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41 Years Ago, There Were BBS Instead of the Internet (theregister.co.uk)
114 points by laphony 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

Like so many of us, I miss the days of the BBS. But I think I know precisely why I do. BBS systems and Usenet were plain-text communications which were fast and open. There wasn't much space for user tracking, analytics, etc. There just wasn't much corporate space. Yes, there were corporate BBSes and public FTPs; but by and large they couldn't pull your call log and see what you'd been up to. There was a sense of privacy - even if there was less anonymity. There was also a sense of control. This massive TCP/IP, ECMAScript/PHP, CSS+HTML Web leaves a user with no feeling of control over how they browse, what they browse, etc.

It's even worse when you know even a little about Web marketing and SEO. The manipulations employed which influence not just computers, but also users, have gotten wildly out of control. Back then, you the user had to make a deliberate choice to call into one BBS or another. You chose to interact with that specific group. Now it's all algorithmic.

It seems everyone back then on BBS's were enthusiasts. We all had at least that in common. I remember groups of us would all gather on some random night of the week for drinks just to kind of put a face to the handle. It was great. And after we'd hurry and dial back in to see who else just dialed in.

Social networks today just leave you feeling gross.

Why don't we just use them then? Only enthusiasts would use them now, as they did back then.

I can remember that. A group of us who go to whoever's house had just gotten a new game, piece of hardware, etc

When we left we'd always say "see you on the roadhouse!", which was a multi-line board that we'd all dial into when we got home

Those multi-line chat boards were a total vice of mine late 80s, early 90s. That grew into a GEnie flat-fee chat account, which grew into AOL/IM (while maintaining a proper shell account on the side, mind you). Then there was IRC, forumnet/icb, etc., anything I could hit with a modem. I wasn't digital-native, but I was digital-to-analog-to-digital-native.

Nowadays, 47 and crustier, I can hardly be arsed to answer a Facebook message, and all the avenues for social connection have become kind of overwhelming. I can't imagine how it is for people my age or older who picked this all up late.

Indeed plain-text BBS (over a slow modem) were faster than loading 10 MB of javascript over an ADSL.

Also the information density and signal-to-noise ratio was higher. Even if you use ad-blockers.

I have a lot of nostalgia for my bbs days, but one thing I distinctly recall was the slowness of it all. The palpable improvement when you went from 300 baud to 600 or from 14k to 28k to 56k.

I think we romanticize this stuff too much. Even showing a splash screen of ASCII text was stuttered. Chat operations were slow over the wire, you just never knew because ... maybe they just hadn't typed anything?

True but we could do what nobody else in the world could do. We had chat, file sharing, forums, multiplayer games and more before everybody else. BBSers felt like the elite and nobody else understood it.

There was a low barrier to entry. Anyone could start a BBS. Since there were so few, any new BBS would have a flood of new users, making them successfully very quickly.

The slowness created an exciting anticipation.

I don't know if the barrier to entry was all that low...

You needed a computer and modem (until the C64 & ZX-81 came along, you were talking ~$2k including modem, floppy drive, and monitor for an Apple 2, TRS-80, Pet, or similar - adjusted =~$4k today). You needed a dedicated phone line, not nearly as easy to get back then as now.

Plus, you needed to be able to justify the gear - You couldn't do a whole lot with a personal computer back then besides writing, spreadsheets, and gaming. It was absolutely not a 'practical' purchase for 90% of the population.

I'm not sure I consider 'slowness' a 100% bad thing, though. I got into far fewer insignificant flame wars over BBS & dialup than I ever have since the advent of broadband. That slowness means you have to honestly consider what it is you're saying, who you're saying it to, and why you're saying it. In some ways, a slower connection means that you're more aware of a human being on the other end.

> a splash screen of ASCII text was stuttered

...on a 600 baud modem. Not on a 28.8Kbps. I remember doing timing analysis at the time.

Well of course. The speed of the modem dictated how palpable the delay was.

Yeah, I don't think interactive use was actually faster. Noninteractive use however - FidoNet (an early messageboard system with similar properties to UseNet) supported downloading a chunk of posts which you could then read through offline in a native, responsive program.

>There wasn't much space for user tracking, analytics, etc.

