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The Internet

The 25th Anniversary of the BBS 260

Jason Scott writes "25 years ago today, Ward Christensen and Randy Suess officially announced the creation of a little project they threw together with a 300 baud Hayes modem, a Z-80 based S-100 computer, and a phone line. They called it "Chicago Bulletin Board System" (CBBS) and it was the first dial-up BBS. From this beginning, BBSes grew into the many thousands and became an entire industry, and when the Internet started to mature with the World Wide Web, the users who had cut their teeth on BBSes moved over to it. So raise a toast to these two fellows for a quarter century of great online times."
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The 25th Anniversary of the BBS

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  • What ever happened to the Double Ought X00 (sp)? fossil driver. Did Windows XP incorporate this feature? What about BinkleyTerm and TradeWars?
    • As far as I remember, I've never seen the X00 driver for anything but OS/2. It had a great util to see what went over the line, link-state changes included. Helped me a lot with my development later on, I could see exactly where things went wrong.
    • Re:Fossil driver? (Score:5, Informative)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:30PM (#5315509) Journal
      Yeah, I remember years ago, the big competitor to the x00 fossil driver was bnu.sys. (Generally, the BBS sysops I knew preferred x00 though.)

      As I recall, x00 went on to support a few rather esoteric hardware configurations, including the Hayes ESP accelerator boards. (These were serial cards with a 16550 UART emulation mode, but also a native mode that allowed extremely high baud rates.) Basically, you could do x2, x4 and even x8 multipliers of the usual 115,000 BPS serial port limit. Those types of speeds weren't too useful for dial-up modems, but people using the first external ISDN modems appreciated them. Otherwise, your 128K ISDN circuit bottlenecked at the 115K max. of the serial port.
      • Re:Fossil driver? (Score:4, Informative)

        by benzapp ( 464105 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:32PM (#5315756)
        Lets not forget Ray Gwinn's SIO driver for OS/2 with fossil emulation for DOS apps.

        Many of us began the battle against microsoft because we ran a BBS but only had one or two computers. If it wasn't for Ray, running a BBS on OS/2 would have been near impossible.

        SIO/VSIO... rest in peace.
  • One word. (Score:5, Funny)

    by nickgrieve ( 87668 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:42PM (#5315295) Journal
  • And probably did when it was made, too :)
    Happy Birthday to the CBBS, and a toast to the first major communications devopment of the 21st century.
    • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:01PM (#5315386)
      "a 300 baud Hayes modem, a Z-80 based S-100 computer, and a phone line"

      I dunno - the very same hardware has served Kuro5hin pretty well over the last 5 years! It if ain't broke, don't fix it!
    • We were working on a campaign to get into the Smithsonian. I'm pretty sure that I know who owns it, Roy Lipscomb. He bought it from Randy for $20 (? maybe less). Randy was using it to hold up a table. Hes not known for sentiment.

      Like was common for hobbiests in those days, Randy built it from chips they salvaged from old mainframe boards. They would heat the back of the boards with a blowtorch to melt the solder and then slam it against a table to pop out the chips.

      It didn't even have an OS in the beginning. There was not even CP/M in those days. The first versions of CBBS talked directly to the hardware. Later Ward rewote CBBS to run over CP/M.
      • I was on Chinet when I first moved to Chicago, and attended a few RL get-togethers - possibly the single geekiest bunch of people I've ever known (and I mean that in the best way possible).

        The story I got was that Randy had tossed it into the dumpster, and whoever has it now fished it out. It was at the second get-together at some pizza place on Touhy. Ward said that the Smithsonian wanted something that was impossible to give them - the "original" system. Roughly comparable to trying to drink from the same river twice. They had a whole pile of 1k memory cards - who could say which one was "original".

        My old e-mail address was and before that, - two contenders for the title "First ISP".

  • by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:44PM (#5315305) Journal
    A good list of still active BBS is available here []
  • by cyberlotnet ( 182742 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:46PM (#5315314) Homepage Journal
    I ran a 16 line Worldgroup based system, almost always full with people playing Majormud.. I had to drop it because It was just a hobby to me and I couldn't afford to get internet access support.

    I enjoyed the local community created through the BBS's, nowdays thats no longer the case, with almost any bbs that is still running has internet access and users from all over..
  • The good ol' times (Score:5, Informative)

    by glamslam ( 535995 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:47PM (#5315323)
    And don't forget to register at BBSmates [] to keep up with days gone by.
  • BBS: A Documentary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Agent Green ( 231202 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:47PM (#5315324)
    Check here: []

    In short, Jason Scott is making a film about the BBS and the important aspects it played in the world. It's an ambitious project, and I had a lot of fun doing my interview, and anyone who has something to say about the BBS experience is encouraged to help him out.

    Jason is one heck of a cool dude...can't wait to see how this turns out.
  • RemoteAccess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beetjebrak ( 545819 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:47PM (#5315326) Homepage
    Not very long ago I set up a box with DR-DOS and RA and set up a small menu for a remote office that had trouble getting onto the internet and needed some drivers. I posted the drivers onto my "BBS", had them dial in, and presto the remote office was back on the VPN in no time.
    That's the kind of skill that comes in handy when real shit happens.. and it was fun to look at the post-dotcom admins' faces ;-)
  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:50PM (#5315338) Homepage
    Message networks allowed people to communicate across the nation. It was USENET and email for non-internet folks. (This was before the internet was opened up.)

