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Remembering BBSes, Fidonet and text-based RPGs

Those of us old enough to remember the good ol’ BBSing days must remember Fidonet (website, Wikipedia entry). Before the popularity of mailing lists, forums, and blogs, there was Fidonet netmail and echomail.

Netmail is basically person-to-person messaging (including transfer of BBS gaming data), while echomail was akin to a public newsgroup.

Messaging was not as instantaneous as it is today, when you practically get a message, forum post, or blog entry the moment it is sent or published. Fidonet messages are basically stored temporarily in the BBS where they were originally entered, and then once or several times a day, the BBS will sync up with other BBSes using a hierarchial structure (as described in the Fidonet Wikipedia entry) so that they either get to the intended recipient (netmail) or are distributed across all BBSes. Hence, you can expect your message to arrive at the intended recipient’s inbox by the next morning if he/she is not a user of the same BBS you were sending from.

Cool concept, huh?

Back then, it was leading edge technology.

I consider myself to be an early adopter of tech. When the Internet was still young–at least in commercial and public-acceptance terms–I was connecting to the rest of the world thru BBSes. When phone calls were still the fad, I was sending netmail and echomail to people across the globe–or across the street, as the case may sometimes be.

I remember the joy of hearing the 2400 bps (yes, that’s 2.4 kilobits per second) modem handshaking, and the greyscale screen of my old 386-based laptop displaying the ASCII and ANSI art.

I remember downloading tons of freeware, shareware, and graphics (GIF was the fad). I got stuff I couldn’t get anywhere else–programs, games, antivirus apps, and even viruses!

After a while enjoying the BBS scene as a user, I decided to set up my own system, “the Cyber County BBS.” It had a western-type theme–BBS operators loved to setup their systems with themes. I ran my board with my laptop every night (so I won’t tie up the phone line by day). Sometimes I would get up in the middle of the night and chat with people who were online.

I ran the BBS under DOS, then subsequently under DESQview, which was the prevalent pre-emptive multitasking environment.

I set up computer networks with several local SysOps (some former SysOps are big names in the local tech scene today). Echomail processing was usually at 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.. All netmail and echomail traffic had to be synced by then.

I played Legend of the Red Dragon (LORD) and Barren Realms Elite (BRE), which are text-based network role-playing games. Who said you needed gigabytes of video RAM to be able to play network-based RPGs?

Part the perks of being a SysOp was that people revered us like godlike beings.

Ah, those were the good old days.

I checked up on whether there are still BBSes in existence, and I was surprised to read that there are still people operating boards. And to this date, Fidonet still exists, although membership and usage have dwindled.

Most boards nowadays use the Internet, though, as they are accessible via Telnet. Check out this frequently updated listing of BBSes accessible thru telnet. I tried logging into several, and I was amazed by how things are still how they used to be–from the text-based interface (point-and-click interfaces surfaced but never became the standard) to the ASCII art to the menuing system.

Try logging into one. You’ll be surprised how things were so different a decade past! Or if you used to be a BBSer, then it’s time for a trip to memory lane.

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  • Yes, those were the good old days… i used to buy Psicom magazine. The last page is usually a list of active BBSes.

  • Ah, the good old days… when the adjective “godlike” was definitely a computer term unconfined to Unreal Tournament. When all you really needed was an i386 (with an add-in FPU, if you could afford it) and any DOS version. When everybody’s dream machine was an SMP RISC computer running SVR4 or BSD (depending on one’s religious conviction) and featuring a leased line connection. When getting past the “login:” prompt and using “pine, mutt, vi, and lynx” didn’t make you 1337 (it took the r00t password to do that). When… okay, I’ll stop now. *laughs* An admitted DOS user, I take my hat off to anyone who can still work a modem by hand with the UNIX “ppp” command and the Hayes AT command set (a droll task made simpler with Windows 3.x/NT 3.x and graphical controls). Is anyone here still into MOOs? I’m afraid the newer protocols have spoilt me and made me forget my Telnet… =p

  • Are there still any Pinoy BBSes around?

    I remember my first modem, 2400bps, connected to an office PABX… those were the days.

  • Mike Balcos, my friend, former schoolmate (Claret and Ateneo) and fellow SysOp said he’s planning to re-launch his BBS.

    Check out his site: http://slugphils.homelinux.org/

  • John

    Here, try this one its cool: http://Fatal-Combat.com/register.php?REF=5006

  • bbsbrian

    I thought of doing this bbs for the people who want to try out linux…It’s because I don’t want to throw away all my knowledge in the Linux area, so here’s a bbs I am putting together to introduce you to Linux…It’s cool, I will even show you how to use it while still using windows! It’s a remarkable O.S. and it’s free to boot!

    The Nerd Bird BBS:

    dialup: 201 243 6470

    Let’s talk about the bird…

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