Author Topic: What's a BBS?  (Read 176 times)


What's a BBS?
« on: May 31, 2018, 04:32:37 PM »
What's a BBS?
Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) have been around long before the Internet. Traditional BBS systems that were "dial-up" based were accessed by dialing them directly with your analog telephone modem using special terminal software that could display the text based ANSI graphics. Although there are still boards that accept connections via phone lines, the vast majority of them are accessible via the telnet communications protocol a more secure protocol called SSH.

You can find more information at the telnet bbs guide website. You can also watch the fantastic BBS Documentary for an in depth exploration of the many facets of the BBS world: viewable online via the internet archive.

Long before the Internet escaped from the lab, connected the planet and redefined what it meant to use a computer...
....there was a brave and pioneering band of computer users who spent their time, money and sanity setting up their home computers and phone lines to welcome anyone who called. By using a modem, anyone else who knew the phone number of these computers could connect to them, leave messages, send and recieve files.... and millions did.

They called these places "Bulletin Board Systems", or BBSes. And their collections of messages, rants, thoughts and dreams became the way that an entire generation learned about being online.

When the Internet grew in popularity in the early 1990s, the world of the BBS faded, changed, and became a part of the present networked world.. but it wasn't the same.

The Bulletin Board System Interface

BBS systems date back to the "old days" before graphical interfaces (such as Windows) became popular. BBS systems are "text based" meaning that they do not use point and click devices (a computer mouse) to navigate. They use keyboard commands to perform functions ? to navigate from one section to the next, or to enter a command or a message.

The "graphics" (if you want to call it graphics) are based upon basic colors and ASCII text screens (together are called "ANSI" (a standardization group). If this scares you don't worry about it. You'll get the hang of it in no time. Just play around and you'll figure it out. Each BBS is slightly different (which leads to their individuality) but for the most part they offer the same things (see below for what's in store)

Watch the BBS Documentary!

In the Summer of 2001, Jason Scott, a computer historian (owner wondered if anyone had made a film about these BBSes. They hadn't, so he decided he would.

Four years, thousands of miles of travelling, and over 200 interviews later, "BBS: The Documentary", a mini-series of 8 episodes about the history of the BBS, was made available in 2005. Spanning 3 DVDs and totalling five and a half hours, this documentary is actually eight documentaries about different aspects of this important story in the annals of computer history.

CREATOR: Jason Scott (
« Last Edit: June 08, 2018, 12:32:54 PM by admin »


Re: What's a BBS?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2018, 12:34:58 PM »
What Do Bulletin Board Systems Have To Offer?
The Bulletin Board System concept offers a unique small online community environment. Each BBS is a "town" of its own. Many BBS systems offer message discussion forums, online games and shareware files for downloading. A number of these systems are "networked" where information is shared on a routine basis, while others are run as totally independent systems.

The following are details on what a typical BBS system may offer for its users. Each BBS is unique and may offer items in addition to those seen here.

Message Discussion Forums
Discussion Forums are undoubtedly the heart of many BBS systems. The ability to provide BBS users a means of sharing ideas, opinions, and information. Discussion forums fall in one of three categories: Local and Networked.

Local Forums
Message Discussion Forums (also called Message Conferences) that are unique to the BBS system that the users is currently on. Messages in these areas is not distributed to other systems.

Networked Forums
Networked discussion forums are connected to many BBS systems nationwide or sometimes worldwide. There are several large BBS networks just for Discussion forums, the largest of which is known as Fidonet. Different BBS Systems carry which Discussion Forums they want to subscribe to - depending on the desires of the users.

There are currently hundreds of Discussion Forums available on Fidonet. The topics of these forums range from those being highly technical to those which are non-specific (Open forum), and everything in between.

BBS systems have their own version of E-mail. There are two kinds of E-mail when it comes to BBS Systems. The first kind is only designed to be sent from a user to another user on that specific BBS System. The other kind of E-mail is sometimes referred to as "Netmail" where the originator is on one BBS system and is sent via a network to another BBS system somewhere else.

Software / Applications (Shareware Files)
As any user of the World Wide Web knows, there are hundreds or even thousands of Shareware Files (Software Applications) available for downloading to one?s PC. With this one might think that there is very little a BBS system could offer. This is not the case. In addition to finding many of the files available on the Web, BBS systems offer files that are either non-existent on the Web or are very hard to find. Shareware files got their start with BBS systems many years ago.

Some BBS systems specialize in hosting files of a particular theme or category. Systems that do this save the BBS user from endless searching Web by providing a consolidation of files.

Online Games (Door Games)
Online games, commonly referred to as "Door Games" are another feature of BBS systems. Games range from the very simple (example - Casino type games) to very complex strategy games (examples - Legend of the Red Dragon, Trade Wars 2002). Some games are simply for the caller's individual entertainment. Other games allow the callers to compete for high scores, and others are often educational in nature.

Another category of Online Games is known as Inter-BBS games. These games allows the users of one BBS to unite as a team to play against the users of another BBS or a league consisting of several BBS systems. These games usually last for weeks and sometimes even months. Examples of such games are: Barren Realms Elite and Arrowbridge.

The graphics of these games is not what you are used to seeing on games you play at home on your PC. These games generally use ANSI graphics.  Trying to push full-blown graphics (like those used in modern RPG games such as Quake) would bring the games almost to a stand still. However what these games may lack in esthetics they make up for in content. This is especially the case with the strategy games.

Another favorite past time of BBS callers is just sitting back behind the keyboard chatting with others online. A small but growing number of BBS systems offer services similar to the IRC on the Internet: Private Chats, Public Chats and Chat Rooms.

Internet Services
Some BBS Systems are doubling as Internet Service Providers. These can provide lower cost Internet access for those who are not heavy Internet users. These can provide such things as Internet E-mail, IRC chat, Telnet, FTP and more. Not all BBS systems offer Internet services - so check around if this is what you are looking for.

Who Operate Bulletin Board Systems?
BBS Systems for the most part are run by hobbyists. These BBS System Operators (Sysops) have spent their money, time, and energy to provide the general public with a totally unique online experience that you cannot find elsewhere.

These are people like you and me - but have decided to give something back to the online community by sharing their knowledge, expertise, drive, ambition, and money towards the communication and entertainment of others.

Since these systems are operated as hobbies, please be considerate when using their system. They have given up a computer, spent money on software, and spend money month after month on electricity and telephone lines for your enjoyment.

Please support the use of Bulletin Boards as much as possible. Become active in the Discussion Forums and the Online Games to show your dedication to such a great cause. If you can possibly afford it, consider making a donation to the Sysop of your favorite BBS system. Its an expensive hobby and your local Sysop can use the money. If you want to see an improvement or to "register" software (i.e. a Door game), please help out the SysOp. They will be very grateful to you. Its a "Win-Win" situation for all of us.