    Fidonet [] was obe of my favorites as it forced the sysop to prove they could configure everything properly. It was open on systems run on all sorts of OS could join.

    Later message networks used the QWK [] format which was much simpler.

    Others like the RIME [] network used proprietary software, but allowed more control and file attachments.

    Ah, those were the days.
    • by swmccracken ( 106576 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:43PM (#5315551) Homepage
      Err, QWK was different from FidoNet. FidoNet was inter-bbs messaging carrying echos (roughly like newsgroups; except that posts had a addressed to user and threads were far more coherent and other differences) and so called NetMail which was a specific user - roughly, email.

      QWK was BBS userBBS messaging allowing someone to build a packet of messages to download and read and reply offline, reading both fidonet echos and BBS-local message areas (and other "Fidonet Technology Networks" which used the same software as, but were not, Fidonet.)

      QWK was for BBS users; FidoNet was inter-BBS communications. (Although it was possible to be a point on Fido - basically, a complete leaf node that had no dial in users.) Different applications; it would be very common to use QWK to download Fidonet echos that their BBS carried.

      Shannon, formerlly 3:772/1175.2 (as I recall; it's been a loooong time.)
      • Not exactly... (Score:5, Informative)

        by lars ( 72 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:25PM (#5315735)
        Yes, QWK was originally designed for offline messaging by regular users, but it eventually became used for echomail by some networks as well. The way it worked was crude compared to FidoNet technology, though. If I wanted my BBS to exchange mail with yours, I'd have a special account on your board (or vice-versa). My BBS would then call up yours, and using scripts would navigate through your offline mail system as a regular user would. The offline mail system would know, of course, that it's another BBS calling. But basically it was a hack on top of the typical QWK offline mail system.

        There were several networks that were QWK based, mostly in North America (Zone 1), and mostly based on commercial BBS software like PCBoard. Since you were in Zone 3, this might explain why you never saw this used. As far as I know, the mechanism more or less relied on the fact that all PCBoard systems were effectively identical, perhaps with just different text for the prompts. PCBoard was pretty popular in North America. It was basically the software to run if you wanted to have a "professional" looking BBS, and many of the large commercial BBS's ran it (some others like Wildcat and MajorBBS were also popular among commercial boards).

        Anyway, to get other BBS software to work as a hub on a QWK network wouldn't really be feasible since you'd basically have to emulate PCBoard. But it was possible with some hacking to join a QWK network even if you ran other software. I ran Telegard as my BBS software and ended up hacking up some terminal scripts that allowed me to join a QWK network as a node. The QWK technology was technically inferior to FidoNet technology in just about every way. It probably originated as a kludge when the developers of certain BBS packages wanted built-in echomail but were too lazy to bother implementing all of FidoNet's technical specs. This then became the most convenient option for sysops who were too lazy or stupid to figure out how to set-up a 3rd party echomail front end and "tossing" software.

        Eventually some of the QWK networks began distributing their mail using FidoNet technology via gateways.
    • And don't forget Stacker []!

      I remember trying to fit all that FIDO mail on a 20MB Seagate RLL Harddrive. Remember when harddrive used to cost $800? Imagine the BBS you could run if could magically transport a modern system back in time. The storage and speed would be insane!

      I used to run the T.A.G. [] BBS, and I even wrote some door programs in Borland Turbo Pascal. Remember the automagic file detecting ZMODEM upload door? That was mine :)
  • Endless fun (Score:4, Informative)

    by ( 453769 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:52PM (#5315349)
    Check out [].

    I especially love the anarchy files. "Wahahhahah!" There's also great commentary about the whole BBS scene.
  • Pointless Nostalga (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:52PM (#5315350) Homepage
    For anyone looking for that file they saw on a BBS 15 years ago, you may be able to find it here [].
  • I remember in 1988 begging my mother to get a modem for our computer. It was expensive, and started somthing somthing bigger.

    I rememberm dialing into the Local High School BBS and just chilling, and playing games with other. who would have thought back then, those BBS'es would turn into this, what we know now.

    it is kind of cool to think about

    Cheers to the invention of the BBS!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:55PM (#5315363)
    The real fun with BBS's was tricking fellow users into accidentally typing +++

  • An age not lost ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) < minus distro> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:56PM (#5315367) Homepage Journal
    Times have changed and now instead of relying on local BBS's we can now be a part of a global network. I remember the coolest thing ever was a BBS I paid for would link up to a system called Global Chat, which took an extra modem in the pool dialed out to a link BBS and the program would allow chatting with people all around the country. This may seem like a drop in the bucket, but this was before E-Mail, Instant Messaging, and the like.

    Another interesting fact I remember back in the day was being able to type faster than the 300 baud modems could send. Imagine that your fingers can transfer information from your brain to the computer, but the computer to computer connection can't keep up, granted this was before windows even. The idea of a personal computer has been around for ages and the computer to be used as a communication device is not a new idea.

    The internet did not kill BBS's, BBS's simply became antiquated. Centralized file sharing was replaced by FTP and GOPHER (yes ... gopher ... I guess HTTP could be thrown in here too), message boards by Instant messengers (who remembers the beta versions of Mirabilis??) and the online community expanded to include every corner of the world not just the distance a spont was away to be too far because that would be "long distance" and cost an arm and a leg to get on.

    Most BBS's, unless they had some money, had no more than 2 nodes, now it's not uncommon to see a website that gets hit with more than a million hits a day (putting their link on slashdot doesn't hurt).

