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Borderline BBS: A Commodore 64 dial-up BBS (2014) [video] (youtube.com)
61 points by federicoponzi 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

When I discovered BBS'es at 15 ( 1988 ) my life changed considerably. It was, as mentioned below, like a secret Goonies tunnel to the upside down......

I ended up running my own BBS on my C64 and had to get a job to pay for the extra phone line and the array of 1581 3.5 drives I had to buy to support it. I was up all hours of the night talking to people who logged in. Trying out new BBS software, getting into ASCII art, warez, demos, etc. was a lot of fun.

It got so bad my mom had to sit me down and tell me that I had to go outside and ride my bike, play football, etc.

Nearly 30 years later I am still working with software everyday and enjoying ever minute of it. I do have to remind myself to go outside.......

Sounds familiar. BBSes is what got me interested in coding. I would mod the BBS and I got to show everyone and release mod files to other BBS owners. We ran C-NET variants at the time.

I switched to PC in the 1990s and WWIV was the closest to CNET, and if you registered (paid) you got the source code. There was also inter-BBS networking available that predated (public) email and newsgroups.


I assume this is a model number? You couldn't possibly mean 1,581 3.5" drives ... right?

Yep. The 1541 was Commodore's original single-sided 5.25" floppy drive (you had to physically remove and flip the disk to read the other side). The 1571 was a double-sided 5.25" drive, and the 1581 was a double-sided double-density 3.5" drive.

(Yes I know all those numbers from memory)

We wound up with a whole second set of Commodore equipment in the late '80s when my dad's business partner gave up on trying to organize his side of the business like my dad. It was a free upgrade from C64 to 128, one disk drive to two and we got a modem out of the deal. I suppose it was discovering random strangers on a phone line could be friendly and interesting that makes me sad about what the Internet has not become so far.

I feel that the Internet used to be that way, back in the 90's. Many early ISP's grew out of the BBS scene.

I think USA was pretty unique with free local calls and hence why the scene took off big there. In the UK* we used to have to wait till 6pm for the price to drop from 5p a minute to 1p so internet usage and BBS prior was pretty constrained - the fear of 0345 usage on the bill was a constant fear that shareware mail order lasted into late 1990s. Broadband was also way behind, I think it was 2002 before we got 512kbit. (* there were pockets like Hull that was an exception I believe).

I don't recall free calls exactly. In my area we had band plans - there was an A, B and C band that had different rates. The A band would have a connection fee (1 cent? 5 cents? can't remember) and no per minute charge. The other bands charged various rates per minute.

Most people spent most of their BBS time in the A band obviously. That had the effect of having most of your users being very, very local to your BBS.

It was different in every state. When my parents moved "to the country" they made sure they were in the Minneapolis calling area, but it didn't occur to them that the local town where I went to high school wouldn't be in that area. As a result I could call some people who lived 70 miles away from our house at no additional charge, but neighbors just 5 miles down the road who I went to school with were not a free call.

One place I lived in the 80's, we had free phone calls within our phone company. So it was most of our county, parts of neighboring counties, and a county in a neighboring state.

You didn't even have to dial the full seven digits to make the call if it was inside the local telco. Just the last five numbers.

Yep, free calls were awesome. I used to spend literally all afternoon to early evening tying up a second phone line!

There were ways around that.

This is SILLY to be on top. but if YOU want to connect to BBS's that are STILL online. they're NOT on phone lines. They're on Telnet. No joke. and they're WONDERFUL for reliving your old ways:


There are still dialup BBSes. I called into one in Wisconsin just a couple of weeks ago from my TRS-80 Model 100 via acoustic coupler.

Yes, the phone I dialed in with was rotary.

Have you documented this with video? I'd love to see it.

It never occurred to me that it's something so rare that it needs to be documented. It's just something people do.

That is nice and all. But as you can see, the majority of BBSs are Synchronet, that is not a bad thing but it has a limited support for old DOOR systems. So while it keep the BBS scene alive in someway, it kills a bit of history with other systems.

I love Sync client, it is amazing! But it is sad that old systems are slowly disappearing. A few years back I was able to find telnet BBS on some old system with very specific games. Last year I've tried to get back and all were dead. I simply cannot find it anymore.

At least I have all the software locally but it keeps harder and harder to get it running due to compatibility stuff and I don't have enough time to setup it correctly in a kind of vm.

I mean YEAH thanks BUT please STOP doing THIS.

This documentary on BBSs is well worth the time:


now THIS comment and link made MORE sense as a topic that's on TOP of hacker news than a cute video of a guy calling an old BBS.

That documentary is AMAZING in shedding light into ALL the BBS world we all knew

I just saw this the other month after sitting on it since it came out in 2005. Couldn’t agree more. Not only worth your time but a must see.

It was my neighbour and his C64 that got me into BBSs back in the 80s, and even when I finally got a modem for my Atari ST I was somewhat jealous of the unique characteristics of the C64 BBS community. The PETSCII graphics + colour aspects of those BBSs were really nice. I don't see any of that in this video, but there was some really fantastic artwork in the C64 BBS community.

Particles BBS is another good Commodore board. I connect using my VIC-20 and a USR-TCP232-T2.


When I was 8 or 9 my dad bought both a Vic-20 and a Commodore 64. The fun I had writing in basic. It used to consume my weekends. I would actually get up early (5am) to start my projects.

When I was older I ran a BBS (not on a C64) with 2400 baud modems, then 14.4 baud modems when MacMall was having a sale on them for only $89 each. I learned so much about programming as I extended my BBS's functionality. I think I still have my notes from my work still.

Had I realized it back then I probably had invented Reddit :-)

The major BBS software I remember was DMBBS and it’s derivatives, and C-Net, both of which were very advanced, DMBBS supported PETSCII and was very colorful and allowed animated posts, and C-NET was modular and supported loadable modules(games) multiple dialin lines, and later federation.

There were a collection of simpler boards used by pirate sites in the 80s, but community wise, I felt C-Net 128 was the most advanced BBS.

I spent about a year myself writing a modular BBS in assembly code to try and beat it, including a ram disk, multitasking with windowing system for sysops, federation and fast search indexing, but quit to move to Amiga in 1989.

BBS software was really the the Web 0.1 of its day and a very dynamic and fascinating field to watch develop.

I still have a fondness and warm feeling when I see an acoustic coupler or Vic Modem and the old Bell phones where you dialed manually and then disconnected the handset and quickly plugged it into the modem. Love watching Wargames because of this.

I wish I knew how to program then like I do now. So much time wasted playing games instead of making things and being creative.

Don't get me wrong, some games time was an absolute must, but maybe not 100% computer time as games time.

I recently watched this incredible documentary about BBSs: http://www.bbsdocumentary.com. It’s free to watch on YouTube or download on torrents.

If you like this, check out neohabitat.org a relaunch of the first virtual world. You can play via emulator, or if your C64 is online, you can play with an original C64.

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