You literally sent every keypress to a remote server that was responsible for both generating all of the views and storing all of the data you touched during that session. It may not have been called user tracking, but the sysops definitely had the capability to see everything that you did.

The movie War Games inspired me to get a 300 baud modem, and one of my first memories of using one was to play Adventure (one of the first text adventure games) on a BBS. I war dialed like there was no tomorrow, and racked up huge phone bills downloading wares from across the country.

300 baud modems were super slow. You could literally watch a line of text be typed across the screen in front of you, one letter at a time. I upgraded to 2400 baud after that, and 9600 after that. Even at 9600 baud, I seem to recall that downloading one single mp3 (once those fancy high tech music files were invented) would take something like half an hour. 56k modems came after that, and finally ISDN and cable modems.

In the late 80's I discovered the Internet and UNIX at the local university's computer lab, and there was no going back to BBS's after that. I remember trying to convince a Fidonet sysop to try the Internet, and he adamantly refused, saying that Fidonet is all he'd ever need. I wonder if he's still on Fidonet now, keeping to his vow never to set foot on the Internet.

Relive the memory by piping everything through Brendan Gregg's wonderful "baud.pl" script [0]. Truly nostalgic!

(Using "baud.pl" is much smoother than trying to recreate the effect by piping through `pv`)

[0]: http://www.brendangregg.com/Specials/baud

baud.pl works nicely for command line output, but it can't help with running a GUI through a 2400-bps terminal, unfortunately. So I still have to use my minicomp emulator via a real terminal to get the experience.

> Even at 9600 baud, I seem to recall that downloading one single mp3 (once those fancy high tech music files were invented) would take something like half an hour.

I downloaded the original Command & Conquer demo over a 2400 baud connection. I had a 33.6 kbps modem, but the modem pool for the VM/CMS system I could connect to only allowed for 2400 baud connections. IIRC, it took most of a weekend to download that 10 MB file.

I remember downloading the complete Dune 2 from a BBS. We were visiting a friend of my dad, and his son showed it for me (he had quicker access to the sources from his uni). By the time it was downloaded it was long in the evening, and I was tired (being about 10 years old or so), but it was super cool seeing the game. Or maybe it was just the demo because the download took too long, I can't remember.

When downloading files via command line my hands still type 'wget -c', even though it's been many years since my last interrupted download.

mp3s from a BBS at 9600? Surely you jest. MOD and STM, with an outside chance of WAV, were more like it.

There was overlap, for a short time even advanced, cross technology overlap.

Amigas, which never were really 100% netizen computers had their heyday in the BBS years.

But in that twilight, there was a network stack which on the Amiga side said to AmigaOS "yes, I'm a BSD network socket stack, trust me. You want a socket? Here's a socket!"

While in reality, it took that "socket" and piped it (with some simple multiplexing) over a modem, to a Unix program on the other side and this Unix program opened the real socket on the Unix side. So, while there were actual real network stacks for Amigas, this one was faster and smaller due to it not actually running on the Amiga, but on some Unix host.

Back to my point, was that my little brother downloaded mp3s through one of these contraptions to his Amiga. A brutally specced out Amiga (68060 third party CPU) could just barely play a 128kpbs mp3 in mono.

Whilst I can't recall downloading an mp3, I remember them existing and I was still at 9600bps in late 1995 when I was on Zipcon.

MP3 was introduced in 1993, which was around the time 14400bps modems were introduced. These things cost something like $350+ in 1990s-dollars, and I at least had more time than money at that point in my life.

Bit of a stale thread, but I was thinking of 9600 as having a somewhat short window of use by personal / noncommercial users. I spent a great proportion of my teenaged lawn-mowing income on a USR HST 14.4 in perhaps 1991, but it wasn't too long before 28.8 came along. With regard to mp3, the format seems to have been very obscure up until 1996 or so--perhaps some folks from Fraunhofer would consider this late to the party, though.

I downloaded my first mp3 (White Zombie of some sort) from a FSERVE on IRC, at 14440bps of course

I played MUDs on a 1200 baud modem, and I was at a distinct disadvantage. Going to 9600 was incredible.

MUDs are actually still around, and the more popular ones are still going strong.

I went on a MUD binge recently, and got a good dose of nostalgia. Check out The MUD Connector, if you're interested.