    The BBS was a prelude to the dial-up isp, and any BBS's that wanted to stay in business learned the wonderful ways of SLIP CSLIP and PPP ...

    Am I really that old, geeze.

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:13PM (#5315444)
      Somtimes it's good to have a global scale, and sometimes it's good to be able to go have a beer where everyone knows your name.

      The internet is like an planet sized mall. A BBS is like your neighborhood bar.

      Yes, you and your friends can meet at a bar in the mall, but it *isn't* really the same thing.

      I guess we just have to redefine "neighborhood" now.

      There are certainly benifits to the "mall" model, I admit. I "know" people all over the world, whom I've never actually met, who I could call on to put me up on their couch for a couple of days if I needed it.

      The flip side is that I, perhaps, know fewer in my own meat space neighborhood of whom I could ask this favor.

      The world is different for "interneters" than it is for BBSers.

      • Yes, you and your friends can meet at a bar in the mall, but it *isn't* really the same thing.

        I don't know about you, but the BBSs that I used to frequent had one, or at most two phone lines... so the closest you'd get to actually meeting was

        1) Reading whatever messages other people left for you
        2) >>>> Sysop is coming online

        Getting on the Internet and talking to several friends at the same time was a huge upgrade...

    • who remembers the beta versions of Mirabilis??

      They're all beta versions...

      Even the latest [] .

      I'm not positive but I believe the reason they're all betas is so they don't have to provide support. I could be wrong though.

    • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:20PM (#5315466) Homepage Journal
      Another interesting fact I remember back in the day was being able to type faster than the 300 baud modems could send.

      300bps full duplex, let's say that 9 bits per byte with parity, and I forget if the modem signal had an extra stop bit... but let's say it did, so that's 10 bits per character.

      That would be 30 characters per second, meaning 1800 characters per minute. If I recall correctly from my typing days, 5 characters were considered to be a "word", but I don't think they counted spaces, but we will to be generous.

      So, at 6 characters per word, that would mean that you were a 300wpm typist.

      You kicked ass!

      Ah, how nostalgia changes our perspective. :)
      • So, at 6 characters per word, that would mean that you were a 300wpm typist. I remember outtyping 2400baud modems all the time, but you can't count it out exactly like that.
        for one you vastly undercounted (9 bits/char not 10, remember 8N1 (normal) or 7E2 (compuserve)? 8 data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit or 7 data, even parity, 2 stop bit.
        4 chars is a word, spaces are considered characters, so 'a a ' is just as much one word as 'four'.
        but when I was outtyping 2400baud, it was on an ansi-enabled vt220 emulator, i could usually get a full line or two ahead of certain mail composers, and very easily get about 5 or 6 screen refreshes ahead of BRE. (I used to play 300 turns in about 7 minutes).
        It's not too hard to outtype low-speed modems after you factor in control characters, remote echo, and line latency.
        • I used 10 bits per character, which is what my old Hayes manual specified. If you use less bits per character, the math goes in my favor, which is why I was being generous.

          4 characters per word? Not in my typing classes. Once again, though, less characters per word skews things even more in my (ridiculously fast typist) side of the argument. 4 characters per word at 1800 characters per minute is 450wpm.

          Finally, out-typing a SYSTEM is completely different from out-typing a modem, which is really what the original post was claiming to have done. The system you were using was obviously bogged down. Hell, using your logic, I can claim to out-type my T1 line at work, since I often encounter situations where I'm typing ahead blindly on a command line of some distant system.
      • Is there a Moore's law for lag?
        • No. Much to my dismay, though, there is a constant called 'permisitivity of free space', also known as 'you can't go faster than light speed', that puts a lower limit on latency.
      • So, at 6 characters per word, that would mean that you were a 300wpm typist. You kicked ass! Ah, how nostalgia changes our perspective. :)
        I get your point, but I seem to remember out-typing my modem on occasion as well, and I can't type anywhere near 300 wpm, at least not sustained over any appreciable amount of time. I'd be willing to wager, though, that if you measured my typing speed over around 5 seconds, and then multiplied to get WPM, that I'd frequently exceed 300 or perhaps even more. It's these quick bursts of text with which you may start to notice the modem trying to catch up.

        Also, it is possible (and I'm mostly talking out my rear at this point) that latency had something to do with it. It is reasonable to assume that devices of that day had a higher latency than those you see today, which could certainly contribute to at least the feeling of out-typing your modem.

      • Another interesting fact I remember back in the day was being able to type faster than the 300 baud modems could send.

        i think you're getting reading and writing mixed up.

        you probably meant to say that you remember reading faster than 300 baud

    • Mirabilis ICQ is still in BETA :)
    • Another interesting fact I remember back in the day was being able to type faster than the 300 baud modems could send.

      There were some BBSs and serial drivers that would allow "overclocking" a 300 bps modem up to 450 or so. Whoo, what a rush of power! :^) In a way, it's a shame that I'll never again experience the same WOW factor as when I went to 1200 and then 14400+. (ADSL was nice, but I'd already been spoiled by connections at work.)

      When BBSs started dying, I did try converting it to a web based system in 1996, but got caught in the squeeze that either (a) PPP was too hard to configure for some users, (b) They already has Internet access, so why call some single line BBS? (At the time, being on the Internet was not an option.) Heh, from the Linux BBS across the LAN to the Windows WebSite server, that was a goofy setup!

    • BBSes started me on a lot of things. My first exposure to the Internet was through USENET feeds piped into The Ledge BBS. My first exposure to the world of alternative spirituality came through the Pagan BBS community.

