TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Era of the BBS

Re: Era of the BBS

burris (
Mon, 09 Jan 2006 17:44:14 -0500

Jason Scott wrote:

> The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List: An introduction by Jason Scott

> As the age of the Dial-Up BBS draws to a close, I thought it
> necessary to ensure a way to keep some understanding of the role of
> BBSes in the growth of the Internet. More importantly, I thought it
> might be fun to collect the phone numbers of every known dial-up BBS
> and find a way to enshrine them in one easy-to-browse list. This way,
> people could look back at the area codes and exchanges of their youth
> and remember all these electronic places, these meeting houses and
> hangouts that formed a part of so many people's youth.

> A Very Short History

> The first modem for microcomputers was invented by Dennis Hayes in
> 1977. This device (short for MOdulator-DEModulator) allowed two
> computers to connect to each other over the existing telephone
> network. Previously, dedicated phone lines were used between
> permanent computer installations. He soon founded D. C. Hayes
> Associates, later Hayes Corporation, which was a leader in PC Modems
> for most of the 1980's.

> While the idea of being able to use the existing phone network for
> computer communication was still new (and gaining interest by
> hobbyists and others to transfer information) it was two people, Ward
> Christensen and Randy Suess, who created the first "Bulletin Board
> System" and put it online in February, 1978.

> The concept behind "Ward and Randy's CBBS" was to provide a way for
> others to dial into their computer, and leave messages for other
> users. They described it as a natural extension of an actual physical
> Bulletin Board they were using for their local computer club. They
> published an article in Byte Magazine describing their software, and
> the era of the Dial-Up BBS had begun.

> There are many histories of the BBS and I hope to write a
> comprehensive one myself at some point in the future, but a number of
> links are provided below for you to research by yourself.

> The BBS List

> As more and more people purchased modems to go with their home
> computers and wanted to sign up with all these "BBSes" they'd been
> hearing about, a fundamental problem presented itself: How to find
> out what the numbers of the BBSes were. Since anyone could set up a
> BBS (if they had an extra phone line or were willing to give up human
> calls) the issue was more one of publicity than opportunity.
> Word-of- mouth was effective, with BBS numbers showing up at computer
> club meetings and passed around schools. Some people advertised on
> other BBSes, so that if you got one phone number to a BBS, you would
> soon know others. Eventually, however, some folks took it upon
> themselves to maintain BBS Lists, where they would keep track of all
> the BBSes of a given subject matter or type, or even an area code,
> and others would let them know if they had put up a new BBS. Over
> time, these BBS lists could be found everywhere, and gave people an
> easy way to know what numbers to call to log on.

> This was the age of the BBS List; you would download the month's list
> to see what new places there were to call. If a site didn't get on
> enough BBSes, they wouldn't get enough calls, and would eventually
> close down. Of course, the administrators of these lists had policies
> of who they would let on, focusing on one kind of computer hardware,
> or location, or what the subject matter of the BBS was. Some also
> refused to list "underground" BBSes, making them even more
> "underground" than they might have been.

> An Idea Is Hatched

> While doing work on, I started to think about the many
> thousands of BBSes that had come and gone, and the effect they'd had
> on myself and many others. I remembered the days when I would go up
> and down BBS lists calling every last board seeing what was new or
> what was being offered, ignoring what the board called itself or what
> others claimed it did or didn't have, wanting to see for myself. I
> remember running into boards with brilliance behind the wheel and
> BBSes that had been left to die and were inhabited by a bunch of
> squatters and power players. Many of these places are lost in my
> memory, but seeing their names or numbers brings it all back.

> I figured that since TEXTFILES.COM had all these BBS Lists from that
> period of time, I might consider compiling a list. Several bourne and
> Perl scripts later, the list is now up into the many thousands
> (although always in need of pruning and verification) and the project
> is well underway.

> The way I see this project is as a lark, and a fun thing to do in my
> spare time. I will work to always make my efforts reproducible, and
> the data files that are generated by my scripts will hopefully come
> of use to people in other projects, related or not. I would hope that
> some people will browse these lists and really enjoy looking back at
> their favorite area codes, and remember that part of their lives.

> So welcome to the world's largest BBS list. I hope you enjoy browsing
> it as much as I did compiling it.

> Bibliography

> Information was taken from the following sources:

> Ideafinder: The PC Modem (link
> dead) Interview with Ward Christensen and Randy Seuss

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: These two articles, on Dennis Hayes
> and the 'Era of BBS-ing' are going to go in my newly revised web site
> among the links for your review.

> Regards very old BBS systems, I ran a couple of them during the early
> 1980's: I had Lakeshore Modem Magazine, a social issues BBS in
> Rogers Park in Chicago, from 1981-85. I was also the volunteer
> 'Sysop' (or System Operator) for the Chicago Public Library BBS in
> 1981-82 and I worked with Jerry Ablan, a Chicago southwest side
> (Beverly) resident with a discussion forum on his 'THINK! BBS' in
> 1982-83. The BBS was named after the old IBM-slogan in those years,
> which was 'Think!', and I began mousing around a lot on Usenet at
> more or less the same time. My computer in those days was an Apple
> ][+, as was the one used at the Library. Jerry Ablan had a Tandy
> Model 4 for his thing. Also, in the middle 1980's I worked with a guy
> in Oak Park, Illinois who was maintaining a FIDO node on a Tandy 4.
> My first experience with (what are called 'newsgroups' on Usenet), or
> 'echogroups' on FIDO came on his node. 'Nodes' were the numerical
> assignments given to everyone who maintained a FIDO system. I have
> thought some about expanding this Digest as it stands today, through
> a 'gateway' to FIDO. PAT]

Wow! -- did you bring back some really good memories of those days.

We didn't have the idiots who express themselves in strange ways in
today's NGs and forums.

People came on board to offer help in the areas where they had
expertise and interestingly, manufacturers of both hardware and
software were always there to help.

Even at 300 baud, the experience was pleasant ...


[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: And I hate to say "I told you so", but
back in 1994 as the web was first getting underway, in an Editor's
Note here I commented (on some user's stupidity) by saying "wait until
ten or fifteen years goes by; right now only a small percentage of
Americans are hooked up to the net; check again in ten years or so."

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