I think basically all art forms will for now on live on forever. Someone will always be programming an Atari 2600, play a MUD, or paint in oil on a canvas.

I lived out several years of my youth at 1200 baud. The word "U.S. Robotics" was like porn to me.

In the early days, I had a Miracle Technology WS2000 with manual, rotary knobs to select speeds (all the way from 300 to 1200bps), plus a manual connect/disconnect knob, so making a connection consisted of dialing the BBS number, listening for the tones and putting the modem online.

Unfortunately, my modem had a sticky phone line relay and so to disconnect the call the procedure was: turn knob, listen for click, thump modem a couple of times just in case, lift phone and check for dial tone.

Pic here, although mine was an even earlier model with a brown case:


Manual, rotary knobs remind me of phones with manual, rotary dials. They were everywhere through the entire 20th Century, but now there are plenty of people who've never seen them in their entire life, and of course youtube videos of kids being laughed at by their parents when they're forced to try to figure out how to use them. That's something else we didn't have back then: humiliating videos of ourselves -- recorded by our family, no less -- broadcast to the whole world. I don't blame the kids for failing, though. The dialing mechanism of such phones is clearly not very intuitive.

I recall getting a Beta or Alpha version of the new 2400+ modems from a colleague (Cthulu who rank Arkham Asylum) who worked with me in Tymnet - they had sent a batch as possible upgrades for Shades.

I actually used it for work for a few years for dialling in from home.

Fidonet was pretty cool - truly peer to peer with its own routing system.

I used to be a sysop and made some of my deepest friendships that way. One-to-one chatting via fullscreen realtime updated text with no other distraction has some magical quality to it that makes you talk about all manner of things in depth with another person.

I used to play a ton of MajorMud, half to chat with other people while we played, and half to script it so our characters could keep playing while we were all at school. I met my husband on a BBS, and here we are all these years later. Plain text chat with local strangers in your area code is truly magical.

I got onto the net in the late 90s and discovered IRC soon after. I developed several nice friendships over freenode other IRC servers. Like you said, typing on a terminal without any distractions had a uniquely magical quality.

I've put it down to nostalgia but things like slack and other popular modern tools just don't have the pull which IRC had for me.

I started coding by doing C for ProBoard BBS plugins! I wrote SMURf CHaT back in 97!


I remember when I encountered my first smilie on chat :)

Those were the days :D

There was a time you could (and would) go to a _picnic_ in real life with the other people on the internet. Can you imagine that? Tradewars, chat, warez, Club Caribe, music mods... it was pure magic. I would trade a year on this internet to have that one back for a couple hours.

Hah, those times didn't quite pass.

I went to a subreddit meetup around.. 2009, I think; it was the same spirit. (And we accidentally ran into David Blaine, but that's another story).

But, more commonly, meeting up with strangers you met online is pretty much the default way of meeting people (ever heard of Tinder?).

So it seems like you are complaining about the Eternal September more than anything else :)

Ah what I would do to play a good ol’ game of TradeWars 2002 the ol’ fashioned way

Recently, as I was doing some deep cleaning in my study, I found a warpgate map in my files that I made in the late 80s. I had forgotten all about Tradewars, so that brought back some memories.

I lived in a small town, but there was a service available at the time, a sort of modem gateway network with nodes in a lot of smaller towns. It was a subscription service. Connect to it via a local call, and from there you could dial out to most major cities without paying long distance, and the local node proxied connections over some independent network. It was limited to 1200 baud. I can't remember what it was called.

When I went off to school, I ran a local fidonet point, which basically was a sub-node that could connect to a full fidonet node and collect mail and group messages, and hang up. I could then read and respond at my leisure.

Compuserve eventually replaced Fidonet for me, well before they offered Internet access. I had one of the old numerical IDs.

PC Pursuit from Telenet. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telenet I woke up super early many days so I could explore far-flung BBS’s before school.

And I was 1:377/7 on Fidonet. Good times.

Yep, that was it!

Sounds like something similar to the IPSS:


Good news, there's nothing stopping you: https://www.telnetbbsguide.com/

Dumb question — what would be involved in writing a mobile app that called BBS's? Handled the modem protocols, displayed ANSI graphics, etc....