      It really was a special time and a special place and basically, when you think about it, you were basically invited into your SysOp's living room for a while. People like Phil Hansford and Joseph Sheppard paid for the multiple lines and keeping computers going 24/7 with their own money and time. There was camaraderie then that doesn't exist now.

      It had to die...when the Internet became more and more accessable, it simply offered a lot more than any single BBS could. But I miss it, man. I really do.
  • Anyone still around who remembers Screaming Demon ][ in Madison, WI? Jesus Christ, that was so long ago...
    • by IanBevan ( 213109 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:57PM (#5315618) Homepage

      Jesus Christ, that was so long ago...

      Yes, around 2003 years I think. Not sure about your BBS though.

      Thanks, I'll be here all week...

    • {2400baud}Too bad you never jumped over to where the cool people were on Beeline you pipsqueak.{/2400baud}

      I was just wondering if one of you guys would show up in this thread.

      Madison WI had at least two multi-line BBSs for about 5 years, SD][ and Beeline with multi-room chat, message boards and a ascii games such as snake, tank war, and a beta of an Ultima type game. Of course, since almost every-one was a local call away, there were lots of real-world gatherings as well. Lots of fun.

  • (Score:2, Informative)

    by Twister002 ( 537605 )
    There's a site called BBSmates [] that lets users of the old BBS systems get back in touch.

    It looks pretty complete, I even found a bunch of old boards that I used to call in the Wichita, KS. area code.

    It's funny, some of the people I met on those BBSs I still keep in touch with, while friends I had in high school I never hear from.

  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:01PM (#5315388) Homepage
    My first introduction to the online world was on a BBS. It was the early-to-mid 80s, I had my first paying job as a microcomputer (as opposed to that stuffy MIS department in the basement of the company that used, ugh, mainframes) programmer (MS BASIC compiler, and then Turbo Pascal, woo hoo!). Here I was with a spiffy IBM PC on my desk and a 300 baud modem and time on my hands.

    I found a list of BBS systems in some computer magazine and I thought, 'Huh? What's this about?' So I dialed one, probably in the midwest, and the world of the BBS opened up to me. Wow, files! For free? Cool!

    I later discovered a BBS in Petaluma, California run by Vern Buerg (His current web site, not the original BBS []) and his wife Julie. That was the first time I began to use message boards, play football contests, make friends online. I hung around there most every day and understood the ability to create an online community.

    The Web came along later and opened this concept up to the world. But in my mind it all began with the BBS and watching those text lines crawling across my screen at 300 baud. Oh yeah, and seeing FIDO show up in ASCII art. Cute doggie! :)

  • Memories... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pilferer ( 311795 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:04PM (#5315405)
    I grew up on BBS's; I think I was 12 when I first started calling boards. Chinet was my first exposure to Unix, although I didn't really understand what it was, at the time. ("It looks like DOS.. except you can dial into it... weird!")

    I like to think of myself as an "old timer" (most computer geeks I deal with weren't into BBS's/too young), but this really puts things in perspective for me - because I recently just turned 25, myself!

    If you had told me, back when I was 15, that BBS's would be all but gone, yet everyone would own a computer - and be connected to one another - I'd have thought you were crazy. I can't wait to see what it's like 25 years from now!
  • by MsWillow ( 17812 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:05PM (#5315408) Homepage Journal
    CBBS was how IO first got on the 'net, back before there really was a 'net. I stayed with them, as Randy moved CBBA to a UNIX machine, and got hooked up for USENET news and email, and when he formed a small "net" with the authors of the conferrencing software, "Picospan", in Ann Arbor. Karl Denninger and Bill Vajk were also UNIX bitheads who were tied in there (Hi Bill!)

    There was a real sense of community back then. Most people knew each other, and hung out together, even having picnics and other get-togethers. The net has grown a lot since Ward came up with XMODEM, and oft-times I miss the friendly (and not-so-friendly) rivalries of the early days. I now live in Seattle, and though I use a small local ISP, I don't know a single person who uses it. It's grown so impersonal :(

    I really hope that the early days can be documented, and hope that they can capture a sense of how alive it felt back then, how people would go out of their way to be helpful to total strangers (and believe me, we had quite a few who were totally strange, myself among them).
    • aren't parts of the early days stil laround on

      I still see a lot of the same comraderie, especially on regional mailing lists. For example, the dc-raves mailing list was a hotbed of strangers going out of their way to help out others get to parties, etc.

      So community is out there, just in a different format.

      P.S.- Nice sig!
  • by johl ( 19001 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:08PM (#5315424)
    Back in the early 1990s, I was involved in a project called ZaMIR Transnational Network [] where we used BBSes to link peace groups in ex-Yugoslavia (crossing borders of nations that were at war at that time). There was even a BBS running in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Internet technology may be the ubiquitous thing now, but remembering our efforts at FoeBuD at that time, I'm still amazed what you could actually do with simple dial-ups.
  • ATH! (Score:5, Funny)

    by zozzi ( 576178 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:10PM (#5315435)
    I remember when some young whiner used to join the chat "rooms" and we used to sucker him in hanging up. Conversation went something like this:

    Whiner: blah blah blah

    Guru 1: This xyz BBS has a cute bug to gain system privileges...

