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.
Social networks today just leave you feeling gross.
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
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.
Also the information density and signal-to-noise ratio was higher. Even if you use ad-blockers.
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?
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.
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.
...on a 600 baud modem. Not on a 28.8Kbps. I remember doing timing analysis at the time.
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.
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.
(Using "baud.pl" is much smoother than trying to recreate the effect by piping through `pv`)
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.
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.
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.
I went on a MUD binge recently, and got a good dose of nostalgia. Check out The MUD Connector, if you're interested.
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:
I actually used it for work for a few years for dialling in from home.
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 remember when I encountered my first smilie on chat :)
Those were the days :D
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 :)
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.
And I was 1:377/7 on Fidonet. Good times.
This obviously provided the perfect ecosystem for BBSes to pop up and thrive.
I fondly remember old door games such as LORD , 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
The first thing that came to mind was a wireless BBS running on a solar-powered Pi Zero, left in some remote location.
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.
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.
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.
In that regard, this website is keeping the hope real, being really lightweight and snappy.
Dismantle those decentralized BBS is one of those methods.
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.
'that was faster than copying a floppy disk'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1993. The year of Eternal September
Many would consider the deployment of TCP/IP as the birth of the internet. These protocols were not standardized until 1982. This was well after the first true BBS in 1978.
Even windows 3.1 had no socket support. Anyone remember WinSock?