These days, most BBSs are TCP/IP enabled (ie, telnetbbs). No modem needed. So telnet plus an ANSI terminal emulator would do it. For extra credit, also sniff the stream for a zmodem header and auto download warez.

There was a brilliant set of local BBSes where I grew up in Nottingham. The local cable company, Diamond Cable (since taken over by NTL/Virgin Media), offered free local calls to other cable customers.

This obviously provided the perfect ecosystem for BBSes to pop up and thrive.

I fondly remember old door games such as LORD [0], and downloading the Quake 1 demo using a 14.4k modem - That took some time!

BBSes themselves used some technology that wasn't mainstream, DESQview being a good example - a nice text UI for multitasking DOS.

[0]: https://www.pcmag.com/feature/340587/the-forgotten-world-of-... [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DESQview

a host is a host from coast to coast,

and no-one will talk to a host that's close,

unless the host that isn't close

is busy, hung or dead.

(sing to the melody of the talking horse mr. ed)

i don't know how old this is, and it still fits to the internet, but it's definitely from a time when BBS were still around.

Go right to the host and read the post,

You'll get the answer you love the most,

But all the way you'll never boast,

Talk to BBS!

People yakkity-yak a streak,

And waste your time of day,

But BBS will never speak,

Unless there's something to say!


A great, and free, doc about that time. https://archive.org/details/bbs_documentary

That seems be to a collection of clips and things. The 'BBS: The Documentary' was released as ~8 episdoes. You can find them collected here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO5vjmDFZaI

https://ssh.sdf.org/ - there's some still around, they've just evolved.

Even 25 years ago, BBSes were still important, though it was clear they were in decline then.

Students in the U.S. were going from poorly connected schools, to well connected Universities, and when they went back home for the break, they needed their fix!

It's been pointed out already, but a little more info: There is a fairly large (and growing, actually) community of BBSers in the modern area. Telnet is even slowing being pushed out in favor of SSH and/or secure WebSockets (BBS from your browser!) in addition to other crypto and related tech where it can apply. There are boards running on retro hardware, under emulators, and even quite a few modern BBS software being written (disclaimer: I'm the author of one in Node.js).

There is a lot of nostalgia, but also a lot of people enjoy time away from the modern corporate controlled web. A text-mode interface, community, etc. is quite nice at times.

It was a hard decision sometimes, (as most boards gave only an hour so other people get a turn). Do I play Tradewars? LORD? What about downloading another half of disk 2 of UFO:Enemy Unknown? Maybe I should just stuff it all and go chat with the dude on line 2.

519 was an amazing and active BBS community. I still have friends that I see regularly. Some boards we used to chat all night or on occasion we'd insta-rush a bar, karaoke, or bownling alley at 3am just because we could. Some great memories, people etc. So far on the Interwebs I've found only dragons and monsters! lol

BBSs are still alive; mostly accessed over amateur radio.

And... over the internet. Quite a few internet connected BBSs around still, many of which are even part of FidoNet. Speaking of which... FidoNet is still alive too, along with several other similar BBS mail networks. :)

I ran a Utah BBS in the late 80's on a phone line I "found" in my childhood bedroom. I've thought, a bit, about setting up a "BBS" hosted on any computer connected to any WiFi access point. Here are my initial ramblings about the idea.


Thanks for posting this! I ran across this post a while back and couldn't for the life of me find it again - I liked the idea the last time I saw it.

The first thing that came to mind was a wireless BBS running on a solar-powered Pi Zero, left in some remote location.

Well, that kinda surprised me. I write a lot of random stuff but I typically think most of it goes into the void. I've never seen this page show up in any of my top page reports and I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, but maybe I did. Glad you liked my ramblings.

I've got a spare Mac Mini and an extra wifi router. I think I'll try to set this up for my neighbors soon. Most people probably wouldn't guess the password so I might have to go unencrypted.

What was the name? I remember Raistlins Castle and stargate but I can not recall the names of the others. I spent a LOT of time back then playing barren realms elite.

Mine was called PoiZoN BBS.

Another popular name I remember was Love BBS, which was run by two brothers with the last name "Love". They showed up not long before I gave it up and I remember thinking it was one of the best I had tried.

Lower Lights was very big at the time. I think they had 12 lines.