    Guru 2: Agree and talk about it but no details until the whiner starts reallllly begging to know the details. Then:

    Guru 1: Ok type +++ (originally typed as ++ space bkspace +) followed by ATH and hit enter

    Whiner: NO CARRIER

    And of course being a busy BBS he would be kicked out for a jolly good time. The fun at the inept continued when we created variations on the ATH theme on the same victim :-)

  • by iocat ( 572367 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:12PM (#5315441) Homepage Journal
    Ok, that BBS went down about 15 years ago, but still...

    I credit early days BBSing with my typing skills, helping my writing skills, and even my socialization skills (uh, you know, on the war boards...). If you missed those days you missed out; it was so much more "underground" than the Internet ever was, and consequently, a lot more enjoyable, especially for geeks. You could come home from your boring school filled with stupid jocks and just enter a totally different world.

    I'm definitely still nostalgic for the 80 column greenscreen and carrier tone.

    -iocat -uif -immortal

  • Still in use (Score:5, Informative)

    by mwillems ( 266506 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:15PM (#5315451) Homepage
    Hey all,

    BBS's are still in use. For a start, radio amateurs using packet radio still use BBS systems like F6BBS. See [].

    1200 baud, ascii art, horrendous setup: it's all still there and in use today. I run a system and so do many other radio hams. Slow, primitive, but free, and I do not rely on the phone or cable company!

    Michael VA3MVW
  • Here's a nice site for finding your old BBS buddies and the systems you used to visit: []

    I've found a bunch of people on the systems I used to be an administrator for - even ones that I had forgotten about. It's a nice resource for seeing exactly who is out there still, and what they're up to.

  • I guess this is where the sysops wax poetic about the good old days ;)

    I ran a 2 line BBS for several years, and used several software packeages, from sbbs, rbbs, tbbs, and finally settled into ezycom, an aussie package. We offered Fidonet, and I had made HOMEMADE scsi cables (i was really broke back then) to daisy chain old 1x cd rom drives for files (3 of them) on a ibm 386/20 with 4mb of ram, 80mb hard drive, a 14.4k (when they were $275) and a 2400. (thank god for a 'borrowed' copy of Desqview ;-)

    That is what amazes me, we could tweak out the last few bytes of low ram, and used ram disks for overlay files, with just 4mb. I guess I miss that level of tweaking. While I get some of that with Linux, I certainly don't with Windows.

    Running a BBS taught me to actually do something with a computer, and was the foundation for learning networking. I have thought about setting up a telnet bbs, and even installed and tested software, but I haven't had the heart to actually go online.

    I guess you can't go back.
  • FidoNet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:29PM (#5315502) Journal
    I had a long, nostalgic evening going over all the old FidoNet stuff the other night. I used to run a Fido BBS (node 2:252/204) in 1991, when Fido was just reaching 10,000 nodes (and I thought that was massive!) Looking at Fido's nodelist, it hit a maximum of 37,000 nodes in 1995 then went into a decline. However, Fido still has 10,000 nodes!

    Looking through a recent nodelist, I noticed quite a few familiar names from 1991. My BBS ran RA with BinkleyTerm as a front-end, and DesqView as the multitasker (on a 386 with 2.5MB RAM). I later put Linux on that machine (I started using Linux when distros didn't exist, it was just a boot/root disk, format the hard disk and cp -r from the root disk).

    Aaah, the memories :-)
  • Anyone remember Damar's legendary warez BBS in the 714 area code? Or Ice Palace, or the gov't BBS AIS?

    Ahh those were the days
  • every one keeps talking like BBSs are dead, Im running one and there are more in the interbbs leagues (BRE & FE) now that when I ran it the first time. My LORD games have 3x the active participants (granted, I have 7 internet accessable nodes now instead of one local phone line). look here [] to see a large list of telnet BBSs... many of which have been around for years!

    Then come by my BBS... telnet://
    • Re:dead? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Requiem ( 12551 )
      I love Falcon's Eye, but it's completely broken. You can't win unless you play Minotaurs or Mermaids. Also, once someone gets more powerful than you, you're fucked, because he can beat you into the ground since there's no cap on net worths and such.

      A great idea, but badly implemented.
  • According the Ward himself [], CBBS stands for Computerized Bulletin Board System. What Ward and Randy had in mind was replacing the cork bulletin board where members woud post buy,sell and trade notes at CACHE meetings with a computer version. It's also commnoly misnamed "Community."

    Ward Christensen [] posted more history here on /. [] when I tipped him off about a discussion with more incorrect information about MODEM vs. XMODEM.

    There's some more history in an interview here [].

    Ward's a terrifically nice guy who also invented freeware when he gave away all of the useful utilities he wrote. Teh reason for that was more that he didn't want mess with accusations of competing with his employer than an early movement for Free Software.
    • by WardCBBS ( 546765 ) on Monday February 17, 2003 @04:25AM (#5317985)
      netringer: Thanks for being an "advocate"... heh.

      Jason Scott is doing a great job of documenting the history..including some of the "bad guesses" at what CBBS stood for. I had forgotten it became "community" once in a while, too ;-)

      Little known is that Randy Suess actually copyrignted the phrase CBBS, and drives around - or drove around - in a car with "CBBS" license plates (My licence plate is Xmodem, haha).

      I think it would be sort of fun to put up some sort of CBBS emulator on the web, seed it with all the files I can scrounge up from - alas - happens to be 10 years ago that it died - and let it rip.

      Many would say "this is dumb". But then I guess you could call a 3 year old dumb if compared to an adult. It was the infancy of the "microcomputer industry".

