C64... It had some fun games.

    Those were the years when there actually was a community... Since good boards took effort to connect to.

  • Anyone remember TradeWars 2002? I was an addict of that space colonization/exploration BBS door. The funny part is that there are many places on the net that it's still a hugely popular [] niche. Good luck surviving a game though, these games are dominated by some pretty hardcore players... most of them using the things that killed the game for me: the handful of frontend GUIs that scripted a lot of the empire building work.
  • There are lots of BBSs on today's internet in the form of telnet systems. To this day I still play TradeWars [] on quite a few of them. The BBS movement is alive and kicking, it's just taken a new form.
  • they have just moved to telnet, thanks to programmers like Rob Swindell and Synchronet BBS software (
    • Rob Swindell has been interviewed for the documentary. BBSes are not dead, although dial-up BBSes have been in a relative decline. The documentary will cover the move to the Internet by many BBSes.
  • Jason Scott (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NetGyver ( 201322 ) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @03:31PM (#4181252) Journal
    I'm GLAD someone is taking up the challenge to make a BBS documentary, the story needs to be told.

    In the summer of 1990 at the age of 10, I remember seeing a local BBS listing in the paper which inspired me to work as a paperboy with my older brother (so I could get a cut of the $), and save up for a computer and try the BBS's out.

    Being raised on a TI-99/4a, and before the internet was popular around here, (sure it was in my school, but only on two computers with heavy restrictions), I had no idea of what I was getting myself into, and that was the FUN part! It was all about curiousity at first.

    After saving up around $120.00, I saw an ad for a complete IBM XT system w/ CGA monitor, which at the time, and being 10 years old, I thought was a good deal. I also picked up a 2400 baud modem at my local electronics store which came with Qmodem.

    So I sat down with my newspaper clipping of local boards and their numbers in front of my very own computer, I dialed...and connected.

    Countless nights and weekends I was glued to the computer, dialing up, playing TW2002, and L.O.R.D. and checking all the different BBS's out. My first MajorBBS was "The Playground" Which had 4 lines at the time, but soon expanded to 8 LINES, needless to say i was in heaven. Chatting up the locals on the board what great fun, as well as Tradewars with 8 real-time local users.

    Oh god the hours i spent on that system meeting people, talking, gaming, file downloading/uploading, message reading/writing. I guess i'm not the first to say this, but FIDOnet was a blast!

    I met quite a number of people though BBS's, which I may have never otherwise met. During that time I became the owner of a local BBS though a hardware/software system purchase, met my first girlfriend at a BBS meet (which lasted for about a year, but being 13 at the time, it was very fun), and ran my own board for the better part of a year on a 486 that I got when i turned 15. Around 1995 and on the BBS scene started to die, and eventually became non-existent in my area by 1996. There was a gap for a while until we got internet access at home, then I found another, BIGGER world to explore. Nothing can truely replace or replicate the BBS times though, what I miss the most was the local community, and the thrill of being a part of it.

    The fondest memories I have are playing Duke Nukem on a MajorBBS with 8 people on a board called DOGS. (Dave's Online Gaming Service)...God that was great!

    As I sit here, 22 years old now, It seems like a faded memory. Yeah, i'm still young, but damn does this make me feel old. :)

    Before I drown in my own memories, My question for Jason is: When your project is finished, how will you get it out to the people who want to see the fruits of your labor? Free or to pay for? I have no problem in paying for it, Just thought I'd ask.

    Downloadable episodes of your documentary would be nice, but you'd need some good hosting for that.

    Another alternative comes to mind, VHS tapes, or better yet a DVD.

    Whatever's best for you. I'm really excited to see the finished product and support it wholeheartedly.

    • I ran a single line BBS from 93 to 98, and i was in the scene at least since 89. Speaking of multi line chat bbs, you just reminded me of an old joke we used to do to newbies in the chat, we used to say "hit ALT-H to see the Sysop menu" Oh, you wouldn't believe how many could fall for it, oh and there were variations involving +++ as well ;)

      Endless nights of BBS door games... Legend of the Red Dragon, indeed, among many others.
  • I remember I used to program software for my high school company which was called Viking Entertainment. I made a few bucks because I designed some QBasic executables that helped copy disks faster than Microsoft's DiskCopy utility at the time.

    Anyways, what I remember most about BBS' were the great games. Tradewars 2001, LORD-- it was all good. Plus I liked the Bank feature where I could store my daily minutes and save them up for downloads that would take a long time (like some Apogee demos that ran over 750k).

    A company called Mikerosoft, located here in Vancouver, B.C., created a bunch of BBS games and utilities--- back then called Doors--- (the best called Scrawl, a message board where people did nothing but flame each other ;-)).

    I immediately started work on two of my own games, using Ansi art and coding it in Turbo Pascal. Development went on for about 6 months and before I had decent versions, the Internet exploded and people forgot about BBS'. I still have those Doors on my backup CD's somewhere, and maybe if BBS' catch on again I will have a reason to finish them. R.I.P., Viking Entertainment ;-)

  • The cool thing about BBSes was that the other people on them *were* local (as opposed to today, where the person at the other end of IRC could be in New Zealand or Greece). After chatting with them for hours, you got to know them. But then you could arrange to meet them in person. No worries about being abducted, killed, whatever -- they were people like you, who liked computers and liked the thought that you could talk to other people via them.
  • Don't let the Slashdot groupthink let you arrive at the incorrect conclusion that BBS's are a thing of yesteryear. The worthless ones have died, but there are still hundreds of online communities around; they're on the 'net now, and they're still the best places around to meet people worth having conversations with. BBSing didn't die -- it just changed its form a little.

    I was interviewed for the documentary a little less than a year ago. It was a lot of fun and I hope it'll serve to get the word out that the hobbyist BBS is still one of the few places on the 'net still untainted by corporate pigopolist influence.

    My BBS is linked below in my sig, in case anyone wants to drop by.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.