I’m brand new to amateur radio, but loved my BBS back in the day. Can you tell me more about this?

Packet radio, I'm guessing.

I'm getting back into packet radio. SDRs are making this lost art a cheap reality.

There's a decent community of BBSs connected over telnet as well. The ESP2866 makes it easy to "dial in" from an 8-bit machine.

What is there to do in the BBSs currently connected to the internet?

message boards, email, games, usenet, files

Fidonet as the original electronic mail package, Door Games (BRE, cross-bbs wars, wow), ANSI Art, damn, it was really fun. I loved my time dialing into the local BBS's.

It was interesting watching some of the larger ones in my area turn into the most successful ISPs at the time (and get consumed later by the much larger national ones).

It inspired me to run my own, and while I only had the one line, and a very simple set of RemoteAccess screens, the experience taught me a hell of a lot about computers in general.

LOIS BBS stuck around for a while after the internet was created. For a while you could telnet to it. It was really popular on the central coast of California and as folks got jobs, moved around, that was a way for people to keep in touch. I remember seeing multiple split-66 blocks in the sysops room the BBS was running from, with a couple dozen phone lines. It's sysop (Pete a.k.a. Communicator) passed away and the BBS was run by another member for a while and then it eventually faded away.

There were a lot of great memories created from that group of people. Given the localization aspect of BBS's in the day, it was common for a lot of people to meet up on a regular basis.

TREX is still up.

In 41 years we moved on from BBS to BS

Can agree. Now we need 10 megs of javascript to even show some simple content on the web and whatnot.

In that regard, this website is keeping the hope real, being really lightweight and snappy.

If BS is short for Business Strategy then yes. Though BBS, some people found the potential of the Internet and starting to utilize it using varies business strategies.

Dismantle those decentralized BBS is one of those methods.

How we used to marvel at bidirectional transfers. x-modem, y-modem, x-modem, q-modem. I can hear the handshaking as shrilly as they ever were. Good time.

And then came z-modem and we could squeeze an additional bytes/s out of the connection, depending on the content.

I remember seeing a steady 4.0kB/s on a 33600 baud USRobotics modem and going "wow we are at peak performance, let's just hope noise line or something doesn't degrade it" heheh

good times indeed.

At my first computer related job, they had a T1 line. My jaw hit the floor when I downlaoded a driver at 150kB/s

'that was faster than copying a floppy disk'

Bbs is still a thing in Chinese circle. In Taiwan is Ptt, in mainland there are still a few such as newsmth.

Can confirm - as recently as 2014 a substantial fraction of my college friends in Taiwan spent hours a day on BBS boards, gossiping about uni life and what not.

As a teenager I used to run the Middlesbrough Emerald City BBS. It was great fun. It was on my parents telephone line, so was only online after 10pm. Still got loads of calls. Most people just wanted to chat.

BBSes had soul. Everyone was excited to be there. Most everyone was an enthusiast. We had chat, forums, filez, online games before everyone else. Nobody outside of that world had any idea what we all were doing.

> Nobody outside of that world had any idea what we all were doing.

Ha! So true. There was a technical debt that had to be paid for entry. Really kept things from de-evolving. The best we have today seems to be invite-only sites but with limited features in comparison.

Had to share my story how it was like in South Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0Dl-HJx7kY