      P.S. I would like to say one thing about "me" and the stuff I did you have commented on - lots of give-away-stuff (disk editor, including looping 1-line macros (search for blah blah at offset xyz and replace it with something and loop 12 times, etc), disk cataloging program, Xmodem, etc).

      The thing I'd like to say is that I was not a genius, or even very smart - because back THEN I was programming in a VACUUM. There were not millions of people doing more than I was at the time. Anything I could think of, would not exist, so just writing it became quite easy. I didn't have to write very GOOD code, I didn't have to compete with brighter people - I just "lucked out" to have thought of some of the stuff before others did, have a good enough job to not want to try to make money off of it, etc.

      Regrets? I regret that when the IBM PC came out, with its 160K floppies (My CP/M system had 1.2M floppies and an 8M hard disk), 16K of Ram (or whatever - compared to the 256K I had on my CP/M system), and a few hundred character per second screen scroll rate (I believe my CP/M system scrolled text at about 50,000 characters/sec - it used hardware to change the starting display line not a block move instruction)...I repeat, I regret NOT scrapping my investment in CP/M and porting my programs (Oh, forgot the famous "disassembler, with its - ahem - clever name: Resource) ... to the PC environment. As a result by the time I got a PC (after XT's came out, and I wanted to be "better" so got an external 15M drive (whooie!), all the bright aggressive programmers had started to saturate the market with their software. My disk utility? languished, as Peter Norton took over the helm of that ship; Commercial file transfer software became common, but some things like disk cataloging or disassembling never quite reached the stage they should... this "segment register stuff" made disassembly QUITE difficult compared to the simple linear 64K memory model of the 8080...

      But I ramble...

      I AM amused your comment got a "5", mine seem to get a "1". Working for IBM, a "1" is best, I'll just think of it that way ;-)

      P.S. Just to ramble some more:

      1. In 1974 I learned that "TTL" electronics, and an "8008" microchip could make a home computer, and wrote to Heathkit to suggest they "invent" the home computer. Their response "We already have an analog computer kit, why would we want a digital computer kit?".

      2. In approx '78, I wrote to IBM saying that I'd had a "microcomputer" for 3 years by then, and thought IBM should commercialize the microcomputer by coming out with one. Got back an answer "we don't see a market for such a device".

      Wish I'd pushed a bit!

      Ward Christensen

  • Randy Still Around (Score:3, Informative)

    by Aaron M. Renn ( 539 ) <> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:53PM (#5315593) Homepage
    There is still an annual CBBS get together in Chicago every year. A number of the folks from those days still drop in on newsgroups like chi.general and chi.internet.

    Randy is still around. He runs a CBBS successor called Chinet [].

    BTW: Ward is also the fellow who invented XMODEM
  • BBS Simulator (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:55PM (#5315608)
    For those of us who were BBS sysops, this game sure brings back some memories.

    Quote from their site

    BBS Simulator (Sim-BBS) is a BBS simulator game, your users get their own BBS, which they have to take care of, and upgrade as it gets bigger. They start with an 286 with 1 meg of ram, a 10 meg hard drive, and 10 non-subscribers. The have to Read their mail, and work on the board to increase their number of users. The goal is to be the biggest board, and to keep the users happy.

    I'm not affiliated with groutySoft and I don't know how much bandwidth they have, so please be kind.

  • Tradewars MMORPG? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 ) <mister.sketch@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:56PM (#5315612)
    Speaking of BBSs and good ole' Tradewars, does anyone know what happened to the new version of Tradewars (Tradewars: Dark Millenium) that was supposed to come out soon? It was supposed to be a MMORPG and it looked pretty cool, but a month or two ago, it just seemed to disappear. The main website [] just went down and never came back up and the company (Realm Interactive []) that was writing it changed their website to have even LESS information then they had before. The last news I heard about it was July last year and it was that NC Soft [] had agreed to distribute it. At that point it was already beta and was going to be released early this year. Does anyone have any more information?
  • Meeeeeemoriess..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:58PM (#5315620) Homepage Journal
    I recall taking hours to download this new game called Sim City back in the summer of '89, and then not realizing I'd been up all night playing my first game. Addictive at the first hit...

    Before that it was college message board systems, participating in multi-school projects back in the early '80s where each team would represent a nation in the Middle East, and attempt to negotiate a resolution to the conflicts over there.

    And who can forget the Source?

  • I used to use Shareware BBS, Grizzly Den and Juxtaposition BBS. The latter was really unique. It was a free BBS or pay if you wanted more time, they had 4 nodes and you could play multiplayer doom on it. It was the first time I played a 3+ deathmatch game and it was amazing! I finally convinced my mom to pay for the BBS and I played for hours. Juxtaposition also released a BBS list for Montreal.
  • ISCABBS [] at the University of Iowa, at one time the largest BBS in the world, is still going strong. Over 100 users on as I type, not bad for a Sunday afternoon.
  • Prestel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IanBevan ( 213109 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:00PM (#5315637) Homepage
    All this talk about 300/300 modems... what about the 1200/75 ? I recall this from the UK in about 1985, which was also used by the wonderful gnome@home BBS. The prestel boards used real colour graphics, which I think is the same standard as still used in the UK for television info services like Teletext.
    • I still have a USR Courier - with another Courier it would do 9600/450 - Awesome for BBSing. I spent a lat of time on "The Darkside" - Seth A. Robinson's BBS, & Software Creations.
  • What memories!

    Logging on here and there with my Osborne 1 and a 300 baud modem. Hacking the Modem7 (and subsequent versions) "overlays" to get everything working. Finally running a Fidonet "point" system - couldn't wait to see the mail come in during the middle of the night, and "toss" it to the right groups.

    What a rich world we had, with nothing but text! It's all so taken for granted now. I guess that's a good thing.
  • Clockwork Orange BBS (Score:3, Informative)

    by !Xabbu ( 1769 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:13PM (#5315691) Homepage
    I can't help but post an ad :)

    For doorgames (lord, tradewars, bre etc.)


    For messages
  • There are three thinfs that make a BBS great, and possible to survive even in these days of the internet. First, you need great folks willing to sacrifice time to make things fun. There are lots of those kinda folks around. Second, you need great TradeWars 2002 (I still play that through telnet) and lastly, the one thing that makes a great BBS....PRON! Gotta have it! Seriously though, there were a lot of BBS that were porn havens. I should know, I ran one!
  • The Dungeon (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mabu ( 178417 )
    I ran one of the earliest and longest running BBSes in the country. I'm wondering if anyone remembers it. It was called The DUNGEON. It was born in the early eighties and went through various incarnations of software and hardware (Health/Zenith proprietary, Apple Net-works, TRS-80 homebrew, and then tons of PC-based systems). My entry in the USBBS list was so young it didn't have a start date listed.

    Those were the days. I was in school and in the early days didn't have an auto-answer modem. I had a system written in BASIC on my TRS 80 with a manual 300-baud modem and I'd flip the switch when the phone rang. When I finally upgraded to a more automated system, I had the BBS set to call me in the morning to wake me up.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @07:16PM (#5315901) Journal
    When I was 9, way back in 1979, my dad bought a TRS-80 Model I. The next year we got the Expensive, I mean Expansion Interface and a 300 baud accoustic coupled modem. My dad signed up for CompuServe and Genie. I played games online and chatted with folks, but the first time it really hit me what a truely novel, powerful form of communication it was, was when we were trying to figure out how to fit a battery from an older RC car into a newer car my brother had just received for christmas. We went on CompuServe and posted a question in the RC forum, within hours we had several expert replies from around the country. I believe my reaction was "Whoa!" (said like Neo.)

    We were also members of a software club (if I recall, there were no laws against software piracy back then. I know we didn't try to hide what we were doing.) that had a BBS. We would pitch in some $$, vote on what to buy, crack the protection and distribute it to the members.

    Later on I got a Commodore 64. By then modems were 2400 baud and had modular jacks. I got heavily involved in the commodore BBS scene in Washington state. Most of the BBSs I used had one or at most two phone lines, so you would have to redial again and again. Getting the settings right to connect was a pain in a lot of cases. Connections would drop all the time, so dowloading large files was a crapshoot, as none of the BBSs I remember supported transfer resume.

    I remember when AOL started up, I thought "Free? these guys will never last."

    I saw home computers go from a weird/fringe hobbiest thing through full commercialization. I saw the online scene go the same route, then the Internet, and later, open source. By the time I got involved in open source in '94, I could see the handwriting on the wall, and I felt lucky to have found out about it before money drove the spirit out of it.

    Ahh, the good ol' days, when only enthusiasts were online. S'why I read slashdot, as dumb as it can be at times, at least people here are passionate about computers.
    • the C-64 scene was incredible in the early to mid-eighties. i ran a BBS in 1985 in the Ventura County area of California, called The Probability Broach, stuipid name i know...

      anyways, my point here is there was an amazing peice of BBS software then. i believe it was called C-NET (i had version 10.x or so). this software was written in BASIC and it was very easy to modify and add entire sections to.

      there was also another piece of software for the C-64 called HAL or something. sheesh, does anyone remember?

      it was amazing to think about all the phreakers back then, calling BBS's with stolen Sprint/MCI codes for avoiding long distance charges. i remember the phone company calling me because a number of phone phreaks used these codes for calling my BBS.
      i told her i didn't know who made these calls. the operator then told me that as a system operator, i should have a log of all incoming calls and user accounts.
      i was like, 'look lady, i'm 14 years old. what should i have again?' the phone company never called me again. heh.

  • During the mid '80s I brought up one of the first privately owned multi-line BBS systems. It ran some software I developed called "The Connection". The computer was an Altos 586 with 5 dial-up lines (2400 baud! WooHoo!) under the Xenix OS.

    The main difference between this board and most of the others around at the time was that the community of people were largely NOT computer geek types (like me) but more-or-less normal folks who just happened to have computers. It was designed following the model of the CDC "Plato" system to be extremely easy to use.

    At the time I was trying to use it to convince investors to put money into making a large scale national E-Mail/bulletin board service but was (of course) told I was crazy, the average person would NEVER buy their own computer or use E-Mail.

    Still got the computer laying around here somewhere, but would have to figure out the right way to wire up a serial cable to make it talk to my PC if I want to use it ;-)
  • by q2k ( 67077 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @09:20PM (#5316356) Homepage
    Aren't blogs sort of filling up that "local community" space? Several blogs I read regularly have very narrow topics and a few dozen at best regular posters in comments. It starts to get that old BBS feel when you recognize just about everybody in the comments section, and you expect to see them there daily. The people may be spread out geographically, but the blog does connect the readers in the same way a multi-line BBS did back in the old days. Even better, blogs don't boot you because you've been online for 20 consecutive miutes!
  • was my system of choice - I ran from 1200 baud to cable modem with it.