Nostalgia time... I remember when my grandparents tried to help their misbehaving grandson by buying him a C=128-D at Toys "R" Us along with a 1200 baud modem. I quickly grew bored with Q-Link and found about the network of BBSes which existed in the late 80's. It wasn't long before I had ran up an $800 phone bill, and for the next 20 years my grandpa wouldn't talk to me. I found friendship and mischief, a world of wonder for a 12 year old in the late 80s. "Free" games, porn(4-bit color, but still), and instructions for how to make bombs and hacking devices. After a couple years, I graduated to an Amiga 500 and a 2400 baud modem. Wardialing. Voice mail box hacking. 2600 magazine. Phrack. cDc. Credit-card and calling-card fraud. Tymnet and Telenet. Getting on the internet via a hacked login at UC Davis. Hacking the local phone companies billing system. Playing around with an open flood monitoring system running QNX. Every night was an adventure. I still remember having my mind blown after accessing a German chat server over one of the PSNs(Lutz?). My late friend Patrick started up a scam where we'd call people and tell them we were with the phone company. Someone had run up thousands on their calling card, but we could remove the charges if they'd verify the last 4 digits. Well, the first ten were the phone number we just dialed. One day a stranger called me(I still don't remember how he got my number or who he was) and we exchanged some notes... interesting finds from wardialing mostly. He called me back in a couple days and let me know one of the numbers was now giving a dialtone. That meant it was probably a PBX and we could use it to divert calls. I gave the number to Pat and after a few minutes he calls me back screaming "The password is 1-2-3-4!" over and over. Sure as shit, the fools didn't bother changing the password to something difficult. My innate paranoia kicked in and I suggested we should use the calling cards through the PBX so the owner didn't notice a surge in billing. That turned out to be a colossal mistake. A few months later, a confused and surprised GMAC, the PBX's owner, received a call from AT&T security. Someone was using stolen calling cards at their organization. We first got wind of it when we saw a highlighted section on the front page of the local newspaper warning people to be wary of giving out calling card information over the phone. I got paranoid and loaded my modem and a can of black powder I kept under my bed in my backpack and started biking to my friend's house. I don't know why, but I changed my mind and turned around half way. As I crested the small hill near my house, I saw the cop car and white evidence van parked out front. My parents had just been served a warrant and the police were seizing my computers(my old Amiga 500 was packed up to be sold, as I just bought a 386SX off my dad. They took both and everything around it... a printer... even a calculator). I don't remember much after that. The cops tried to befriend me with some bullshit stories of how they worked on the first networked computer. In the end I pled guilty and had to give up computers for 3 years, go to some scared straight program, and do a bunch of community service. I was charged with 2 felonies and a misdemeanor, but one of the felonies was dropped. I was a 15 year old felon, which I guess I'm strangely proud of. I managed to go about 18 months before I scrounged up an old green-screen TTY and a 300 baud modem. I was back online, but somewhat scared straight. I stuck to the mainstream BBSes, especially the multiline monsters that began popping up in the early 90s. It wasn't long before I found new friends though. I met the Mike's online and was in awe when I heard how they'd used stolen credit cards to fly to Portland and buy a couple of HAM radios. They figured out how to mod them and showed me how to take over the drive-thrus at local fast food restaurants. Another friend got involved and decided to go big with the credit card fraud. It wasn't long before we were driving through neighborhoods late at night, the backseat covered in a mountain of stolen mail. We'd sort through the pile looking for credit cards or gas cards, tossing the rest off a cliff or into the trash. We'd hit the malls and radio shack, buying radios, cassette tapes, laptops, computer equipment. Before long my friend started taking it to the extreme. He bought a new muffler and a set of tires for his car, leaving a clear paper trail right back to him. The group got concerned and somehow decided the best approach would be to cut ties and turn him in. I got picked to make the call. The next thing I know I'm talking to a postal inspector and the secret service. We thought we could contain the damage but the next thing we knew most of the group was getting charged. The whole thing blew up in our faces and ended our fun. We were adults now, in a world that suddenly took our games seriously. There's not much to say beyond that. The group recovered individually and all got day jobs. It sucked at the time but the story might just have made it all worth it. Sorry if you ever got a strange call in the middle of the night, or had your mail go missing. After all that I managed to get an old 8088 with a 20GB(edit: oops MB) HDD from Boeing surplus and started my first BBS. I don't even remember the name now. I ran Gremcit and had a small collection of users. It was tough to compete with the multiline systems at that point. I ended up taking my 56k modem back to Newegg and used the money to buy my first car. After that I found myself at college with a real connection to the internet. I've searched around since but I've never found anything that compares to the world I knew over a modem. I know the internet has an underbelly and a similar world still exists, so I guess I'm the one that changed. Maybe one day I'll fire up a port scanner and see what's out there, but after having been through the legal system I'm too scared to do anything that seems remotely illegal online. Here's to all the kids who are too young to fear, poking at the soft side of the world wide web.

A port scan could be illegal in your jurisdiction, but it doesn't have to be. There's much cooler things to try out IMO such as SDR. One thing I know very sure though: if you want to do all the things not legally allowed, go work for the cops or a 3 or 4 letter agency.