  • Damn, it doesn't seem like that long ago. I can still remember the phone #: (312) XXX-8086. To Ward and Randy, Thanks for the memories.
  • The main advantage of the BBS was the fact that it was cheap to produce for the functionality you got. All you needed was some BBS Software a computer with a modem and a free telephone line. The phone line was around $12-20 a month. So if you wanted to have a small BBS of your own it was relitivly easy to set up and use.
    BBSs also had the advantage of beeing a more of a one stop shop with a file download area, message boards, and Games all in one spot with the simular group of people in your area using them. While the internet seems more geared to giving people some usefull or at least your point of view on information it has become very buisness like and has lost a lot of charm of the old BBSs. I tried some of the new Telnet BBSs but they as well dont have the same charm because they are to widly accessed. It was fun to dial into 20 BBSs and see usually the same people. It made it feel more like a comunity and not a place to watch comericals.
  • by gklinger ( 571901 )
    Slashdot is online, it's a community, users share ideas and the Sysop [] can't spell.

    Sounds like a BBS to me.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Monday February 17, 2003 @12:30AM (#5317078) Homepage Journal
    Once again, the editors of Slashdot want you to think that the BBS is a product of days gone by. I'm here to remind everyone that those days never ended.

    I've been running UNCENSORED! BBS [] since 1988 and it's still a hip, hot, totally-whats-happening hobby. The community is still there. The fun is still there. The comraderie is still there.

    The only thing that isn't still there is the modem.

    Slashdot likes to position itself as "what came after the BBS" but with the amount of volume a zillion users generate, you just can't replace the "folksy" feel of your favorite BBS. Get out there and BBS, folks!
  • You'll probably appreciate this game I wrote. It's web-based, about secret Agent spy stuff. Point is to level up, overthrow a government. Lots of wacky fun and twists to it. Its easy to play...sort of like LORD, but by no means a clone.

    Agents []

  • by WardCBBS ( 546765 ) on Monday February 17, 2003 @04:02AM (#5317919)
    Thanks for remembering the 25th anniversary of CBBS - I think I might have not noticed, haha, had not Peter Zelchenko (son of one of the early co-sysops, "Alex Zell") decided to have it honored in Chicago with 2/16/2003 declared BBS day by Mayor Daley...which the city accepted, and was "thusly" declared. Anyway just a quick correction, which I see someone else posted, but it seems to proliferate. When Randy Suess & I came up with BBSs back in '78, there were only cork board and push pin ones, or those racks of 3x5 cards in the entryway to the grocery stores, or the "car for sale" type ones at some companies, etc. So we decided to "Computerize" the idea of having a place to post and read things. It was on a computer, so it was an application, or a system, or a program, or something...we chose "system". Thus was born CBBS - as the welcome message said from day 1, "Welcome to Ward & Randy's Computerized Bulletin Board System". Not "Chicago" (that implied we had enough forethought to think there might be ones in other cities, haha) and not Christensen, for it would never have happened without Randy Suess, ... P.S. my thanks also to Jim Willing who ran a copy of CBBS in the northwest called CBBS/NW and kept CBBS alive for a long time, and to all the people who ran CBBS and made good suggestions. P.S. these were innocent days - there were no viruses, and while we had users - even nasty users - attempting to mess with CBBS, only one person broke in - and that turned out to be physical security - it was a friend who visited Randy and left a message in a file on the floppy by accessing it locally, haha. CBBS was certainly the most fun programming project ever - supported by the neat HW Randy Suess came up with - like resetting CBBS on EVERY phone call - a couple 555 timers cross-linked - the first ring hits reset, then an inhibitor 555 timer inhibits rings from resetting for the next "something" (20 sec?) - since CP/M loaded with 2 revs of the floppy, and CBBS with another few, it didn't take long for CBBS to issue the "answer" command to the modem, and thus stop the phone ringing and thus the resets before the 2nd 555 timed out. If CBBS glitched while loading, the 2nd 555 would time out and stop inhibiting reset and the next ring would reset and thus retry the reboot. Early CBBS was very immature - with users' complaints shaping it - from sending trailing white space (VERY annoying at 110 or 300 baud), to packing down the message numbers (thus not being able to figure out where you left off). My solution to the latter was to create 50 message files, each one storing messages whose last 2 digits "anded with FFFE" determined the file name - this means message xxx04 and message xxx05 would both be stored in the file messages.x04, etc. Later I Hashed (by just adding their ascii values together) the user names and wrote them to a 1024 entry file so it could remember your last call, the high msg #, and support flags to allow a set of assistant operators, optional passwords, etc. Many people thought CBBS was put up for file transfers - well, my original idea of a message system was to have users contribute articles for our club newsletter, but as it formed, a message system seemed more interesting, and file transfers were supported by only a few users such as myself to transfer new releases of the code via Xmodem, into the system which lived 30 miles away at Randy Suess' house (he wanted it "in the city" (Chicago) not out in the burbs where I lived). Not a bad idea. I could go on forever, I had so much fun with the programming - originally running in perhaps 48K of memory including CP/M - maybe 20,000 lines of 8080 assembler. CBBS lived into the early 90's (approx 93?) and received over a quarter million calls, on its one phone line! Thanks to Randy Suess for keeping it going all that while, even some sophisticated things like running the actual files off a unix share! It ran on a PC with a hacked up 8080 emulator, TSR's to handle interrupts I added to the code, etc. Fun fun fun! Gee, I did go on forever. I promise I will stop! Ward Christensen

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"