Thanks for sharing! nit-pick: 20MB harddrive on that 8088. :)

haha oops yeah.

Sounds a lot like Electron. Boeing surplus. Not a lot of those around.

Cheers buddy!

Are any BBS nostalgiaists interested in the Tilde Club idea? You can set up an community insurance de a VPS box for peanuts these days.

Ah my first ops job. Running a BBS with a friend. I see Tradewars mentioned below, but I really liked Lands of Devastation.

If you added ANSI graphics and some door games, surfing HN with Lynx almost feels like a BBS

Was really hoping for some nostalgic screenshots in this piece

Barren Realms Elite on Hermes what it was 1991.

Two words. Gooey Kablooie.

when the sysop breaks in when you’re desperately trying to brute force a NUP


The internet predates BBS. And I'd credit HTTP, Netscape or AOL for killing off BBS rather than TCP/IP.

The everyday consumer did not have access to the Internet until the 90's when it was commercialized. True, it "existed" before that, it was primarily education / academia and defense-related orgs that had access.

BBSes were primarily text based... early Internet providers opened up access to Usenet newsgroups, email, IRC, etc. which made traditional BBSes look like a toy in comparison. The web put the nail in the coffin, but they were already on their way out before then.

> The everyday consumer did not have access to the Internet until the 90's

I remember a day in the very early 90s when another node in our UUCP email system told the rest of us that he'd heard that there were now a million computers on the Net. We were gobsmacked. A whole million!

Now an extra million or two computers is mere noise-levels.

My biggest surprise was how quickly everything happened.

One day you were considered a massive nerd for having your own computer, spending a lot of time on it, playing games on it, and socializing with others on it.

Seemingly the next day everyone was online and had their own email addresses. I remember being amazed the first time I saw website advertised on the side of a bus. It seemed like the world had massively changed overnight.

Now so many people have lived their entire lives with the net all around them and only hearsay about what it was like before.

>Now so many people have lived their entire lives with the net all around them and only hearsay about what it was like before.

It's become so ubiquitous that the nerds have started complaining about how the tourists have ruined it.

Which is understandable on the one hand, and regrettable on the other, because unlike physical real estate, the internet can be a potentially boundless space and there's room in it for everyone.

"unlike physical real estate, the internet can be a potentially boundless space and there's room in it for everyone"

There is room for everyone, but what kind of place is it? The observation is that it's no longer what it was, and that something special was lost.

I wouldn't place the blame on the "tourists". First, there are no toursits. Everyone is here to stay. Second, the nerds played a huge role, using their skills and knowledge to make the internet what it is today. Corporations and governments also rushed in to claim their stake, try to take ownership and control -- often quite successfully.

The Gold Rush transformed California, and so did the Internet Rush, if it could be called that, transform the Internet itself. I'm not sure how it could have remained as it was, like in a museum. The use of new technologies alone would have changed it.

Yep. The internet of today feels so much different than the internet of the early 90's, it may as well not even be the same medium...

> It's become so ubiquitous that the nerds have started complaining about how the tourists have ruined it.

1993. The year of Eternal September


The first year I was able to access the Internet was 1989. Before that it was BBS only. But one BBS I accessed was connected to a university network and provided access to Usenet newsgroups that way.

Not really, but it probably comes down to how you define terms. If you are considering ARPANET to be "the internet" then you are correct. However, one can argue that ARPANET was just a single isolated network and not really "the internet" until multiple networks were joined via a common protocol. This started happening in 1973[0], the same year the first protobbs, Community Memory[1] came online.

Many would consider the deployment of TCP/IP as the birth of the internet. These protocols were not standardized until 1982[0]. This was well after the first true BBS in 1978[2].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Memory

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBBS

edit: formatting

Not on DOS machines, which were by far the most popular machine in that era. There was no tcp/ip because there was no kernel. I imagine the protocols that modems used were much easier to implement in each application than tcp/ip.

Even windows 3.1 had no socket support. Anyone remember WinSock?

By 1992 there were packet drivers for most ethernet cards as well as a PPP driver. With the Waterloo TCP stack you got telnet, ftp, smtp, whois, ping, and finger. Looking at my old DOS collection I see NNTP, POP2, Gopher, Archie, and IRC as well.

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